A contribution by: Robert Lunte, founder of The Vocalist Studio
Check out Rob’s site.
Any voice teacher that has even the slightest amount of legitimate experience teaching singers will tell you that this is almost entirely false. Out of the thousands of students I’ve worked with, I can count on one hand the people who could not sing. The reason that they could not sing was not their lack of capability, but because they did not practice and work through their issues long enough. Even the most challenged, least gifted student can improve and in time, sing well.
more than 90% of the population can learn to sing
I think that more than 90% of the population can learn to sing, and most of them to sing well, with some spectacularly great results. From my perspective, the deciding factors are the quality of the teacher, the accuracy and relevance of the vocal techniques they are taught, and their level of dedication to practice. I don’t care how much you think you struggle at singing, if you have a big heart and an iron will to win, you will become better if you practice.
singing is an athletic endeavor
It is important to understand that singing is an athletic endeavor, and the learning of it is very much an activity of developing muscle coordination and strength. When you are working on your intrinsic muscularity, the muscles inside the larynx with your vocalize, it is akin to working out in the gym to build and coordinate your large skeletal muscles. Here is a hypothetical question: If you decide that you are very passionate about golfing, want to learn it, engage a coach with world-class techniques, and practice regularly… do you think you will learn to golf well? Do you think that you might even learn to golf better than most people?
Of course! I understand that you may not actually want to learn to skate well, but if you did, half the battle is simply building the muscles and coordination of them into graceful, powerful motion. The other half is your motivation, how much you want to achieve your goal, your persistence in practice, the scope of your dream and the quality of your teacher and their training content.
You may ask, ‘What is it that causes some students to progress very slowly, even though they practice diligently?’ I’ve seen that this does happen to a very small percentage of students. While they have made the occasional breakthrough, and eventually reached their goal, it required extraordinary persistence by the student and me. Why was this struggle necessary?
true inability to hear pitch is very rare
Based on my experience, it is mostly due to one issue, the inability to phonate on pitch. If a student of singing cannot match the pitch they hear in their head to the pitch they try to phonate, we are in for the long haul. Before we can even start to really get after the true singing technique, we have to train the ears and this can be daunting. It does not make an eventual success impossible, but only longer and harder to get to. Having said that, everyone one of these people can and often do win the sport of singing and become good singers. True inability to hear pitch is very rare and most likely is not you.
If you think you are one of these people, you are probably wrong. This kind of student is very rare. The occasional “pitchy” moment in your singing is not what we are talking about; we are talking about people that cannot match one key on the piano after pounding on it for an hour. Not the student that is a little flat here and there and can fix it if they just decide to listen more closely and practice. So relax, that is probably not you. There are many students that can hear pitch, but they are not listening to pitch.
learn how to listen more intently
The vast majority of pitch problems, more likely the one you have if you think you have one, is that you’re not listening to the pitch. You have to actively open your ears and really focus on paying attention to you auditory imagery efforts. I know that may sound a bit too simplified, but it is mostly true. The average student with some pitch problems has the physiology and neural connectivity to sing on pitch, they just have not learned how to listen more intently. As you progress in your voice training, among other things, listening to pitch more critically will just become a normal part of the experience for you.