True Or False? Anybody Can Sing.
True, if they have at least one vocal cord (nowadays they are called vocal folds).
An African proverb says that if you can walk, you can dance and if you can talk, you can sing.
Okay. But how well can you sing?
The answer is partially subjective but is also objective, in that there are tacit agreements listeners share, of which they may or may not be aware. Do we care? We do. Listeners notice:
- If a singer is in tune.
- If a singer knows the words.
- If a singer knows the melody.
- If a singer sings in the correct style.
- If a singer’s timing is off.
- If a singer’s rhythm is faulty or wrong.
- If a singer sounds amateurish.
- If a singer sounds like an accomplished professional.
- If a singer looks confident or over-confident.
- If a singer looks scared.
What do you know and what can you do?
Knowing something and doing something can be related, but not always. It’s possible to do something extraordinarily well but have no idea how you do it, why you do it, and what you’re doing. When you sing a melody, there are intervals or distances between the notes.
The tones of the notes are the result of vibrations at a measurable and precise number per second (such as A 440) but you don’t think about these when you are singing. If you are out of tune, we would educate you about intervals and practice them, but we wouldn’t care about vibrations per second of each tone.
A melodic line has intervals in it, one after the other. It’s possible to execute them perfectly and know or care what they are. This is part of the artistic aspect of singing. It is as if there is something organic, if not innate, in singing. It’s not all about mechanics or mathematics, but they are also part of the process of music and of singing.
You don’t have to know the nature and use of pentatonic scales, but you may well be able to ad lib and improvise with them, singing the “riffs” of modern music. They can be taught and exercises can be done to enhance them, to speed them up, to make them more accurate or more interesting. When we approach these things, we’re approaching a thing called jazz. You might recognize jazz when you hear it, but you may not have a profound understanding of it.
Some people can use an instrument and play by ear. Some can read music perfectly well; some read it poorly. Some people can play by ear and read music. Some people can improvise and some cannot, or do not. Anything can be learned and/or practiced. Ability can grow out of willingness to learn and to practice.
Where you are, as a singer…
Like it or not, know it or not, you are at some level of development as a singer. Consider this, and it is in the order of their importance for any singer, but especially a professional one:
- Vocal Technique
- Having and developing Artistic Imagination
- Able to be objective; how you sound, not how you feel about it
- Perseverance and work ethic
- Talent – You’d be amazed if you knew how much you do have.
- Ability to work with others and to understand business
The above Seven Pillars of Performance Success are from a book written by Richard Miller, about whom Seth Riggs said is the most inspirational pedagogue he has ever met. The Book is On The Art Of Singing. Get it. Read it. Learn and grow from it.