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Is Singing a Natural Talent, or Can Someone With a "Bad" Voice be Trained?

 

 

I get the “Is singing a natural talent” question all the time. No matter how many times I try to shoot down the “it’s just natural talent” myth, it seems to rear its hateful head. The reason I can’t stand this myth is that it leads people who would otherwise develop beautiful voices and get to experience the absolute joy of singing to believe that they can’t sing and won’t be able to. The short answer to the post’s topic is this: it’s not that there’s no such thing as vocal talent, but someone who has a “bad” voice can definitely be trained to sing well except under very rare circumstances that probably aren’t the case for you, dear reader. Look at it this way:

Only 4% of the Population is Tone Deaf

And I doubt it’s you. Just because you can’t match pitch doesn’t mean you’re tone deaf. In fact, the vast, vast, majority of the time, it just means that you haven’t yet developed the right coordination to get on key.

 

Most People Who Perpetuate the Talent Myth Do So Because They Don’t Know How Vocal Anatomy Works or How to Teach it Effectively

If you’ve heard from a voice teacher or peer that your voice has simply hit its limit, don’t believe it. I’ve heard so many people say that while someone might be able to learn to match pitch decently, that they simply have an “ugly” voice and no natural ability. This is garbage. Many voice teachers and singers alike have no clue what they’re doing anatomically and never really learned the mechanisms that make someone’s voice pleasant. But your vocal anatomy is complex, and if you’re diligent and work with the right voice teacher, you can absolutely learn to use it. Learning to manipulate your soft palate, for example, can turn on and off a nasal sound. Learning to tilt your thyroid cartilage in your larynx can sweeten your sound and help facilitate vibrato (although there’s more that goes into it). Learning breath control can get rid of a wobbly tone, an overly heavy, clunky tone, and whole host of other issues. And these are all things you’ve known how to do since childhood without even realizing it. Whimpering like a puppy-dog, for example, tilts your thyroid cartilage.

Even Very Young Kids Who Sing Well Probably Learned It

I can’t emphasize enough how much it helps your voice to grow up in a musical household. Children learn through play. If you’re experimenting with your voice from the beginning of your life, you’ll be a lot further along by the time you’re older than someone who decided to try singing for the first time in junior high choir–and that can sometimes register to people as “talent.”

The Proof is in the Pudding

I’ve worked with countless vocal students who can’t match pitch at the beginning and so many others who seem to have natural ability when they start out. I’ll tell you right now, the ones who worked diligently at learning to sing and were willing to experiment with their voices and try new things went way further with it than the ones who had naturally good voices to begin with but didn’t put energy into it. Every single one of the former category learned to match pitch, and some of the really dedicated ones ended up becoming professional singers and even voice teachers. Sometimes (although certainly not always) natural ability even impeded progress because people who sing well from the beginning often get precious about their voices and don’t want to try anything new that might not start out sounding right.

Are There Anatomical Limitations?

Yes, of course. No matter how much I study voice, I’ll never be able to thicken my vocal folds enough to sing in a baritone range (I’m a light lyric soprano, for the record). That’s because my vocal folds simply aren’t large enough to thicken that much. But anatomical limitations don’t happen as often as you’d think. Almost anyone can learn to sing high notes, to belt, to have a “pretty” voice, to project, and to generally get to a point in which a listener’s first reaction will be, “Hey, great voice!!”

So can we just put this myth behind us? You can learn to sing well, I promise. Unless you’re in that 4% of the population who’s tone deaf (you probably aren’t!) or have suffered vocal trauma (even then, you can usually get your voice back), you’re out of excuses. Go make a joyful noise!

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