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Can anybody learn how to sing? Ribbon Microphones
Old 15th August 2007
  #1
Gear Head
 

Can anybody learn how to sing?

After years of singing, and taking vocal lessons, I'm getting quite frustrated. I made huge improvements over the years, but I dont sound even close to something which I'd describe as a "great vocal sound". Maybe my expectations are just too high, since all modern vocal sounds are usually pure studio creations anyways (autotune, etc), or maybe I am just too irritated hearing myself sing something, and I'm one of those people who just cant stand their own voice, even though it may be good. But I'm starting to believe that you're either born with a great voice, or you arent... nothing you can do about it!

One may also describe it as "tone". If you dont have a pleasing or distinct tone, you're screwed. No matter how often you practice or how many voice lessons you take.

How do my fellow Gearslutz think about this?


EDIT - 08/17
After listening to my demos and spending the entire day working on my voice, I finally know what my problem is..........

I hold each note for way too long, which gives it a sound that isnt really what I'm looking for. Also, it's fairly hard to hold notes for a long time and still be 100% on key. I just listened to a bunch of popular pop/rock songs, and the vocals are usually just the singer doing melodic "rap" on pitch. I gotta incorporate that more into my singing and arranging of the vocals. Once I've done that I think I'll be fine...
Old 15th August 2007
  #2
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lowfreq33's Avatar
 

Well, if you can hear pitch differences you can learn to control them, and proper breathing is a must, but no, you can never change the physical mechanisms of the vocal cord/throat/chest/head you are born with. That being said, you may have a great sounding voice that just doesn't sound like what you wish it did.
Old 15th August 2007
  #3
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rowdy322's Avatar
 

Well, after the guy who just left my studio, I wonder. He was really bad. have you had anyone who matters listen to you or is this just a personal observation ? We are sometimes our worst critic. keep your chin up, maybe you are not as bad as you think . I think the best singers do have that TONE for sure, but it all depends what you are going to do with it and what your goals are. Not everyone is designed to be on the world stage. Good luck.
Old 15th August 2007
  #4
Gear Nut
 

I suppose it depends on what you call singing...... you could sing like Tom Waits in your own inimitable style. I'm not keen on Joe Strummers style of vox but I can still enjoy the tunes.
Maybe you're worrying too much and not enjoying it enough. Maybe its the material...I find singing a good song much easier.
If its frustrating you that much you should think about getting external help or looking at what other things in life make you happy. Maybe they will come to you easier.
Old 15th August 2007
  #5
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Kyle S's Avatar
 

i just listen to dylan and neil young to remind myself that good singing is subjective. they all used to say neil had a terrible voice in the 60's and look what became of him. you can recognize that sound anywhere. if you have something to say, **** it and sing it i say. breath control is a must though. ive just been focusing on that aspect and pitch of course and leaving the rest to chance. my voice is crazy though; ciggs, pot and lots of liquor when i was younger. so my voice goes from super low to squeeky high with one little muscle movement. so ****ing hard for me to talk on the phone without distorting.
Old 15th August 2007
  #6
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Kyle S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lebouche View Post
I suppose it depends on what you call singing...... you could sing like Tom Waits in your own inimitable style. I'm not keen on Joe Strummers style of vox but I can still enjoy the tunes.
Maybe you're worrying too much and not enjoying it enough. Maybe its the material...I find singing a good song much easier.
If its frustrating you that much you should think about getting external help or looking at what other things in life make you happy. Maybe they will come to you easier.
just starting listening to Tom Waits! thats a painful voice there!

John Lee Hooker even, one of my all time favorites, sounds like a bullfrog compared to "singers."
Old 15th August 2007
  #7
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hangman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lowfreq33 View Post
Well, if you can hear pitch differences you can learn to control them, and proper breathing is a must, but no, you can never change the physical mechanisms of the vocal cord/throat/chest/head you are born with. That being said, you may have a great sounding voice that just doesn't sound like what you wish it did.
agreed. I think one of the biggest mistakes a singer can make, is not sing to their voice. hitting notes, good control, vibrato, breathing area all important, but really don't mean anything if you're not letting your voice be what it is.
Old 15th August 2007
  #8
You can certainly train yourself to control your pitch (which is the worst of common complaints). You can learn and control your phrasing. You can learn to control your timing. You can extend the control of your pitch upwards and downwards by working carefully and steadily. You can learn how to sing "from" different areas of you vocal apparatus to change tonality and timbre to some extent. You can even watch your health and diet to minimize the problems and limitations imposed by swollen vocal apparatus and clogged cavities.

