Why stuttering doesn't affect a singer's voice - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Why stuttering doesn't affect a singer's voice


The guy who made it the furthest in American Idol this season was Lazaro Arbos.

He finished in 6th place.

Lazaro has a severe stutter and many wondered throughout the season how he was able to sing so flawlessly when the stutter was so pronounced when he spoke.

It seems like such a paradox that the young man, who really struggles to speak clearly, can sing without stuttering at all.

But it turns out, Lazaro isn't the only stutter-er who has no problem singing.

Lazaro Arbos' smooth and soulful sound made him an Idol fan favorite. But when the 21-year-old first opened his mouth in auditions, his delivery was far from effortless.

Lazaro has been stuttering since the age of 6, but has always been able to sing without missing a beat.

Speech pathologist Lisa Naylor says this phenomenon is actually quite common.

There are several reasons why stutters can sing smoothly, the first being a principle called "easy onset of voicing."

"When we're singing, we have an easier, smoother, more relaxed voice than we do during speaking and that's actually a strategy that we use to help people who stutter to be more fluent during speech production," said Naylor.

Another reason for stutter-free crooning? The rate of speech.

When a stutterer sings, he prolongs the pronunciation of words, and they come out more smoothly.

Lisa had FOX 10's Kristy Siefkin practice speaking more gently, and more slowly, to demonstrate.

An open throat allows for smoother delivery, but the brain is also a big player in the vocal equation.

While speaking is localized to the brain's left hemisphere, Lisa says that singing
engages a variety of neural pathways.

"It's the left hemisphere, the right hemisphere in deeper structures within the brain that are involved in memory and emotional processing," said Naylor.

Stuttering typically begins in childhood, as it did for Lazaro, but it can also happen after a traumatic brain injury or stoke.

In these cases, Lisa actually uses singing as a form of therapy, joining patients as they sing familiar tunes like "Happy Birthday."

"Sometimes that's the only way, particularly in the early stages of recovery, that's the only way that these people can get words out," said Naylor.  

For all types of stutterers, better speaking can mean more confidence.

And on that front, it looks like Lazaro's already off to a great start.

Lisa says about 1 percent of the US population stutters, and that managing stuttering symptoms is something patients work on over the course of their lifetime.

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