Are Singers Naturally Talented?Devlon Jarrod Horne
I was sitting outside of a show I had just finished performing in one night and a patron of the club came up to me and said “wow you sang really well, I could never do that. You have to be born a singer”. I thanked them and thought to myself if only they knew the amount of time, I spent practicing vocal techniques and guitar riffs they would know I was not born with any so-called talent. So, I decided to write this article.
Singing is not a natural talent, but rather a learned skill that has to be practiced and perfected over time. Genetic, physical characteristics such as the size of vocal folds, nasal cavity, mouth, and throat can influence a person’s timbre. Some people might have a natural affinity being able to control their voice and note placement better than others.
With that being said let’s look at what the aspects of being a good singer are, and if those genetic characteristics play a part in that. How those characteristics influence a person’s voice. Can those genetic traits be overcome and can a person actually learn to sing if they think they are just a horrible singer?
What exactly is “naturally talented” for singers?
We can describe a person to be naturally talented at singing when they are able to sing well and have not had any formal training at singing. Usually, natural talent will start at a young age.
You won’t be 32 years old and finally, realize you are good at singing. Here are some key factors that a naturally talented singer or just a good singer, in general, are able to do.
Key factors of being able to sing well
Having a good tone
Your tone will be clear and crisp. You will have depth and fullness in your high notes and you will have a crispness in your low notes.
Having Clear enunciation
When you sing you will be able to enunciate words clearly. The most common mistakes occur with consonants when singing, and that is that phrases and words are broken in the wrong place giving us indistinct phrases and words.
A good singer is self-aware of their body, mind, and voice. They can think of a pitch and they know how they need to control their body and voice to be able to sing it. They are aware if they are singing in tune or if they are not, and they can adjust their voice accordingly to how they feel and how they think.
Having volume control
Good singers know how to control the volume of their voice. They don’t just belt out every note nor do they sing in a monotone fashion (unchanging in pitch and without intonation).
Being able to sing with ease
Good singers can sing easily without straining themselves. You will notice that untrained singers and singers who can’t sing well often shout and they put stress on their vocal cords and throat and this is obvious when you see the veins popping out from their neck.
A good singer is consistent and can sing the same, time after time and on point. They can move through their registers smoothly and easily and can transition through their break with ease.
Having control of your voice
A good singer has full control over their voice and can easily switch, move up or down their register, transition through their break, and put dynamics into their singing.
Being able to phrase well
A good singer is able to phrase perfectly. They put emphasis in the right place and the right words. They can put emotion where it needs to be and they can pull back or let lose according to the lyric, a specific part of a song. A common mistake of a poor singer is putting emphasis in the wrong place
Having good versatility
Good singers are versatile. They can sing high, low, soft, loud and with emotion and they can sing almost any song. Even if it’s not in the genre they are used to singing. They will sing it in their own voice.
Having a good ear
Singers have a good ear. They can listen to a melody, and sometimes it only takes them one try and they can mimic and copy the melody. They can hear if they are out of tune and off time. They can also hear if the instruments or tracks they are singing with are out of tune or tuned differently to what they know.
Knowing their range
A good singer without a doubt knows there range perfectly. They know the highest note they can sing, belt and scream and they know the lowest note they can murmur
Having good breathing ability
Without good breathing, you cannot be a good singer. Breathing correctly and singing correctly go hand in hand and one can not be without the other. A good singer has their breathing technique perfectly mastered and at that point it is automatic.
Having good technique
A good singer has a perfect and flawless technique for the most part. They can implement dynamics and falsetto, belting, passaggio, vibrato, and many more techniques just by sheer will and when they do, they come out flawlessly.
Being able to harmonize
Good singers are able to harmonize well. If you ask them to sing in key but a different melody or to sing against another melody they are able to do so.
Good singers are able to come up with melodies easily for the most part, even if it doesn’t seem like a number one hit, their melodies are in tune, are rhythmical and are pleasing to the ear.
What genetic characteristics for singing is a person born with?
The only factors and characteristics of a person that aids them in singing “naturally well” that they are born with are that of physical characteristics. The factors that influence a singer’s natural ability are the shape and size of their vocal folds, the measurements of their mouth, throat, and nasal cavities. These are the body’s natural resonators, meaning they can help enhance the tone and intensity of the voice.
Do these characteristics influence how well a person can sing?
The size of the vocal cords will define your range and how high or low you can sing. Thick vocal cords are what men have and thus men have deeper voices than women. Women have thinner vocal cords and can thus sing higher.
The other factors such as the throat and nasal cavity will play a part in resonance and thus, they will help in creating your own unique specific tone. However, they do not play a part in the ability to sing well.
What if a person is born with different genetic characteristics?
Everyone is born with their own specific unique set of vocal folds, the size of their mouth, and the size of their throat and nasal cavity. Hence, everyone is born with different genetic characteristics and no two people can and will ever have the same characteristics. They can have similar but not the same. So, it does not matter if you are born with different genetic characteristics.
Can these characteristics be overcome?
These genetic characteristics such as your natural tone cannot be overcome. However, as singers, we use certain techniques to create different effects with our tone and breath by resonating our tone and notes in different places within our head. For example, if you want your voice to have an airy quality, you will direct the vibrations toward the back of your mouth.
What aspects of singing are learned?
Being able to control your voice is what is taught when you go for singing lessons. So, you learn to control your vocal cords by teaching them muscle memory. A singer also learns to place the notes they sing in different areas of their head to create different tones.
As well, you learn to control your breathing. how to control your voice so you can sing high or lower and transition through your break smoothly. There are also different vocal techniques for freeing up the voice helping you sing with ease. Also, you learn techniques that help you project and sing more loudly. All these techniques can be and are learned.
How big a part do these aspects of singing play in learning how to sing?
These aspects of singing are the most fundamental part of learning to sing and no matter your genetic makeup or adept ability in music, if you want to sing well then learning these correct techniques is crucial.
You will find that even if someone has a natural talent to sing well, they still need to and do go for vocal lessons to learn to understand and perfect all these techniques to be able to fully control, understand and push their voice to perfection.
Will a person be as good as a person with inherent genetics?
This depends on what your definition of good is. If you think Frank Sinatra is good or if you think Beyoncé is good. Their vocal styles are very different but they are both masters at their craft.
Depending on your genetic characteristics and your understanding and mastery of vocal techniques you can be as good as the best in your own way with your won voice. When it comes down to it is practice and hard work that persevere and push past the boundaries of natural talent.
How long does it take to learn how to sing?
This again depends on your definition of learning to sing. Is it learning to have full control and mastery over your voice or do you want to be able to knock out a couple of great tunes at karaoke?
Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller Outliers defines becoming a master at your skill by spending 10 000 hours practicing it. Whether or not you believe this is up to you. However, you can think for yourself if you sing and practice for that amount of time you will no doubt be proficient in the art that is singing.
Some genetic factors play a role in granting a person with a certain timbre (tone) in their voice, and because at a young age your body is growing and is very suspectable to change it is more likely that you can pick up and adapt to a skill better.
However, the technical skills that have to be learned and mastered people are not born with. They have to be learned and practiced over and over again until that skill and technique is perfected.
Take a look at my article: Do Rock Singers Take Voice Lessons? A Detailed Overview. Even superstar singers take voice lessons and have taken voice lessons to improve and perfect their voice no matter if they were born with an adept ability to sing or not.