Do You Have the 'Natural Talent' to Sing?

This article is a discussion on natural talent and how it applies to the vocal world. It goes into an in-depth look at people form their own voice naturally. Then goes into how you can learn to grow your own voice.

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From the first moment you opened your mouth to attempt to sing, people have judged your voice. That first note felt so crucial. It determined if the words "You can't sing" or the words "you can SING" followed you for the rest of your life.

When you first start learning any other instrument, what do people say?

A guitar player doesn't pick up his instrument for the first time and start shredding.

A Trumpet player doesn't pick up his instrument and start blasting an A above high C.

They start at the bottom, struggling to even play "Mary Had a Little Lamb." People don't tell them they can't play and they should stop. They say "don't worry, you'll get better with practice. No one is GREAT right away."

Why do people decide whether you can sing or not from the moment you open your mouth? Instead of saying, "you'll get better with practice"?

Looking at the history of voice, you'll find one common term that plagues it. This term is "Natural Talent"! Anyone, who has attempted to sing has been at the mercy of this term. Many teachers have spread this disease ridden term to their students and in turn to the general public. Today, "natural talent" has become a common household phrase. 

You either have the talent or you don't.

I'm not saying I don't believe in natural talent. Natural talent is a real thing, but I don't believe in how it is commonly viewed. Natural talent is commonly viewed as a limiter, meaning your voice has certain limits different from other people's and you can't change it. You're going to have a different range and a different tone than other people because you were born with it.

This is not true.

The human voice has certain limits, but they are not different from person to person. Your voice can do anything that anyone else's can. You might have a different starting note, but anyone can have a 4 octave range or higher. Anyone can learn to add grit to their voice or other textures. Anyone can develop their own sound! Natural talent is not an end point or limiter.

Natural talent is a starting point. Everyone starts with a certain level of ability. Some people are exposed to more music and sing more often than others. As a result, they've already developed some singing ability, whether they realize it or not.

Viewing natural talent as a limiter is dangerous to your abilities as a singer. It encourages mediocrity. Teachers spread it to their students. Family members spread it to other family members. It gives people an excuse to stop learning proper control over their vocal instrument! Bowing down to natural talent is another way of giving up. I've even met college graduates who studied voice and are teaching others who can't get into their head voice. Let alone do anything else with their voice. It's disheartening.

Still don't believe me? Look at it in another light.

Natural Talent Broken Down!

Some people are probably thinking right now: Some people just don't sound good. Their tone is terrible. People are born with their vocal instrument, they can't change the way it sounds! Bad singers just can't and shouldn't sing!

This is a very common thought process. It is in fact, the general basis for deciding if someone has the "natural talent" to sing or not.

SO TIME TO PROVE IT WRONG!

First, let's address the ridiculous part of this statement. They're born with that voice? I didn't come out of my mother's womb with the ability to talk, let alone sing. I learned how to talk overtime you did as well! Ask yourself, how children learn to talk?

They learn to talk by observing external sources. They observe their parents, older siblings, cousins, even people on television. Any source you come into contact with as a child, might influence the sound of your voice.

As children, we pick up on external sources and mold them together to create our speaking voice. If you have a nasally voice, chances are when you were younger, someone around you or with influence over you had a nasally voice. Your brain heard this and decided this was the proper way to speak. As a result you developed a similar sound. How do you think accents were formed?

Your voice is shaped and formed by external sources as you grow up. The same goes for your singing voice.

That's why parents who can sing tend to have kids who can sing. It's not that the singing ability is genetic. Babies just tend to be around their parent's the most. If their parents talk in a way that allows them to have a decent tone when they sing, the child, more often than not, will have a better singing voice. If that parent studied voice, their children will have an even stronger natural talent for singing.

Another common source, is other singers. If you tried to emulate singers when you were younger, you subconsciously picked up on a lot of little things that helped develop your "Natural Talent."

Did you know exactly what they're doing? No, but in learning to emulate their sound, you unconsciously manipulated your voice, developing your talent along the way.

