The Elusive Obvious of Singing: It’s A (Learned) SKILL!
Depending on who you are and where you’re at with your singing, this might totally blow your mind. Are you ready for it? Here goes:
Singing is a LEARNED skill.
Before you click off this page because that sounds idiotically obvious, let me bribe you to stay by explaining my statement; it could have a HUGE positive impact on your singing if you “get” it.
You watch all of these talented young singers and observe your favorite vocalists doing their thing and you think to yourself “damn, it looks so easy and natural for them.” Likewise, if you’re a runner and you watch an olympic level athlete run a 4 minute mile while you barely break 6 minutes, you put that individual on some sort of superhuman plane of existence where only they can go. Well, I want to make it super clear that while, yes, natural talent certainly plays a part, singing is merely learning the right sequence of actions and repeating them over and over (practice) until they’re engrained in your muscle memory and you no longer have to actively think about them; they just happen.
So when you hear your favorite singer or ANYBODY doing anything amazing and at a high level, just remember that they’ve figured out certain sequences of actions and internalized and automated them to the point where they’re second nature.
Now, what distinguishes the kickass singer from the mediocre one? 2 things:
1. Work Ethic
2. Attention to detail
Work Ethic trumps everything in my opinion. You’ve probably seen this at some point in your life: Somebody you know sucks at something but wants to be good at it SO bad that they work their ass off and eventually make it happen and you’re a little blown away because they looked so completely UNtalented that their goal seemed impossible. The road to success is littered with talented people who didn’t do shit with their lives because they relied on their so-called talents to do the heavy lifting, when in fact the real solution is to work hard (and smart).
Attention to detail is something I might write an entire long ass article on at some point because I feel like some people just don’t “get it” when it comes to singing. Your singing is the sum of its parts, which includes your degree of breath control, the crispness of your diction, the quality of your tone, your use of dynamics and vocal colors; ALL of these things cumulatively give the impression of singing with feeling. I know that sounds a little unromantic, but if you want to get seriously good at anything, you’re going to have to develop a very intimate relationship with the truth. There are plenty of singers who perceive their own singing as being intensely packed with feeling but if they don’t develop the SKILL of conveying (communicating) that to a listener, all of their emotion is worthless to everybody except for them, and even they would see it as a burden and feel like a “misunderstood” artist. Misunderstood artist – a name for somebody too lazy to learn how to communicate with other human beings. Granted, it’s a massive, lifelong undertaking.
Attention to detail includes determining all of the hundreds or even thousands of little nuances you plan to inject into what you’re singing. It includes the amount of presence you decide to bring with you into the practice room that’ll help you take your body awareness to a new level. In other words, there are no principles in singing except the principles you discover to be consistent with your perception of your own body and how it affects your sound and people’s response to it. That’s why we call the fact that singing is a skill “The Elusive Obvious”…
Singing is one of the most beautiful arts in existence.
Most people think that you need a ton of natural talent to begin singing but the truth is that you don’t!
It’s certainly true that some people are born with more musical inclination than others but anybody can learn to sing from scratch; singing is a skill.
Learning to sing does take some time and patience, however.
Usually, singers begin by imitating their favorite artists and simply singing along with their songs.
Those singers who want to learn how to sing better than usually sign up for voice lessons with a vocal coach and take vocal lessons once a week or so.
Singing – Continued
This is definitely one of the best ways to start really learning how to sing because instead of simply imitating your favorite singers, you begin to learn about the functions of the voice and how to use it freely and in a healthy manner, which eventually allows you to develop your own vocal sound. That’s really important because so many singers sound like knock-offs of other singers and very few singers have a truly unique voice.
Singing can take years to develop into anything decent. Many professional vocalists, myself included, started off sounding absolutely horrendous. It was embarrassing how bad I used to sing. I made the mistake of believing I had no natural talent, when in reality I was simply on a steep learning hill while learning an incredibly difficult and complex skill.
Singing professionally means not only being able to sing well, sing in tune and sing a lot without fatiguing, master breath control and the diaphragm, keeping a neutral larynx but it also depends on developing your musicianship to a high standard and being able to communicate with other musicians by learning to read music, sight sing, etc.
Singing is a ridiculously difficult career and most singers teach singing on the side simply to get their bills paid because their vocal gigs don’t pay well enough to solely support them.
Singing – Conclusion
For singers who simply love to sing and want to be good at it but aren’t interested in making a career out of it, the same basic formula applies. Take voice lessons from a good vocal coach, practice, use a good piece of singing software to develop your skills and over time your singing will really blossom.