After watching too much American Idol… I think we’ve all asked ourselves this question, right? We watch people that are “bad at singing” and worry that, that could be us. That we could be completely embarrassing ourselves, and no one will tell us.
First of all, I’m convinced that the largest majority of “bad” singers on American Idol realize what’s happening. In fact, I know someone who made it all the way to the judges/on TV purposely trying to be the “bad” singer. These folks have at least 4 auditions before reaching the judges, and have paid their own money to come back multiple times. Television likes to exploit insecurities in people. We like watching it, because we relate to it and/or find it interesting. The odds of this happening to you without your knowledge are slim to none. And as long as you’re not on national television, who cares if you sound a little weird sometimes, right?
Many of my students have asked me, “Do you think I’m ACTUALLY good at this? Is there a point in pursuing this, or am I really bad and should quit now?”
Here is the bottom line: If you want to sing, you should be singing. Everyone can get better, sure. We all have places in our voices that need improvement. Show me someone who wants to sing? You’re showing me a person who should. Now, does this mean you’re Whitney Houston and you’re going to be famous tomorrow? Likely not. But you shouldn’t give up.
In my travels, I’ve seen INCREDIBLE singers who never “made it big”, and people who had lots of pitch and tension problems, become super stars. Have you ever heard Bob Dillon sing, for goodness sake?
Beauty is in the ear of the beholder:
Everyone’s tastes are different. Someone who is a PERFECT recording artist to one person, sounds like garbage to another. So, who are we to say someone is good or bad? That’s just… “your opinion, man.” Do you have someone in your life who has told you that you can’t sing, or shouldn’t? They’re wrong. Period. If there’s a song in your heart, you need to sing.
“Ok Emily, everyone should sing… does that mean I always sound ‘great’ when I do?”
In the most loving way possible… NOPE. 🙂
Back to what I said about the whole “everyone can get better” thing… That’s true. Here’s a small list of what MOST people perceive as a “great singer”, even if they don’t know it.
1. Singing on intended pitches:
Our ears and brains have an agreement on notes being “on pitch” or “in the key” while we’re singing. Many people are born with naturally incredible pitch matching abilities. Some are not, and have to work harder to hear a note and sing it correctly. You can absolutely improve your ability to match pitch. I see it in my studio every day! It is important to know that being on pitch is essential to great singing.
2. Being physically comfortable:
Why is it we can hear two people singing the exact same note, and think one sounds better than the other? As I said before, it could be just preference, but a big part of it is perceived comfort in the body. Our bodies know when other people’s bodies are uncomfortable, or “in pain”. When a singer looks/sounds like the note they’re hitting is hurting or uncomfortable, we perceive that as “bad”. Our empathetic selves don’t want to see/hear others in any sort of pain. It’s important to try (eventually, when we’re not learning a new skill in singing) to become “comfortable” in our bodies, throughout our songs.
3. Doing something difficult:
On the flip side, our bodies also know (even if we know nothing about singing) when something is hard to do. So when we hear someone belting out “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman, we can tell… THAT’S HARD TO DO! And we’re impressed. Most people have to train to get their voices to do things that are very difficult, while maintaining #1 (great pitch) and #2 (physical comfort) while #3-ing (doing something difficult).
So, what I’m saying is… “normal”, talented humans struggle with all of the things you’re struggling with in your voice at one time or another. I can basically guarantee it. The most important thing to remember is that you CAN ALWAYS improve your singing. That is absolutely in your control. But never, under any circumstances should you stop singing. You were born to sing. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.