Bathroom Singing

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Bathroom singing is common because the hard wall surfaces, often tiles or wooden panels, and lack of soft furnishings, create an aurally pleasing acoustic environment. The multiple reflections from walls enrich the sound of one’s voice. Small dimensions and hard surfaces of a typical bathroom produce various kinds of standing waves, reverberation and echoes, giving the voice ‘fullness and depth.’

This habit was first reported (with an attempt of explanations) in the 14th century by Arab historian Ibn Khaldun. In Chapter 1 of his ‘Muqaddimah’ writes: ‘Likewise, when those who enjoy a hot bath inhale the air of the bath, so that the heat of the air enters their spirits and makes them hot, they are found to experience joy. It often happens that they start singing, as singing has its origin in gladness.’

The bathroom singer has become an ironic reference to mediocre or amateur singers, not brave enough to sing in public. Jon Anderson of the band Yes had tiles installed in his studio, to simulate the echo effect of one’s vocals in a bathroom. Paul Simon has said he also uses reflective tiles to compose music:

‘The main thing about playing the guitar, though, was that I was able to sit by myself and play and dream. And I was always happy doing that. I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I’d turn on the faucet so that water would run – I like that sound, it’s very soothing to me – and I’d play. In the dark. ‘Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again.’

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