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When I sing, it sounds absolutely nothing like Idina Menzel. Which is probably why she's a world-renowned singer, and I'm not.

But now what I'm wondering is... if you could somehow remove my brain and put hers into my skull instead, would she be able to make my voice sound amazing? (Obviously my voice won't sound like hers — no two voices sound identical. But would it sound good?)

In particular, is learning to sing well simply a matter of learning how to do it correctly? Or does it require a physical increase in actual muscle strength? Because a brain transplant would obviously deliver knowledge, but wouldn't have any effect on muscle strength.

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    Renown is not the judge of a good singer. There are plenty of excellent singers in the world who are not famous. – Neil Meyer Jan 25 '16 at 19:26
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    (And some famous ones who are not excellent...) – Caleb Hines Jan 26 '16 at 0:47
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    She sounds screechy to me. Try to sound like you, not like anyone else. – Todd Wilcox Jan 26 '16 at 3:26
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    Can you define "Sing well" ? do you mean accurately (always hit the note), or after the style of someone whose vocals you enjoy ? I ask because for example Bob geldof isn't a great singer but his delivery is full of character and good things – user2808054 Jan 26 '16 at 9:43
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Like most things (I think), it's both.

You have to have the physical strength and agility to sing well. Arpeggios require quick movement of vocal chords, and sustain requires strength of the diaphragm as well as breath control.

However, knowledge of how these things work, the best practices involved in singing, knowledge of how your particular body works, and knowledge of your particular range is also very important.

All of these things - physical and mental - come with training and practice. Speaking from personal experience, my range used to be much larger than it is now, and that's because I didn't exercise my voice and my vocal knowledge - I quit singing for years.

So, to answer the specific question, I think Ms. Menzel's brain would probably make your voice sound better (after a little experimentation), but if the muscles involved in singing are out of shape, there's a limit.

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  • This raises several additional questions... which I will post as new questions, once I figure out how to pose them clearly. – MathematicalOrchid Jan 26 '16 at 19:37
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The separation of mind and body is a fanciful idea, a myth.

The brain is connected to a nervous system that has more neurons in it than the brains of most animals. In fact, the human hand has more neurons in it than the brains of most animals. If you touch a hot stove with your hand, your hand itself will decide to pull back from the hot stove. It won’t wait for your brain to weigh in on whether to pull back or not. When you learn to play the piano, that learning is taking place in your entire body, not just in your brain. Your hands are learning, your arms, your legs, and so on. It’s the same with singing. Just a little less obvious. Idina Menzel’s entire body has learned to sing like Idina Menzel, not just her mind or her larynx or her diaphragm.

We each have unique vocal instruments. Some of us have a lot of resonance in our voices, and some don’t. The shape of our sinuses, larynx, windpipe, diaphragm, and so on all contribute to the way we sound. But even if you could somehow use my vocal instrument to sing, you wouldn’t sound like me. The way we know this is that you can setup a single drumkit and have 2 drummers play it and they sound nothing like each other. Not just in the patterns or rhythms they play, but they will literally make the same snare drum sound like it is 2 different snare drums. There are famous stories about nobody being able to play John Bonham’s drums but him, and nobody being able to play Jimi Hendrix’ guitar setup but him.

So when you sing, it is your entire body that is singing.

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I think the answer is yes on both counts. Singing is an athletic, muscular activity, but it involves rather tiny muscles in the larynx, throat, face, head, mouth, tongue, you name it. Breath support in the chest and abdominal muscles, which are larger and more powerful, also comes into play.

However, when you learn to sing, you don't approach it from the standpoint of building up muscle strength. Rather, you get a good vocal coach who teaches you how to make good sounds, and as you go about it and practice every day, everything else falls into place, including your muscle control.

But like any athletic endeavor, unless you practice and work out a little every day, you don't maintain your control over your body. If you go for days or weeks without singing, it's going to take some careful daily warming-up and conditioning exercises to get your full ability back.

Not to get too personal, but if you are a teenager, there is only so much you can achieve with singing lessons, as your body (which is your instrument) is still rapidly growing. As you become an adult and as you age, your body matures. If you start study singing around the age of 18 and after, your vocal abilities will increase accordingly. This is just a general observation; it varies with the individual.

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