Can Anyone Learn to Sing?
The short answer is yes, anyone can learn to sing. The long answer is yes, but… we first have to define what “good” singing is. Saying someone is good or not good at singing is subjective. However, there are some key points people look for when judging the singing ability of another person, whether they are aware of it or not:
The most criticised aspect of someone’s singing is their ability to match pitch, which is to sing the same note as you hear. You could have the most beautiful singing voice, but if you are out of tune, you will be labeled as a “bad” singer. Some people are born with an ability to match pitch, and some are surrounded by musicians and music at an early age so they learn to match pitch from the start, while others need training later in life if they want to learn to sing. Whichever category you fit into, it is possible to learn how to sing in tune.
Being able to stay in time with the music is perhaps the second most criticised aspect of one’s ability to sing. Singing acapella (without a music backing) can often disguise one’s lack of rhythmic prowess, as not everyone in the audience will figure out if you are rushing or slowing down in areas you shouldn’t. However, if you plan on singing to an instrumental backing such as a karaoke track, or with other musicians, rhythm is very important. Singers are most often criticised by other musicians for not really mastering rhythm, and it drives them crazy! Rhythm and timing can easily be learnt through learning another instrument such as the piano or guitar, which are naturally very rhythmic instruments. You can also learn timing through rhythmic exercises such as clapping along to the beat of the song until you get a “feel” for the timing.
Vocal Tone Quality
Vocal Tone Quality
If you can match pitch and stay in time with the music, but you or your listeners are still not happy with your singing, this could be an issue of tone quality. Vocal tone quality is how pleasant your voice actually sounds to the listener, which can be deemed by many factors, including:
- whether you are using the right register (chest, mix, head voice)
- the position of your larynx
- whether you have an issue of nasality
- breath support
- vowel tuning
Developing a balanced vocal tone that sounds pleasing to the ear is the biggest area of vocal training to work on. Some people may take longer than others to achieve this, but it is fun, and it’s rewarding. As John Henny, a renowned vocal teacher said, “When a human voice is in the right place, they almost all sound great. Now, you will get voices that will sound warmer, voices that are brighter, voices that are smaller, voices that are bigger - all different ways to describe the voice - but they are all pleasing. And every beautiful voice, if it is not used properly, will sound ugly.”
Once all the foundational work has been lain, next comes the study of different ways to use your voice. This is an advanced stage of vocal training, and deals with vocal power and the ability to produce different volumes and textures in the voice, as well as any stylistic elements such as vocal runs and long sustains.
The X Factor
The X Factor
The final stage is the finishing touches to your singing - how and when to use all the tools you have acquired throughout your vocal journey. It is learning how to use your voice to express the meaning of the words you sing and connecting with the audience. This deals with areas such as enunciation, styling, the use of dynamics (when to increase volume and when to pull back), how to deliver a compelling performance, etc. When comparing two great voices with great vocal technique, the X factor becomes the deciding factor. Sometimes just the X factor alone wins the day when compared to someone with just great technique, but a singer with both will always come out on top.
Understanding how your voice works and learning to make the right adjustments will significantly improve your singing voice, whether you want to simply impress your family and friends, or make a career out of it. With the right training, anyone can learn to sing.