There's a lot you can do.


Will you be able to get your voice to sound precisely like you want (if you even know what that is)?

That's the $64,000 question... but if you work to try, carefully and steadily, and with sensitivity to your own body, you can probably get closer than you thought you could.

But I think one thing you've got to do is make peace with your voice. Work to improve it, for sure, but don't try to make it something it perhaps never can be and then hate yourself for the attempt.

As others have said, look at all the beloved singers with quirky, characterful voices... from Bob Dylan to Billie Holiday to Blossom Dearie, or any of the others mentioned above: they worked with what they had (some less than others [ahem heh ] ) and managed to find a way to move people deeply.
Old 15th August 2007
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by hangman View Post
agreed. I think one of the biggest mistakes a singer can make, is not sing to their voice. hitting notes, good control, vibrato, breathing area all important, but really don't mean anything if you're not letting your voice be what it is.
eggzactly. there’s plenty of vocalists out there who have discovered something interesting they can do with their voice which may or may not have anything to do with what is thought of as technically proficient singing.

on the other hand some people are just tone deaf, have no rhythm, refuse to learn & are completely hopeless.
Old 15th August 2007
  #10
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swisha31's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowfreq33 View Post
Well, if you can hear pitch differences you can learn to control them, and proper breathing is a must, but no, you can never change the physical mechanisms of the vocal cord/throat/chest/head you are born with.
I agree with you mate. There is absolutely no way someone can learn to sing. If you have a beautiful voice that needs to be tamed, thats different. But somebody completely learning to sing, absolutely not. People that can just flat out sing like Stevie Wonder, donny hathaway, marvin gaye, aretha franklin, beyonce(even though she works peoples nerves), Gavin degraw, John legend, shaka kahn, luther vandross, aguilera, mariah in her early days, amy winehouse, those are people that are born with the gift. a lot of others are just average or even below average
Old 15th August 2007
  #11
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hangman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by swisha31 View Post
I agree with you mate. There is absolutely no way someone can learn to sing. If you have a beautiful voice that needs to be tamed, thats different. But somebody completely learning to sing, absolutely not. People that can just flat out sing like Stevie Wonder, donny hathaway, marvin gaye, aretha franklin, beyonce(even though she works peoples nerves), Gavin degraw, John legend, shaka kahn, luther vandross, aguilera, mariah in her early days, amy winehouse, those are people that are born with the gift. a lot of others are just average or even below average
but imagine if aretha franklin was born much later and decided that she wanted to sing like Kathleen Hanna instead of like Aretha Franklin that would be a damn shame.
Old 16th August 2007
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swisha31 View Post
I agree with you mate. There is absolutely no way someone can learn to sing. If you have a beautiful voice that needs to be tamed, thats different. But somebody completely learning to sing, absolutely not. People that can just flat out sing like Stevie Wonder, donny hathaway, marvin gaye, aretha franklin, beyonce(even though she works peoples nerves), Gavin degraw, John legend, shaka kahn, luther vandross, aguilera, mariah in her early days, amy winehouse, those are people that are born with the gift. a lot of others are just average or even below average
Oh well, Mariah Carey for instance has ZERO technique. She has a GREAT head voice. But no chest voice. When she sings low notes it's all breathy, nothing else. That's btw what a lot of people consider "soul" or a "soulful voice". You can hear it everywhere in pop music, too much air in the voice, which kinda tries to hide the fact that the singer cant really sing. Faith Hill is a prime example, along with Alicia Keys.

A few words on Kelly Clarkson (you didnt mention her, but she's always praised as one of THE best modern pop singers). The girl has also NO technique. Watch live performances of her, all she does is strain and push. That "forced power" in her voice is what makes people think that she can sing, "cause she has so much drive and power in her voice", but... pffft... she just sounds absolutely horrible most of the time. Just screaming out the notes.

So.... most people dont even know what a good singer is, or how one sounds like. You can learn the most important the things (technique & pitch), and if you got that, your good to go. Just gotta be confident and embrace your voice, and what makes it unique. Dont try to sound like somebody else. Everybody can learn how to sing, just gotta put in enough hard work and get a great coach!
Old 16th August 2007
  #13
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Engine Room's Avatar
 

Well, the pessimist in me is going to bypass all of these highly regarded comments and yell out an off-key and unmusical NO!

