Experts say that anyone who can talk can sing. Except for physical disabilities or disease, any individual can learn how to sing reasonably well. It does require some training and effort to sing intermediate to advanced songs. Nevertheless, you do not need any musical background, inherent genetics, or family history to be able to sing.
From the tales of sirens to the legend of Orpheus, there is a multitude of myths that involve musicians, poets, and singers who have accomplished a great task. Such tales lead us to believe that singing is a divine blessing and people are born with a magical voice.
However, this is far from the truth. We all grow up singing nursery rhymes and birthday/festival songs as children. Singing is one of the simplest ways to dabble in music. You don’t need fancy equipment, a soundproof room, or any monetary investment to get started.
Yet, as we grow up, many of us start getting self-critical and conscious of our voice. We, or others around us, convince us that we don’t have the ‘gift’ to do it. If you are wondering if you have what it takes to sing, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post, I’ll dispel the myths and misconceptions tied to singing. We’ll also highlight the key factors that are either inherent or need to be developed to become a good singer.
Table of Contents
Can you learn to sing without any skill or background in music?
I’ll preface this post with the caveat that every individual is unique in terms of grasping and learning abilities. Subsequently, this translates into several factors that will determine the outcome of your tryst with singing. In any case, the results will vary from person to person.
Nevertheless, even if you think you are a “bad singer”, there is comfort in knowing that anyone can sing or learn how to sing with proper training. All you need is a strong desire to sing and some lessons with regular practice to hone your singing talents.
As a rank beginner, you should approach singing methodically to build up your vocal ability to sing well and in tune. Even if your technique is basic, spirit and passion always add allure to a song. A flawed but spirited sing-along is more musical than a sterile song with perfect technique.
You may not be the next Pop superstar, but you learn to sing in tune – with good rhythm and timing. That is a start
Can anyone learn to sing at any age?
Age is not a barrier, and you can learn to sing at any age. However, the younger you start, the faster you will learn. Some research suggests that kids pick up singing faster than adults. But that also applies to learning musical instruments, learning languages, and a wide range of skills. That doesn’t mean older people cannot learn how to sing.
Even if you are in your thirties, forties, or older, it is never too late to begin. You may not become the next pop sensation, but will be able to croon your favorite songs in tune at a campfire or on your couch. Don’t let your age bog you down. After all, you have accrued the wisdom and practicality to make more out of the money and time you invest in singing.
Is singing a skill or a natural gift?
Generally, singing is considered to be a learned skill and not a natural gift. Some people may have an advantage (or a head start) over others. This can be in the form of good vocal texture, a rich musical background, early exposure to music, or a naturally melodious voice. These, however, are not the be-all and end-all of singing.
Can I sing if I don’t have a good voice?
Singing is about the ability to sing in tune. No matter what texture or tone you have, there is always a style or genre that will suit your voice. Instead of being judgmental and self-critical, you can learn theory, intonation and develop your musical aptitude. Either way, you can’t change the way your voice sounds. And, your vocal cords are your musical instrument.
Key factors for good singing:
Musicians can go to a shop and buy an instrument of their choice. Singers have to contend with the physiology they are born with. This includes all the genetic factors that contribute to the anatomy of your ears, mouth, lungs, and throat.
You can’t, for instance, swap your vocal cords if you don’t like the texture of your voice. Your anatomy is unique and it governs the texture and timbre of your natural voice. It makes you sound the way you do and you should embrace it instead of trying to imitate others.
Some factors are inherent and others can be developed to their maximum potential. For instance, you can improve your ‘throw’ that is determined by your lung capacity. You can expand your vocal range by exercises to train your vocal folds.
#2 Musicality and background:
Some people have the advantage of being exposed to a musical background. This can be in the form of a family history of learning music or children who were exposed to a musical environment at a very young age.
Early and constant exposure can increase an individual’s aptitude. Listening may not make a person sing in tune automatically, but it gives them an edge as they are familiar and carry a certain musicality. However, these are not mandatory and will, in no way, prevent others from learning to sing well.
#3 Pitch or ‘Musical Ear’:
A musical ear is directly responsible for a person’s ability to sing in tune. Some people have an edge while others need to work on it through ear training lessons. Of course, if you are predisposed to singing in tune, you will progress much faster.
If you aren’t, there is no need to despair. Good pitch and a musical ear are just a head start. Less than 3% of the human population suffers from an inability to differentiate between pitches. As long as you don’t fall in that category, you will eventually learn how to sing well and in tune.
#4 Dedication and effort:
Like any other field of learning, vocalists need to put in the legwork to achieve greatness. Individual talent and aptitude can make the process faster, but anyone can sing well (and in tune) with the right amount of training, practice, and discipline.
Discipline and regular practice are essential if you want to see improvement. How much time you can dedicate may vary, but make it a habit to practice for 30 minutes every day. Over time, all your dedicated effort and consistent practice will bring astounding improvements in your voice.
Comfort and Confidence are key factors
You may think most beginners struggle with technique. However, vocal coaches state that most people struggle with comfort and confidence. Singing means you have to expose your voice and it can lead to fear, self-consciousness,
Some people are introverted or fastidious, they find the sound of their own voice to be silly and inadequate. You should learn to become comfortable with it because most people sound much better than they are willing to acknowledge.
Even if you sound mediocre today, you have time to work on yourself. Your technique will improve as you sing more and more often. You will find it easier to control and manipulate your vocal cords. It won’t happen overnight, and doubting yourself will only make things worse.
Hire a vocal coach or take lessons for faster improvement
You may not need to spend on a coach if you are just into singing for a fun pass time. In that case, you can make use of numerous online videos and resources to improve. You can also consult other singers in your social circle for tips and pointers.
However, if you want to explore career opportunities in music, I recommend taking private lessons or hiring a dedicated vocal coach for one-on-one learning and mentoring. The right coach can provide you with feedback and a methodical approach to learning.
Besides vocal technique and music theory, a coach will share his/her firsthand knowledge. He/she can be a valuable source of constructive criticism and motivation. These personal aspects are also helpful in breaking the monotony when you are stuck or demotivated.
Singing has been integral to every culture. From church hymns to folk songs to mantras in ceremonies, singing has been an integral part of culture throughout millennia. Even today, people indulge in songs and chants in places of worship, sports stadiums, and during the national anthem.
I hope this short but encouraging guide has reassured you that you have what it takes to pursue singing. The best thing you can do is to not get in your way with any prejudices and preconceptions.
Once you have decided to plunge into singing, you need to identify your tessitura (comfortable singing range), vocal type, and vocal strength. I wrote a detailed post on How to find your voice type?. It will help you take the next step in your journey.