Singing Lessons: Talent vs Skill

Some singers take singing lessons very regularly, some singers hate the idea and stay clear of them, some singers would like some help with their voice but are worried they won’t seem as talented if they take lessons. You are right to be cautious about who you give your money to and who you let teach you to sing. After all, your voice is a delicate instrument, right?

  • But could there be whole parts of your voice you are missing out on by choosing to opt out?
  • Is there a way to reach high notes without straining?
  • Is there a way to sing without losing your voice or feeling tired after?

Many people believe singing is a natural talent and you either have it or you don’t.

More and more studies have been done into the subject trying to answer the question ‘What is talent?’ They have looked at top business people, athletes, performers etc. The majority of these studies are concluding more and more that the most talented people in the world are just very hard workers. They really want it. They are willing to invest. They are willing to spend time and money learning the things that will help them get more skilled at their art – whatever that might be. Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule? They say that it takes around ten thousand hours to become a master at any skill.

How long does it take to master the piano? 7? 10? 15 years maybe? Would a true master pianist become this with no help from a teacher? There are some prodigies in the world that have indeed done this but this is very rare. If you research you’ll find that even ‘prodigies’ or ‘geniuses’ still worked with a teacher at some point. Why? Because, no matter how good we are at something, there is always more to learn. We never have all the answers. We don’t know everything. We can never know everything there is about our subject. If we want to be the best, then we have to commit to learning.

Singing is a muscular activity. It involves muscles, like in tennis, karate, swimming, high jump and many other sports. Singing just uses teeny tiny muscles, most of which we can’t see. It’s something like 60 muscles that are involved just to make a sound such as ‘Erm’. Interestingly people are not as hesitant to take swimming, piano or dance lessons and learning to coordinate the right muscles to do such things. But for some reason, when it comes to the voice, many opt out either thinking they don’t need them or just don’t want them.

Well the good news is, because singing is a muscular activity, you can learn to do it in the same way you can learn to do any other muscular activity. It may take some people longer than others and maybe some people are more musical than others and have more natural ability for it, but it is the same process as any other muscular activity in that you are learning to coordinate muscles.

Am I less talented if I take lessons?

If talent is about hard work and learning to sing is a muscular activity then what are singing lessons about? SKILL! We can always learn more skill, in fact in most cases, it is a must. One of my brilliant teachers Greg Enriquez, recently said, “We have maybe around 60 singing muscles and 1 brain…we are outnumbered!” How many times do singers struggle with high notes, stamina, vocal fatigue, hoarseness, pitch control…and on and on. We don’t always know how to control our singing muscles, through no fault of our own, we just don’t know how, we haven’t mastered the skill of reaching that note, we can’t seem to sound consistent day after day, or sustain that note for 8 bars or we’re just not able to do that riff like Mariah did yet. Does that mean we suck at singing? Are we just not talented? No! Andy Murray hasn’t lost his talent because he had to work on his backhand or serve. He works on his fitness levels and tennis skills to AID his talent. He would not be the player he is otherwise. Do we think less of Mozart because he took music lessons? Is Darcey Bussell not really one of the UK’s best prima ballerinas because she spent most of her life at dance lessons? Do we think Michael Jackson was any less talented because he took singing lessons for most of his career with his teacher Seth Riggs, often vocalizing for up to 6 hours of a day? Is Roger Federer any less of a tennis player because he has worked his butt off with different tennis coaches over the years? Absolutely not.

If something you want to improve on is your voice, or you feel you struggle to do what you would really like to do with your voice, then there are great singing teachers out there that can help you. A good teacher will have your goals in mind and you should notice some improvement in each lesson. But that is another blog for another day!
Thank you for reading! Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments!

Happy singing!

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