EVERYBODY can NOT learn how to sing.

As much as we'd all like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony and buy them an f'in coke, it isn't going to happen.

You'd be better off trying to polish a turd....oh yeah..!

I'm back to work!

/dirty
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Old 16th August 2007
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Engine Room View Post
Well, the pessimist in me is going to bypass all of these highly regarded comments and yell out an off-key and unmusical NO!

EVERYBODY can NOT learn how to sing.

As much as we'd all like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony and buy them an f'in coke, it isn't going to happen.

You'd be better off trying to polish a turd....oh yeah..!

I'm back to work!

/dirty
If you can speak, you can usually learn how to sing. End of story. My vocal coach works with a lot of people. She's been doing this since over 20 years. She has professional singers as clients, who are signed to major labels as well as complete newbies. So far, she only had 1 person who she couldnt teach how to sing. Sure, not everybody is gonna sound like Aretha Franklin or Jim Morrison. But that's what people need to get, the point of good vocal technique is to make your voice sound like YOU, not like a copy of a famous singer. Nobody wants to hear a 2nd version of somebody who has already been around. Billy Corgan sounds horrible IMO, but some people like him. He's unique. And that's what matters.
Old 16th August 2007
  #15
Gear Nut
 
Engine Room's Avatar
 

[off key and struggling]

quietdrive!, oh quietdrive!!

I'm trying sooooo hard to believe you, but I just don't know...

I've heard some people that couldn't carry a tune with a bucket and a few friends.

I'd rather beat nails into the wall with my head than try to teach some of these bad Nirvana-wannabes about scale...

/dirty

ps. Only Eddie Vedder is allowed to yarl. Everyone else can pike it.
Old 16th August 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Engine Room View Post
[off key and struggling]

quietdrive!, oh quietdrive!!

I'm trying sooooo hard to believe you, but I just don't know...

I've heard some people that couldn't carry a tune with a bucket and a few friends.

I'd rather beat nails into the wall with my head than try to teach some of these bad Nirvana-wannabes about scale...

/dirty

ps. Only Eddie Vedder is allowed to yarl. Everyone else can pike it.
I think those people you encounter are just dumb ignorant morons. If you can actually admit to yourself that you suck, and need to improve your singing, then you're well on your way. Once you get a good coach and learn the basic techniques, anybody can sound decent. Sure, it's a lot of hard work, but you wont get anything for free in life. The hardest part is admitting that you have a problem and need help. And as we all know, most singers are just too ignorant to get vocal lessons. People are rarely in touch with who they really are. But again, that's a general problem in our society. There are fat people walking around, or probably reading my post right now, who are actually under the impression that they look healthy. Again, they dont have the balls to be honest with themselves. Everybody is denial. People BS themselves 24/7. Why should it be any different with music?
Old 16th August 2007
  #17
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Engine Room's Avatar
 

allright, I will agree with that. If you want to do something, there's not much that can stop you.

YOU! quietdrive, are an optimist....



pleased to meet you.

/dirty (natural-born pessimist, or so my wife keeps telling me...)

ps. I meet a lot of ignorant morons. I live in the midwest...
Old 16th August 2007
  #18
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Engine Room's Avatar
 

by the way, have you ever studied the Toltec philosophy? Very interesting, even for pessimistic folk!
Old 16th August 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Engine Room View Post
by the way, have you ever studied the Toltec philosophy? Very interesting, even for pessimistic folk!
Yes, I'm very big on personal development. Don Miguel Ruiz' "4 Agreements", great book.
Old 16th August 2007
  #20
Gear Nut
 
Engine Room's Avatar
 

wow, you're the first....ever.

I adhere to the "if you don't like your life, then do something about it" school of thought.

I can also sing...fuuck, but I tend to be the voice that fills in the thirds and such on truly bad recordings..

Did I mention I can polish a mean turd?
Old 16th August 2007
  #21
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
There's a lot you can do.
Particularly if you are doing your own stuff.

I've been told that my voice sounds like a cross between Tom Waits and Kermit The Frog but I have persevered, recording my songs, vox and all, for years.

And my fans love it!

Well........my ex-wife liked it. No, wait....that's not quite true.

