Nature Vs. Nurture.Is singing a natural talent?
You are not born with it. Your voice can be trained. It’s just easier for some than others depending on your background.
Based on my experience of coaching hundreds of different voices over the past 20+ years, I’ve heard all kinds of voices!
And I’ve never met a voice that I didn’t like!
Be it a technically impressive voice, or a raw rough genuine voice with no training but a freight train of emotion behind it, I’m all in to work with any voice. Even the tone-deaf singer I worked with for many years. I will never forget her and her dedication, patience and practice, and how through training her body to respond to the physical resonance of pitch, we got great results!
(SIDE NOTE: Tone deafness is INCREDIBLY rare, and highly unlikely you are tone deaf, you most likely just need a good coach and a solid practice program if you feel you are tone deaf. Message me if you’d like to explore this more or see my previous blog on the topic.)
I always get asked, “aren’t some people just born with a good voice.” My answer is no. but there are layers to that answer.
My opinion is that we aren’t born good singers, but where we grow up can drastically affect how our voices and ear for music develop.
For example, I grew up in a home that was also a music studio. There were musicians and singers around all the time and when my dad wasn’t working in the studio, he was playing music from all his favorite artists all the time.
I grew up hearing the beach boys intricate harmonies, the raw scream of Lennon on Twist and Shout, the melodic magic of Elton John with a side of amazement for Freddie Mercury’s vocal power while being taken on epic journeys with Paul Simons storytelling.
With the studio at the end of the hall I bared witness to singers doing take after take of what I thought were all amazing. I watched in awe as a 4 year old, while they re-did vocals I could hear nothing wrong with, but admired the vision and hard work to get the result they wanted.
I would fall asleep on the couch in the corner as singers spent hours painstakingly recording harmonies on a reel to reel and if you know about analogue recording this was a whole different ball game to the comps, copy and paste and auto tune of todays modern technology!
By the age of 8 I was trained and recruited by my dad to cut and splice tape on the Studer and mark errors with chinagraph pencils. You could say I learned at an early age what kind of work goes in to being a recording artist.
It was growing up surrounded by music, being allowed and encouraged to sing, to use my voice, and I believe it is these factors that created a 9 year old who some may have said was ‘born with it’.
Had I been raised differently, or heaven forbid, told I sounded bad at some time or another, or to choose another career, I may have chosen an entirely different path in my life.
Now I’m not saying you must be raised in a recording studio to be able to sing! But if you had parents who encouraged your joy of music and singing or a home where music was playing frequently, be it Stevie Wonder or Elsa from Frozen, the exposure would have developed your musical ear.
The encouragement will have developed your confidence.
This is what I believe builds a child that to some may be perceived as having ‘natural talent’.
A kid that’s never been allowed to play with a guitar or piano but strictly given one at 9 years of age, and thrown into conservatory training and is then judged if they are any good, is probably not going to have a natural feel right off the bat, as they’ve never explored that instrument. The same goes for the voice. Now they do of course still have all the potential in the world, but the “born with it” element may be missing at this stage.
If you grew up where loud noises were bad, where sharing your genuine sound and voice (even for speaking and laughing loudly) was shut down, you may experience more challenges with connecting to your voice and freeing it to sing the songs you love. But we can work through that!! It is reversable I promise!
A child that grows up in a home full of music and sound will naturally fit into an adult world of music, creativity and connection to musical emotion.
A child that grows up in the opposite will still love and enjoy music but from my experience, these are the adults that come to me wishing they were able to sing earlier in life.
All this said, every voice has a SOUND they are born with. Only you will ever sound like you. The natural tones and stylistic inflections you use are unique to your instrument. Don’t ever change that. The 90s was a clear demonstration of this. See Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland for details!
These are all just my opinions based from my experience with many voices over the years. If this resonates with you or you have more to add, I’d love to hear your thoughts!