On some level or another, this is the question I get asked the most as a voice teacher. Sometimes even before I can even respond, the person asking has already launched into a heated monologue of why they could never possibly be a singer. It’s just not in the genes/cards/blessings allotted to them in their life. It’s amazing to me how firmly people believe that they could never possibly learn to sing!
As a matter of fact, most of these impassioned “non-singers” were involved with singing at one point or another. Often it was in school or church choir, or in the ensemble of their high school musical. Some of them even took lessons for a time, but in the end they just figured they weren’t “cut out” for singing.
The short answer to the question “Can anyone learn to sing?” is yes. A hearty YES. But the question people are most often REALLY asking is, “Can anyone learn to sing well? Like, really really well? Like Beyonce?” And that’s where things get slightly more complicated.
Anyone who can speak can learn to sing. Many decidedly ‘non-singers’ have just never figured out how to use their voice in a desirable way- a way to get power and volume and a nice tone throughout their voice. Fortunately for everyone, basic singing technique is easy enough to learn, especially if you’ve got a great teacher. In just a few lessons and with a little vocal exploration, you could enjoy singing immensely more.
Think of singing like swimming- it’s another activity which employs only your body- no outside equipment needed. If you only knew how to doggy paddle, you’d most likely tire out and get frustrated pretty soon. But what if after taking a few swimming lessons you could do the breast stroke, back stroke, and free style! All of a sudden swimming would be more enjoyable and easier to sustain. Anyone can swim, even without a Michael Phelps physique.
Which brings me to…
But what about those singers who DO have a Michael Phelps physique? I’m talking about the Beyoncé’s and Adele’s. The Adam Levine’s and Pavarotti’s. The truly remarkable voices that, with or without vocal training, are just plain exceptional. Well certainly, there are some of those, but they are just that, the exception.
These voices are certainly at an advantage when it comes to potential commercial success. They may have been born with a pleasing tone of voice, and singing technique and ability may have come naturally to them. However, I guarantee these artists have all spent hundreds and thousands of hours perfecting their craft. Whether it was in the studio with a voice teacher, or in their bedroom singing back Whitney Houston riffs for hours at a time, these voices developed over years of practice.
So maybe that’s not you. Or me! Maybe we weren’t born with a Mariah Carey-like instrument. Is that a viable reason to not sing? I think it’s a poor excuse for excluding yourself from one of the simplest, most intrinsic forms of human expression.
Your voice is an instrument only YOU can play. Sing because you love it; sing in your car or the shower, sing in your church choir to express your joy, sing at karaoke night because you love belting out Pat Benatar with your friends. Sing for a whole host of reasons, and get a little training to enjoy it even more. Plus, you never know what your potential might be until you try! You just may surprise yourself.
For more on this topic, check out this great post by Spencer Welch Vocal Studio, “Can I Sing Like Adele?” which he answers with, why even try! As well as a host of other really great anecdotes.