Truth is, if you want to sing, sing. And read what theblue1 wrote if you want to get the best out of what you've got.
Old 16th August 2007
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Engine Room View Post
I adhere to the "if you don't like your life, then do something about it" school of thought.
i adhere to "as long as god knows the truth, it doesnt matter what we tell the customers" - 7 1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth
Old 16th August 2007
  #23
JPM
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by timothy View Post
One may also describe it as "tone". If you dont have a pleasing or distinct tone, you're screwed. No matter how often you practice or how many voice lessons you take.
Seems to me people with great natural tone can get away with less musicianship. But I think tone has nothing on annunciation, phrasing, song, attitude, musicality, etc.

I hate my voice and I've tried expanding it and molding it to how I hear I want it to be in my head for a long time with little change. But I'm slowly learning how to exploit its few strengths instead of seeking after something I'll never be able to physically attain. Key and melody make the greatest impact on tone for someone like me with a limited range. I used to try and try and try to make something work, convinced I just needed more repetition, more practice even if it felt strained. Now, if something doesn't work vocally after singing it a handful of times, I change the melody or key and it makes a world of difference. Suddenly I'm singing more naturally and as a result it sounds better.

Annunciation and phrasing: knowing how to shape a phrase dynamically and use the the various qualities of consonants and vowels (percussive, legato, soft, hard, long, closed, etc.) can make a huge impact on the musicality and thus the listener. Focusing on such variety makes for a much more interesting listen than some one with great tone who annunciates and phrases everything the same imo.

I tend to listen to a lot of folk/indie/rock etc. and don't care for her music but I have to disagree with a previous poster and say Kelly Clarkson is a real natural. True, she's a belter but she's an example of someone who varies her annunciation and phrasing according to the big picture (song as a whole) to give things forward direction, tension/release, overall build, color variety, etc. There are definiltey better examples than she but her name came up.

JPM
Old 16th August 2007
  #24
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CommunityMart's Avatar
 

Yeah, keep your "chin up"! You can sing. .. YOU CAN SING!!!

hey, wait a second, I can sing.
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/mp3-u...still-one.html

I'm not ashamed either. I got to practice, don't I? You do too, P makes P.

I also make the mistake of not singing "true" to my own voice, sometimes.
Old 16th August 2007
  #25
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swisha31's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by quietdrive View Post
Oh well, Mariah Carey for instance has ZERO technique. She has a GREAT head voice. But no chest voice. When she sings low notes it's all breathy, nothing else. That's btw what a lot of people consider "soul" or a "soulful voice". You can hear it everywhere in pop music, too much air in the voice, which kinda tries to hide the fact that the singer cant really sing. Faith Hill is a prime example, along with Alicia Keys.

A few words on Kelly Clarkson (you didnt mention her, but she's always praised as one of THE best modern pop singers). The girl has also NO technique. Watch live performances of her, all she does is strain and push. That "forced power" in her voice is what makes people think that she can sing, "cause she has so much drive and power in her voice", but... pffft... she just sounds absolutely horrible most of the time. Just screaming out the notes.

So.... most people dont even know what a good singer is, or how one sounds like. You can learn the most important the things (technique & pitch), and if you got that, your good to go. Just gotta be confident and embrace your voice, and what makes it unique. Dont try to sound like somebody else. Everybody can learn how to sing, just gotta put in enough hard work and get a great coach!
im sorry but that is not what people consider to be soul. where did you get that from???? the runs, the vibrato, the passion, being able to do things with your voice others cant, thats what people consider to be soul. go listen to chaka kahn, lou rawls, sam cooke, stevie wonder. those people are considered to be soulful not anybody in pop music. nobody in pop music has even been referred to as soulful, mainstream pop anyway. where in the hell did you get that from?????? the closest would be jill scott, gavin degraw can be, angie stone, john legend, carl thomas.........not mariah carey. she has never been considered to be a soul singer and that whole airy thing actually has people saying that she has gotten worse which is why i said, "in her early days." Did you even listen to her in the early days when she was first introduced to the world??? the tommy mattola days. none of that airy crap. it was all voice from the diaphragm and the fact that she could hit those octives with not even so much as a crack was icing on the cake. what she does now IS NOT SOUL. god i would really love to know where u got that from.

and that "everybody can learn to sing" is completely untrue. if you cant sing, you cant sing. nobody can teach you to sing and having a vocal coach is a waste of money if you dont have a great voice to begin with.
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Old 16th August 2007
  #26
Gear Nut
 

The voice is an instrument that can be learned by degrees like anything else. How much do you love it and want to do it?

