• North Coast Harmony

So you think you can't sing...

As an MD, one of the things that really bothers me is how often I hear a story about someone being told they can’t sing. The number of times I’ve heard ‘I don’t think I can sing because my friend/partner/Mother/whoever told me I sounded like a cat/was screechy/am tone deaf’, is staggering.

Rubbish, I say.

What bothers me even more is when this ‘opinion’ has come from a music or singing teacher, or choir leader. Any music educator worth their salt would never say this to a pupil or choir member, and quite frankly, it’s cruel, unnecessary and damaging, and the effect of these kind of comments on confidence and self-esteem can last a life time. And for the record, sometimes it doesn’t even need to be said; putting a child at the back of the choir, or allowing them minimal involvement, can cause just as much damage. The world I inhabit is full of underconfident singers, not because they can’t sing, but because they’ve been told they can’t sing.

What’s worse, is that for the most part, it’s completely untrue.

Most of us love music of all types, and love to sing along with it. We admire the skills and talents of those we hear on the radio or see on TV, but our own efforts to pull off some of those notes in a tuneful way can, at times, prove a bit of a challenge. And so for many people, singing only happens when they’re out of earshot of others, because they think they can’t do it and that’s just the way it is. Tone deafness is a reason so often banded around by many for what they feel is ‘bad’ singing; we hear it often when trying to recruit members. But tone deafness, or amusia to give it it’s correct name, is very rare, affecting only around 1.5% of the population (EJHG, 2017). For the remaining 98.5%, good singing can be taught.

Singing is a whole body activity but it isn’t rocket science, and is essentially about just two things; knowing which muscles to use (or not use), and when to use them, and developing good musical listening skills. And of course, practice; lots and lots of practice. These are the skills used by the singers we admire, but make no mistake, what you hear on the radio or TV is the culmination of a lot of work, with many a mistake along the way. We, as the audience, just never get to see or hear that part of the process.

I truly believe that if you’re one of the 98.5%, we can teach you to sing. And with time and a bit of hard work, we can teach you to sing well.

If you’re not confident about your voice, or maybe someone else has told you that you can’t sing, have a go at the test in the link below. It will tell you if you’re one of a very small minority who are truly tone deaf, or just someone that needs a little help (from us!), to develop the skills you need to learn to sing well.

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