Singing in Spinal Cord Injury

For people with quadriplegia the normal chest and stomach breathing muscles are paralysed. This means that they can’t project their voice well or cough effectively and are much more prone to respiratory infections like pneumonia. It is possible to train the muscles in the neck and shoulder to help with breathing but compliance with traditional training methods is low.

In this research project we developed an intensive 12-week therapeutic group singing intervention to train accessory respiratory muscles for people with quadriplegia and examined effects on respiratory function, voice and mood in a randomised controlled trial.The project was funded by the Victorian Neurotrauma Initiative and involved research collaboration between The University of Melbourne, Austin Health and the Institute for Breathing and Sleep.

Research conducting respiratory pressure testing with participant in wheelchair Music therapist conducting singing session with participant in wheelchair


Tamplin, J., Baker, F., Buttifant, M., & Berlowitz, D. J. (2014). The effect of singing training on voice quality and intensity for people with quadriplegia. Journal of Voice. 28(1), 128.e19–128.e26. doi.10.1016/j.jvoice.2013.08.017

Tamplin, J., Baker, F., Grocke, D., & Berlowitz, D. J. (2014). A thematic analysis of the experience of group music therapy for people with chronic quadriplegia. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, 20(3), 256-268. doi: 10.1310/sci2003-236

Tamplin, J., Baker, F., Grocke, D., Brazzale, D., Pretto, J. J., Ruehland, W. R., et al. (2013). The effect of singing on respiratory function, voice, and mood following quadriplegia: A randomized controlled trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 94(3), 426-434. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.10.006

Tamplin, J. (2011). Singing for respiratory muscle training: Using therapeutic singing and vocal interventions to improve respiratory function and voice projection for people with a spinal cord injury. In F. Baker & S. Uhlig (Eds.), Voicework in Music Therapy: Research and Practice. (pp. 147-170).  London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Tamplin, J., Brazzale, D., Pretto, J.J., Ruehland, W.R., Buttifant, M., Brown, D.J., Berlowitz, D.J. (2011). Assessment of breathing patterns and respiratory muscle recruitment during singing and speech in quadriplegia. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(2), 250-256. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2010.10.032

Tamplin, J. (2009). The link between singing and respiratory health for people with quadriplegia. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 20 (special issue), 45-55.


Media Stories


Herald Sun – “Learning to breathe through singing” – Music therapy in quadriplegia

Young woman in wheelchair with ventilator singing with music therapist


The Spin – Spinal Cord Injury BC – “Belt it out! Singing might improve your respiratory health, not to mention your frame of mind” – Cliff Bridges


Channel 10 news – Report on quadriplegia research: “On Song

Screenshot of Channel 9 new story showing a music therapist being interviewed with a group of people in wheelchairs in the background