I have to disagree with some of the statements here about the "unteachability" of voice. The problem is that the voice is so personal. If you feel negative about your own potential, you can just drag yourself down. Do you want to sing or not? And if you do, why would you convince yourself otherwise, outside of self-sabotage? Voice is very susceptible to your own personal mindgames, because it's not external to you. You can only feel the mechanism working, you can't watch it yourself, besides some limited things you can do in a mirror.

I think any musical person has the potential to be a good singer, but they often need the right teacher to guide them. Some people get lucky with a good instinct for making good sound; they're born into a singing family and it comes natural early on. Those are the people you have to compete with the rest of your life. But you can absolutely practise, with the right guidance, to operate on their level with an aware approach.

There are a lot of teachers who are so-so or outright charlatans out there. Don't be afraid to take 2 or 3 lessons with one teacher, then try somebody else, then try somebody else again until you find somebody you click with. They may take you a certain distance, then you'll find you have to switch again. If any teacher gives you attitude about trying different approaches (providing you're not hurting yourself), then they're into themselves instead of you and you should stay away from them. You need to find somebody who cares about you and what you want to do--not somebody who's focused on building the biggest vocal studio with the most students.

Ask around in your area. Ask every singer you meet who they study with. And I concur with some other comments here--don't try to be somebody you're not, and don't be too hard on yourself.
Old 16th August 2007
  #27
Gear Guru
 
AllAboutTone's Avatar
 

Thats a hard but easy question to answer, i would say that most everyone can sing if they have auto tune, you cannot go wrong....lol
Old 16th August 2007
  #28
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swisha31's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bashville View Post
The problem is that the voice is so personal. And you don't have keys you can finger on the side of your neck to make it work, you have to do it all by internal perception.

I think any musical person has the potential to be a good singer, but they might need the right teacher to guide them. Some people get lucky with a good instinct for making good sound; they're born into a singing family and it comes natural early on. Those are the people you have to compete with the rest of your life. But you can absolutely practise, with the right guidance, to operate on their level with an aware approach.

There are a lot of teachers who are so-so or outright charlatans out there. Don't be afraid to take 2 or 3 lessons with one teacher, then try somebody else, then try somebody else again until you find somebody you click with. They may take you a certain distance, then you'll find you have to switch again. If anybody gives you attitude about trying different approaches (providing you're not hurting yourself), then they're into themselves instead of you and you should stay away from them. You need to find somebody who cares about you and what you want to do--not somebody who's focused on building the biggest vocal studio with the most students.

Ask around in your area. Ask every singer you meet who they study with. And I concur with the comments here--don't try to be somebody you're not, and don't be too hard on yourself.
i dont know bash, people can try and learn all they want but if you dont have the tools, you just wont be a good singer. ultimately it comes down to your voice. you and I could seek the best teacher on earth and work everyday as hard as hell but if we werent born with the gift then it just wont happen. then you have people like Donny Hathaway. He was born with that my friend. thats sheer greatness. there is no technique or formula behind him, all talent. talent is still a prerequisite and if you lack that key component, sorry but no luck for you. The voice isnt a piano, guitar, or drums. you can learn those. you can practice those and learn chords, technique, the right way to hold the sticks, finger placement and get better and better. imagination makes some better than others such as a thelonious monk but the voice is completely different. you have to be born with it which is why so few people can do it.

A person like scarlett johansson that needs a vocal coach will never sound like whitney houston who doesnt need a vocal coach. Countless people in hollywood right now are taking voice lessons to learn to sing but they will never sound like gavin degraw, john legend, aguilera. just werent born with it man.
Old 16th August 2007
  #29
Here for the gear
 

I don´t mean to hijack this thread but I wanna raise a curious question.
Do you know of anyone who couldn´t really sing until they went through a nose surgery (septoplasty, rhinoplasty whatever) ? I can´t sing for **** and always blamed my breathing. Got a septoplasty done last week (not because I wanna become a singer hahaha). Just wanna see what the results will be like...
Old 16th August 2007
  #30
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swisha31's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by sejuba View Post
I don´t mean to hijack this thread but I wanna raise a curious question.
Do you know of anyone who couldn´t really sing until they went through a nose surgery (septoplasty, rhinoplasty whatever) ? I can´t sing for **** and always blamed my breathing. Got a septoplasty done last week (not because I wanna become a singer hahaha). Just wanna see what the results will be like...

that has more to do with technique if anything. you shouldnt be singing from your nose. it should be diaphragm so the voice can project BUT if you dont have the voice, learn the piano and play for someone that does have a voice.
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