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PETTERSEN and WESTGAARD, Stavanger University College, School of Art Education, Stavanger, Norway,, have traced the influence of biofeedback on the activity patterns of neck muscles in professional classical singing.


The study aimed to characterize the activity patterns of neck muscles during classical singing. Muscle usage during inhalation and phonation and the relationship to changes in pitch and vocal loudness was of particular interest.


5 professional opera singers (2 men, 3 women) participated. Surface electromyographic activity (EMG) was recorded from the upper trapezius, the sternocleidomastoideus, and the scaleni muscles and the muscles in the posterior neck region. EMG activity in trapezius and sternocleidomastoideus was lowered by EMG biofeedback, and the possible effect of lowered EMG activity in these muscles on the EMG activity of scaleni and posterior neck region was analyzed. A strain gauge sensor recorded the chest circumference of the thorax. 3 singing tasks were performed. Each task was performed 3 times with variation in vocal loudness and pitch. After the first performance of the singing tasks, the biofeedback session was carried out. Thereafter muscle activity was recorded in repeat performances of the same tasks, and the EMG amplitude of all muscles was compared before and after biofeedback


Sternocleidomastoideus and scaleni showed correlated activity patterns during inhalation and phonation by classical singers. Second, substantial muscle activity was observed in posterior neck region during inhalation and phonation. Biofeedback performed on trapezius and sternocleidomastoideus had a secondary effect of lowering EMG activity in scaleni and posterior neck region. The activity of all neck muscles was markedly elevated when singing in the highest pitch. There was no consistent task-based difference in EMG amplitude for the other singing tasks.


It appears that biofeedback is able to lower the strain to neck muscles used in classical singing.


Pettersen V, Westgaard RH. The activity patterns of neck muscles in professional classical singing. Journal of Voice 19 (2): 238-251, 2005 Jun.

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