When we hear an accomplished singer belting out a pitch-perfect performance, it appears effortless. This gives us the impression that the ability to sing is a natural gift that certain people are blessed with.
The truth is, singing is a skill that anyone can learn. Admittedly, the natural tone and ability of a singer means some people find it easier than others, but with practice and perseverance, anyone can improve their vocal ability.
This comprehensive guide tackles the age-old question – can anyone learn to sing? Is it possible for someone with no experience or ability to become an accomplished vocalist? Let’s find out!
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Singing – Talent or Skill?
If you ask a range of people whether they believe that singing is a result of innate talent or the development of skill through consistent practice, most people are likely to presume the former.
It makes sense that this belief stems from the way that music is consumed. When you hear a song on the radio, or watch a live show in person or on the internet, you are presented with a polished and refined vocal performance.
What you don’t see is the countless hours of rehearsal and practice that the singer has undertaken to reach that level of ability.
Indeed, there are certain natural qualities that some singers possess which cannot be taught. The physical makeup of their vocal cords, lungs, diaphragm, and mouth – all contribute to the sound of their singing voice.
These physical attributes affect tone, vocal range, breath control, and rhythm. However, they are not the sole reason that an individual can sing well.
No matter how naturally talented a vocalist is, if they don’t put in the work to develop their voice, their potential will never be fully realized. It’s akin to having a beautiful sports car, with the very best components, but never learning how to drive it properly.
People who don’t have state-of-the-art automobiles can still learn to be accomplished drivers!
It appears then, that singing is a mixture of natural talent and developed skill. No matter what your current ability level is, I can promise you one thing – it can be improved.
I remember when I’d just started playing the guitar. It took me hours of repetition to make my fingers strong enough to transition from a C major chord to a G. I would go to gigs and watch with envy as a guitarist effortlessly shredded out a solo, wondering if I’d ever reach that level of ability.
Singing is the same as learning an instrument. The chances are, you’ve been blown away by the seemingly effortless way that a skilled singer can glide through a complex melody, with a beautiful tone and perfect timing.
This can lead to two different mindsets. You can either take inspiration from the singer, and aim to develop your voice in the same way, or you can let their skill convince you that some people are “born to sing” while others are incapable.
After years of consistent practice, my guitar playing has improved dramatically, beyond what I thought was possible when I first picked up the instrument and struggled to make a pleasant sound with it. At that time I used to wonder how long it’d take to get to a decent level at least.
In the same way, anyone can transcend their perceived limits when it comes to singing. All that it takes is consistent practice, patience, and avoiding the temptation to compare your ability with other singers.
Rather than comparing your ability to other singers, if you focus solely on being better than you were yesterday, you will learn to enjoy the process.
It’s easy to be envious of the tone, power, and technique that other singers possess. Doing this will simply prevent you from putting in the required hours of practice to maximize your potential.
The truth is, we have no idea of the potential of our singing ability.
Your ability to singing in tune may not be to the high standard that your desire currently – but how good would you be after 180 hours of consistent practice?
Setting aside just thirty minutes per day to develop your voice would result in over 180 hours of total practice time in one year. It’s impossible to know how good you would be after dedicating this amount of time to your craft.
One thing that can be predicted, is that you will be much better than you currently are after 180 hours of focused practice. That is guaranteed.
So rather than becoming frustrated by a lack of progress, you should focus solely on being a better singer than you were yesterday. That way, you are competing only with your past self, and you won’t become disheartened when your skills seem to plateau.
In the same way that some athletes possess the natural physical attributes that make them fast runners or long jumpers, some singers are simply blessed with naturally strong vocal cords and an ear for pitch.
Furthermore, if that same athlete never trained, someone with less natural ability could surpass their level by outworking them in the gym and on the practice field.
The truth is, anyone can learn to sing. Provided you are willing to put in the time every day, stick to your practice routine, and have faith in the process, you’ll be amazed at how far you can develop your ability as a vocalist.
Singing is Subjective
The athlete analogy I used earlier is relevant to singers in many ways, but there is one key difference between athletics or sports and vocal ability.
At the end of a race, there’s no disputing who has won. The results are concrete, and the person who performs the best is victorious over the rest of the field.
However, being a “good singer” is completely subjective. With modern pitch correction tools, you can analyze how perfectly singers can hit every note – but that doesn’t make them good singers.
Several aspects make someone a good singer, and all of these are subjective to the listener. Tone, timbre, sustain, grit, pronunciation, and timing – all vary depending on the individual.
While one person may consider the screaming, emotional tone of John Lennon to sound brilliant, others may prefer the smooth singing voice that Paul McCartney uses in early Beatles love songs to be more friendly to the ear.
Bob Dylan is another prime example. I’ve heard many people say they love his songs, but struggle to listen to his voice due to the unrefined tone.
I hold Bob Dylan in the highest regard as a vocalist. I think his ability to convey feeling through his voice is exceptional, and the tone perfectly fits his style of songwriting.
Compared to Pavarotti, on paper, Dylan’s vocal range and technical ability seem minuscule. However, there are millions of people who prefer the sound of Dylan’s voice (including me).
The subjective nature of singing should fill you with inspiration. You don’t need a limitless vocal range and perfectly smooth tone to become a great singer – most of the iconic vocalists over the past century had neither.
Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is another great example of this. In his book, Scar Tissue, he details his struggles with singing when the band first formed. He chose to rap the lyrics initially due to his limited vocal ability.
He then embarked on decades of practice, vocal coaching, and perseverance. The album “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” features some exceptional singing that he wouldn’t have even attempted on the band’s first four records.
I could provide you with countless other examples of singers who weren’t blessed with an abundance of natural ability, who have gone on to sell millions of records and gain huge fanbases due to their unique voice.
If you feel limited by your current singing ability, take inspiration from these legends who once started in the same place that you currently find yourself in!
One Step at a Time
The most important thing you need to learn to sing is perseverance. This is a quality that can be cultivated. The key is to create a singing practice routine that you find enjoyable.
If you don’t look forward to your daily singing practice, you’ll find it much harder to remain consistent. A solid vocal practice should consist of the following components:
- Vocal warm-up routine
- Ear training
- Recording and monitoring your ability
All that you need is around half an hour each day, which is spent solely focused on improving your ability as a singer. If you love to sing country, then sing country! If you want to learn how to scream sing, by all means, incorporate that into your practice.
Your routine will develop and change as your ability improves. Songs and styles that you found challenging initially will become easier over time. All that you need to do is stick at it, and try to be better than you were yesterday!
I hope that this article has convinced you that anyone can learn to sing. Now you can confidently start to improve your ability and enjoy the process of realizing your vocal potential!