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Can singing be learned? Or is singing something you can just ‘do’? 

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“I presumed great singers were just born but you have shown there is much more to singing than I thought.” – Claire B.

I believe that everyone, every person, child and adult has the potential to learn to sing.

How do I know this? 

I know this through experience of teaching singing to a huge number of people over nearly twenty years and because the research tells us so. 

In a nutshell: we know that the opportunities children have growing up and the environment they grow up in have a massive impact on singing development. It’s not too late to learn to sing when you’re an adult. When you provide a non-judgmental space, skilled guidance and time, you can learn to sing.  

This isn’t the place to quote academic research at you. And don’t get me started on the myth of talent! (Read this book instead.) Even the most ‘talented’ singers need help and hard work to get to where they want to be. Instead, I am going to tell you about Sophie, whose story illustrates the research perfectly.  

Sophie is an adult singer that I worked with a few years ago. Highly skilled in her career, extremely intelligent and nervous-as-heck about singing! 

Sophie’s Story

Can you tell me about your singing background? 

“I had always believed/been told I couldn’t sing – music lessons at school were pretty much non-existent but I remember one where the teacher singled me out as singing out of tune and told me to mouth the words. So I did… for the next few decades!”

Why did you look for singing lessons?

“I have always loved hearing music and singing and just wanted to be able to join in. Over the years, often thought about having lessons but didn’t do anything about it, basically due to fear – potential humiliation, disappointment of getting confirmation I couldn’t sing, if it went badly that would be it.”

What have you enjoyed about your singing lessons?

“Where to start…?! Firstly, the actual singing – I still get a buzz when I know I’ve hit the right note! And I always come out of a lesson with a spring in my step. Unexpected bonus is that I’ve also enjoyed learning about the physical process – had never really thought about how singing is “done”, ie, the vocal cords, breath, tongue etc – and even though I’d liked music/singing partly because it’s a feel-good thing, I’d never really appreciated the link between emotion and singing so that’s been interesting, too. And the musical side – learning about keys and notes etc.”

Have you accomplished your goals with singing?

“I think so but now goalposts keep moving! I wanted to find an acceptable singing voice – and I think I’ve achieved that although not yet beyond your living room/my kitchen! And as above, more to it (and more fun) than I had envisaged. I certainly didn’t expect to still be having lessons all this time later but that’s a good thing – well, from my point of view at least!” 

“To be completely honest, my original expectations were so low – I was sure that I’d discover there was no hope for me – so my way of finding the “courage” to come for a lesson was to set a goal that I couldn’t fail to achieve, which was: to find out if I could sing or not. And if not, I would try to learn the piano or something like that.”

Have your singing lessons changed your views on your singing abilities?

“Yes, I now believe that I can sing. I’d always seen singing ability as an unchangeable physical attribute but I’ve realised that there’s more of a sliding scale to it – it’s not black and white, and it’s not always a case of you can either sing or you can’t. I know I’ll never be a very good singer but there are lots of things I can do that will help me improve.”

What will you do next with your new singing skills?

“I’d like to join a choir, nothing serious, just something where I could sing regularly for fun.”

Anything else to add?

“Don’t think so. I just feel lucky because it would have taken only the slightest discouragement to have put me off, probably forever! I’m glad I did it.”

YOU can learn to sing, too

Sophie’s story is typical of so many people who were told as children they couldn’t sing.  In fact, Sophie did more than just sing in her kitchen.  She performed in a studio recital in front of a small group of other like-minded singers.  Sophie did it.  

So can you.  

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