I did this a lot when I was younger

I was a little kid in the '90s, so I picked up that dark covered sound a lot of male singers in the '90s used. Pearl Jam, Creed, Fuel, Collective Soul, Seven Mary Three... The list goes on and on. Since I heard/emulated that sound so often, it became the sound I connected with quality singing. 

This led me to naturally develop that sound in my singing voice. I also picked up how to add air to my voice at the end of my phrases and learned how use vibrato by goofing around singing the opera version of Oh Holy Night. Of course, I wasn't aware of this at the time, it just happened because of my exposure to that music.

If someone you know sounds like a particular singer, chances are they did the same thing.

Does my voice still sound like it did when I emulated '90s singers as a child? No, because I've studied voice with many great teachers and learned to control, manipulate and develop the sound, I actually wanted!

This doesn't happen by magic people!

The voice is made of many muscles and internal movements that flow together in harmony to present a sound. Learning to control this "Vocal System" is what will give you the voice and the sound you desire! Your tone, is part of this system.

If you're a nasally singer, then you're singing partially or completely out of your nasal track.

Sometimes this is a desired sound. Many singers such as Miles Davis, Layne Staley, Eddie Vedder, Scott Stapp, Myles Kennedy and others make use of this sound. That sound itself is one aspect of the dark sound I was talking about earlier in this article that is used often in 90's rock.

The slang term floating around for this is gnarlers. As funny as that sounds.

This is just one example, I could rattle off a whole list but this isn't the point here. My point is to make you understand that, depending on how you manipulate your vocal system, the sound that comes out of your mouth is going to be different!

Not only that, but when you develop your knowledge and train your voice in a healthy way, your voices tone will just get richer. You can grow you voice to any level you desire!

Natural Talent is a Starting point, not an ending point. Anyone can learn to sing well, it just takes practice. Finding a teacher who can teach you how to control all these elements and help you develop the physical awareness of your vocal instrument, is also very important.

Just because someone can emulate certain singers or hit certain notes, does not mean they are able to do it safely. Unless you train your voice and learn, you will have no real idea of how to use you voice properly. In most cases, naturally talented singers (with no training) end up hurting themselves, causing severe damage to their voice.

I'll save this topic for another article as I mainly wanted to address the "Natural talent" term in this piece.

Do yourself a favor and get a good voice teacher who knows what they're doing and can help you get beyond "Natural Talent."

So to answer the question of this article. Do you have the Natural Talent to Sing? Yes, yes you do.

About the Author: By Chris Glyde. http://rochesterguitarlessons.com.

