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New research from Northwestern University found that singing on key isn’t as much of a natural-born talent as many people think.

February 16, 2015

Be honest: does your shower-singing voice make glass shatter, dogs wince, and your partner pound on the bathroom door in agony?

If so, don’t give up hope on carrying a tune just yet—new research from Northwestern University found that singing on key isn’t as much of a natural-born talent as many people think. It’s actually more of a learned skill, like playing an instrument.

“No one expects a beginner on a violin to sound good right away, it takes practice, but everyone is supposed to be able to sing,” Steven Demorest, lead researcher and a professor of music education at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, said in a press release. “When people are unsuccessful they take it very personally, but we think if you sing more, you’ll get better.”

Demorest and his fellow researchers tested the singing accuracy of three groups of volunteers: kindergarteners, sixth graders, and college-aged adults, and found that voice accuracy improved immensely between kindergarten and sixth grade, the time when most kids are regularly going to music lessons at school. But by college, the subjects' skills went right back down to the 5-year-old level (We're imagining an off-key “Let It Go,” but way less adorable).

So, while the Beyoncés and Sam Smiths of the world will probably always best you, there is hope for your shower voice: Singing is "a skill that can be taught and developed, and much of it has to do with using the voice regularly,” Demorest said. Keep on keeping on, shower wailers.

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