I personally don’t know one single person, who doesn’t like singing. But I know a lot of people, claiming they “can’t sing”, they “just don’t have a voice”.
I’m sure, many of them would love to know how to use their voices, even if its just for chanting a proper version of “Happy Birthday” once in a while. So, the question is, if the ability to sing well is a given or if any person can learn how to sing from scratch? In the following article I’m going to talk about, why you don’t necessarily have to be a natural born singer and what really is the thing, we call singing. I’m going to describe what’s possible for an ambitious singer, learning the right technique combined with being a disciplined student.
Natural born singers
Yes, my friend, there’s no doubt about it. Some lucky ones among us are just born with the talent to produce beautiful sounds right away. I know this damn well, because one of my daughters is a natural born singer. It was amazing how at the age of only 8 months, she started singing “Happy birthday” right on pitch. Before she could say her first sentence, she vocalized through the day without even knowing, what she was doing.
Now, what is the real talent behind natural singers?
Often such voices have someone in their family, who is also a singer or a music teacher. For instance, Mariah Carey’s mother was an opera singer. What really happens there is, that they learn the right technique simply by imitating their parents voices – imitating the way they produce different sounds. If you grow up in such a vocally beneficial environment, you are a fully trained singer by the age of 11 without even knowing, you had some training.
Of course there are also singers, who don’t fall into the first category and who learn to sing just by imitating popular singers. They have an incredible talent to imitating sounds on purpose and reproducing, what they hear.
Your muscles sing
If you break down singing to its very basic actions, it is much about muscle coordination to produce sounds.
Anatomically we are all the same. We all have a larynx, we all have vocal chords and we all have a diaphragm.
But the muscles are the ones, who balance it and bring the pieces together.
If you have problems with your voice, e.g. you can’t sing high notes, you sing off-key or your voice breaks regularly, than you are not using the involved muscles properly. Why so? As already described in the first paragraph, we learned or first speaking technique (that we also use for singing) from our parents. And we have used this technique from then on to produce different sounds. There is something called muscle memory. Let’s say you learn how to say an “A” for the first time. Then you try until it sounds the same as the “A” from your teacher. In this process you are using a couple of muscles to produce the sound. If you’ve finally figured it out, you will reproduce and repeat it using the same muscles again. That’s muscle memory and that’s why it can sometimes be very hard to retrain bad habits.
Talent vs. Diligence
What is success? Believe it or not, but success is 10% talent and 90% hard work.
Maybe you’ve heard that before. And it’s so true. You can see that in various professions, e.g. sports. The talented players are not (always) the successful ones. So, that’s the good news if you deem yourself an untalented, but disciplined singer with a strong will to improve your voice.
Another advantage of singers, who learned it the hard way over years is, that they know their voices inside out. They’ve learned to properly use, control and fine-tune their voices. By the way, a good exercise is to vocalize, when you’ve got a cold. If you manage to literally sing your cold away, you know your technique rocks.
In contrast, once a natural singer gets in vocal trouble – he’s done. He’s used to the situation that his voice is just there.
If that’s not the case for whatever reasons, he simply has no tools to maneuver his voice through the storm.
Learning the right singing technique
The prerequisite of anyone’s vocal success is learning the right singing technique.
You can be disciplined as hell, but if you don’t get the right information and the right training, you will see no or only limited improvement in your singing. Be careful, there is a lot of crap out there about singing, which can lead you in the wrong direction or even ruin your voice over the long haul.
Let me outline 5 key characteristics of a proper singing technique:
- You sing “on the air” rather than pushing the voice
- The technique frees your natural voice without having you to produce strange sounds
- You never feel anything in your throat
- You are able to sing through your registers (chest, head) with one voice. No shifts and no changes are necessary.
- You have a natural vibrato and a perfect intonation without “doing” it.
In fact, once you’ve learned the right technique, you are like a natural singer.
You open your mouth and the voice is there. Main difference – you know, what you do.
To wrap up, I strongly believe that anyone can learn how to sing and improve his singing voice.
While natural born singers often had their personal, natural training by just imitating their singer-mother or father, they are not much aware of how they produce their sounds. As singing is some kind of muscle work, and that muscles can be re-programmed, a voice can be built upon that foundation. If you are a diligent and disciplined person and if you find a way to learn the right technique, chances are you will tremendously improve your singing abilities and build your own, fabulous voice.