Who invented Singing? (Invention Timeline Explained)

If someone were to ask you who invented singing, would you have an answer? It seems like such a weird question, as it’s safe to assume singing’s existed for as long as humanity itself. Considering the nature of singing and how it’s often considered the universal language, it’s bound to have a storied history of some sort.

Such is the reason why it’s a great idea to do a deep dive into the history and invention of singing. It seems strange that singing had to be invented in the first place!   If you’re interested in the ins and outs of singing and how it’s evolved, you’ve come to the right place.

Who invented singing?

As far as the earliest musical notation goes, there’s a Sumerian clay tablet with instructions and the tune for a hymn. The song itself honors the ruler Lipit-Ishtar. When it comes to singing, there are many more examples of firsts, but the hymn to Lipit-Ishtar is undoubtedly the earliest fragment of singing.

Singing key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient Sumerians
    Developed the first musical notation

    A hymn for the ruler Lipit-Ishtar is the earliest known musical notation. It includes the hymn as well as instructions and tuning for the song.

  • Ancient Hurrians
    Hurrian Hymn No. 6

    As far as the oldest surviving song goes, it’s the Hurrian Hymn No. 6, which is an ode to the ancient goddess Nikkal. The cuneiform was excavated in the 1950s.

  • Ancient Greeks
    The Seikilos Epitaph

    The Seikilos Epitaph is the earliest song that could be recreated note-for-note. It marks a woman’s gravesite in Turkey. It states:“I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

  • Recorded History
    An entire world and culture of singing

    It’s hard to peg singing to anything when it comes to both ancient and modern history. Everyone has their individual culture, and their own style of singing going back an uncountable number of years.

  • Malek Jandali
    Performed the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 in an orchestra

    As far as the ancient songs and hymns go, Syrian composer Malek Jandali managed to perform the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 in an orchestra around 2009.

When was singing invented?

The earliest notation for singing was the hymn to Lipit-Ishtar, said to be from 2000 BC. When it comes to the first singers, it goes much, much earlier than that. However, the lack of any recorded songs makes the hymn to Lipit-Ishtar the earliest notation.

A brief history of singing

The fascinating thing about singing is that it’s likely to be as old as humanity. In an attempt to figure out just how old singing really is, archaeologists have looked into studying fossils — specifically the presence of the hyoid bone. If the hyoid bone is in a specific position, it means that the ancient fossil would have been capable of singing like modern humans do. The earliest known fossil with the hyoid bone is dated to be around 530,000 years old!

Aside from the capability of singing, there’s also the record of the first songs. The earliest notation for singing was the hymn to Lipit-Ishtar. The lack of any recorded songs makes the hymn to Lipit-Ishtar the earliest notation. The ancient Sumerians developed the hymn to Lipit-Ishtar, and the ancient Hurrians are next with the Hurrian Hymn No. 6. It was excavated in the 1950s, and is dated to be sometime around the 14th century BC.

One of the most interesting pieces to come after the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 comes the earliest song that can be recreated note-for-note. The Seikilos Epitaph marks a woman’s gravesite in Turkey, and is famous for having both the song and the lyrics fully recreated. Malek Jandali has the distinction of performing the ancient Hurrian Hymn No. 6 in an orchestra.

After that little history of singing, things avalanche into the incredible culture we know today. People have been singing for as long as humanity has existed, and the modern age is no exception. Singing is in our blood, and will always be a part of us.

The singing timeline

  1. 528,000 BC
    The hyoid bone

    The earliest fossils recorded have the hyoid bone in a specific position that allowed people to sing like modern humans.

  2. 2000 BC
    The Sumerian ode to Lipit-Ishtar

    The age of the Sumerian hymn, which comes with instructions and notations as an ode to the ruler at the time, Lipit-Ishtar.

  3. 1300 BC
    Hurrian Hymn No. 6

    The ancient Hurrians developed the Hurrian Hymn No. 6, which is an ode to the Goddess Nikkal.

  4. 1st Century AD
    Seikilos Epitaph

    The earliest song that could be recreated note-for-note. It marks a woman’s gravesite in Turkey. It states:“I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

  5. 2009
    The recreation of Hurrian Hymn No. 6

    The last part of the singing timeline — as far as the first song is concerned — is the recreation of the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 by Malek Jandali.

Where was singing invented?

The ode to Lipit-Ishtar was created in ancient Sumeria. While it’s the earliest fragment of musical notation, there’s no denying that singing has been around for much, much longer. The only issue is the lack of any historical evidence outside of the hyoid bone.

The importance of singing

  • Singing is yours, mine, and everyone else’s

    The importance of singing can’t be understated. It’s something that belongs to all of us, and you can express yourself through singing however you want.

  • The universal language

    If there’s a culture that you don’t seem to understand or you’re reading about a culture for the first time, head over to YouTube or Spotify and listen to songs from that country. It can help tell you more about the culture than anything else. There’s a reason it’s called the universal language!

  • Expression in the purest form

    The human voice is physical and emotional expression in the purest form. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a great singer, when you sing from the heart, people feel it.

  • Singing helps rejuvenate body and mind

    There have been plenty of studies over the years about the benefits of singing. It can help ease stress, enhance the lungs, and so much more.

Singing by the numbers

  • 750When you sing, the sound comes out of your mouth at a whopping 750 miles per hour.
  • 2The percentage of people who have been classified as tone-deaf. It’s a surprisingly low number, when you consider just how many people consider themselves to be tone-deaf. In most cases, it’s a lack of practice that’s the real culprit.
  • 4There are four primary vocal ranges. The soprano, alto, tenor, and bass are the four ranges.
  • 1-2The stages of REM sleep where some sleepers are known to sing.

Five facts about singing

  • The shape of the throat

    You’ll find that most singers’ throats have a different shape from the rest. Years of singing and vocalization can make changes to the overall shape of the throat, making it easier for a professional singer to hit the right notes.

  • Losing singing an ability

    Training the vocal chord is similar to training muscles. This has led to the belief that singing ability can go away with time if you don’t train it.

  • Singing as a form of exercise

    Did you know that singing can be a form of exercise? Singing uses energy from your lungs, your abdominal muscles, as well as your stamina. Singing frequently can help you burn quite a few calories an hour — 136 to be exact.

  • Snoring and catathrenia

    Snoring and catathrenia are similar in many ways, but they’re the opposite of each other. Snoring occurs during inhalation, and catathrenia, grounding during your sleep, occurs during exhalation.

  • Everyone has a different voice

    You’ve probably already heard how everyone is different. In the case of the voice, everyone truly does have a unique voice. The combination of how the voice is formed as well as inflection and various other aspects is why the voice is so unique.

FAQ about singing

  • What is the oldest band still playing?

    The Golden Senior Trio of Japan is the band with the older average age (90).

  • How does singing help me?

    Singing can help you in a variety of ways. First and foremost, singing can help ease stress and anxiety. Singing in groups is also known to help make people feel happier. Singing can also help people sleep.

  • Am I tone-deaf?

    The inability to tell the differences in pitch can be diagnosed in many different ways. That said, only a tiny percentage of people are actually tone-deaf. For many, it’s just about practicing to help you carry a tune. Otherwise, most people lack practice instead of being tone-deaf.

  • Is it better to sing sitting, or standing up?

    While some people might swear over one or the other, sitting tends to inhibit specific muscles when trying to sing. It’s primarily due to the way we breathe.

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