34 comments sorted by best / new / date

    McVash
    I always wanted to learn how to sing, but also I always thought that I sang awful and would never be able to learn... because, precisely, I always had a misconception about natural talent. So, thank you, thank you very much for sharing this. And sorry if my English is bad.
    Andy949494
    Take some lessons and find where you are comfortable with your voice. Nobody can sing everywhere straight away. Practice singing over tracks with low volume. Progress to singing over karaoke videos and then backing tracks(no lyrics, no prompts). (it is hard finding your place sometimes but persevere and eventually it will come). Not even professional singers will sing all songs - they know their voice and what their range is...(This was a real shock to me as I know several singers who have awesome voices and it had never occurred to me that they would not be able to sing some songs). Good Luck and enjoy it...
    Izzy-Sweet
    I've been told I have a good voice for harmonising with. I think they meant I'm sh*t and should stay on backing vocals
    grizzrodehed
    The only problem here is that vocal lessons are not cheap, and while guitar lessons can be found easily on the internet, it's a little tougher finding voice lessons from someone who knows what they're talking about.
    Sebo
    Get a mike. Watch some DVDs. And confront yourself with (however nasty it sounds) what comes out you. You very soon will be able to advance, and become better, and know your mistakes. It's just harder, because you might not get the direct feedback at first (your head makes it sound weirder, then listening to something external, say a guitar). This is why it is so import to "visualize" which note you wanna hit, and where the sound should be _before_ singing it. in my opinion.
    AlanHB
    I agree that a person can learn to have the same skills as someone with "natural talent".However "Natural Talent" usually refers to someone who picks up a skill very quickly, and they have a natural flair for it. It does not mean that they have a massive vocal range. When you say: "The human voice has certain limits, but they are not different from person to person. Your voice can do anything that anyone else's can. You might have a different starting note, but anyone can have a 4 octave range or higher." This is not true. Each person does have different languages limts as our bodies have all grown differently, including our voicebox/throat/mouth etc - all the things that affect our voice are unique to each person. You are right in saying accents and tone can be developed, but your actual range is physically limited.
    mp8andrade
    Completely agree with you. Also, going for a too extensive range when your body simply can't take it is how most people screw up their voices. "You're going to have a different range and a different tone than other people because you were born with it. This is not true." WTF!? Of course this is true. Even though almost everyone can get great tones and good ranges out of their vocal chords no one will EVER be able to sing exactly like someone else.
    Kueller917
    I'd also like to add I hate how often range is looked at in comparison to other factors. A good range is impressive but one can have a naturally large range with awful tone. The inverse is also possible. People can normally identify a good singer in all aspects, but it's usually in arguments that the "but this singer can sing more octaves" happens.
    BiroZombie
    I'm one those types of singers that has a pretty good range, but the tone isn't there. Yes, I can sing the high notes, but I sound pretty bad, and this is why I stick to the lower range, where I do actually sound good.
    xcamero360
    [deleted]
    xcamero360 · Sep 11, 2014 07:44 AM
    Sethis
    I guess you might be surprised to hear that these super high notes might actually be easier than the high notes below them.
    AuraFX
    I think this article comes with the disclaimer - *obviously except Rob Halford, cos that's just ****ing silly*
    simperheve
    I agree. There is no person who don't have the ability to sing, more that some just have more of an aptitude for it. I myself have more of an aptitude for singing, but i'm still not fantastic. But learning and improving is how we learn these things. Otherwise we'd all be getting record deals when we're babies
    notevenklaus
    Lost me when you said Eddie vedder and creed where examples of good singing.
    klgould1969
    Is Bob Dylan a horrible singer? Maybe, but his voice works for his music. I love some of Creed and Pearl Jam. It's a marriage of music and a voice. I love Weathered by Creed and almost all the first album. Whether or not Stapp is an example of good singing is another matter, but it works for his music. Of course, he's bipolar; that's another matter.
    christianonbass
    I can learn how to sing, and with practice get good; but, no matter what I do except for maybe surgery, I will never have the thick larynx and large sinus cavities of someone like, say, James Earl Jones (Voice of Darth Vader, and the guy who said "This is CNN")
    Manovvar
    EVERYONE can sing, just not everyone can tap into that ability as easily as others can. my advice is, stop trying so hard and just use your natural instinct(feel it).
    Northernmight
    I just have to say... You say anyone can do this and that. COULD Billy Corgan growl like Johan Hegg?! Seems unimaginable.
    Sethis
    A stratocaster and a les paul have pretty different tones. But can you play pinch harmonics on both of them? Of course you can.
    simperheve
    Some have voices which are naturally adapted to doing it better than others. If voices were all the same, we'd all sound the same.
    Sixxstarr
    Your vocal range is limited otherwise there would be people with like 15 octave vocal ranges...Natural talent, when it comes to vocals, in my opinion has to do with your voice...some people have a soothing voice that can be groomed to perfection and give people chills while some have a horrid voice that just sounds wrong no matter how good their technique is...
    hiya77
    Anyone can add grit to their voice. Smoke 20 a day!
    Guns N' Chains
    Another that came to mind for me was Johnny Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls. Can't remember where I read or heard it, but I believe he lost some ability to hit higher notes with his voice due to smoking (not that he hit really high notes anyway) but when you listen to some of their 90's stuff compared to newer stuff, you can hear the difference. Also when he tries to sing the older stuff live, you can hear it too. It's either that or he is too lazy to hit those notes haha. Just my observation.