I interviewed people in the park. Were they told they can't sing in a recent or not so recent past? And how did that affect the joy they get out of singing? In other words, has 'why am I so bad at singing' affected their singing behaviour?
What emerges from my vox pop in the park is:
- Many people were told negative things about their singing.
- Many people confess - without me asking - that they can't sing.
To be fair: from this video I left out the people who weren't told bad things about their singing. The numbers are as follows:
From the 33 people I asked, 17 remembered getting negative comments on their singing.
In a poll I did on my Youtube channel, with hundreds of participants, the figure was closer to three quarters.
74% of people got negative comments on their singing
As a follow-up to the interview, I put a poll on my YouTube channel. It roughly confirms what I found in the park.
The good news is that quite a few people in the park said they didn't care what other people think. They sing even after getting mean comments about their singing, and they are loving it. That, I have to say, made me really happy.
Looks like it is possible that the fact that we are A-holes as a society and keep putting each other down about one of the most personal things about ourselves - our voice - doesn’t have to be as devastating as I thought it is.
Are most people bad singers?
Do I buy that most members of the population are bad singers? No. I don’t. That’s because I have worked with hundreds of students who claimed to be bad, or who were told they were bad but either ended up actually being good, or simply having some vocal issues which they improved and then became better. Or even, god forbid, good.
So that begs the question: Why the unnecessary cruelty and the constant labeling of one another as bad singers when it’s so often just not true?
"I was told by my music teacher in Grade 5 to stop singing with the rest of the class. That did hurt. Within my family are excellent singers and musicians. If I sang with them or at church, I would barely sing out loud. I have always loved music and have been unbelievably moved by it. Growing up and later I only sang alone. But I loved singing to pop music records and the radio in the car. I now know practicing can improve one's voice, and listening to your comments, I am now trying. So, at 65 I will sing out. I have even tried to harmonize with my sister. I can at certain times, but she does let me try. Thank you. I will keep trying to improve my singing."
Commenter on my Youtube channel
You may think I’m exaggerating when I say cruelty. People shouldn’t be so sensitive, it’s just teasing, right. Well, let me tell you something:
My dad was labelled unmusical by his music teacher when he was 7. Ever since it was a known fact that he cannot sing. It was only when I activated my critical thinking and actually listened to him sing, when I realized it was not true at all.
So a huge part of a person’s joy and creativity - killed when he was just a kid.
I have five students just off the top of my head who came to me afraid of making any sound whatsoever.
I would hold their hand, peptalk them and be there for them when they cried, literally cried, after they started to experience a little bit more of their own voice. That’s how vulnerable and fearful their history made them.
Digging a bit into why that happened, they all had stories of people telling them they sang badly, when still children. Most of those students would not come back after one lesson. So that vocal expression and powerful feeling of being able to sing - killed.
When I was young, I was singing Queen, crazy little thing called love, in the basement shower to the music. I wasn't singing at the top of my lungs or anything. My father came downstairs, waited for me to get done, and standing at the door, looked me in the face, and said: "Hey, who sang that song?" I replied Queen. He deadpan replied: "Then let them sing it. You're horrible." And that stopped me singing around people for the rest of my life, lol.
Rob, commenter on my Youtube channel
Another student of mine wanted to be the lead singer of his band. He was told throughout his life that he’s no good. But it just so happened that music and singing is his passion.
He called me after a couple of lessons telling me that he is considering hiring a professional singer for his band, because everyone around him tells him he cannot do it. I had to talk him into putting all those judgments about his singing aside, at least until he made some progress.
We are both extremely happy that he followed my advice. Because now - he’s awesome. Digging deeper I found out that one of the people telling him he couldn't sing, his mother, was told that herself, also as a child, by her music teacher. In front of the whole class. Do you see where I’m going with this?
That mother met that teacher later in life, BTW, and reminded her of what she said and how that affected her. The teacher was mortified and apologized, she had no idea it was this significant.
It was significant. And cruel, even if she didn’t mean it. Happiness, passions and dreams can be put out forever by remarks like these.
And even if the consequences are not as sad and destructive, and the person continues to sing carelessly, that immediately begs yet another question:
If those people enjoy singing so much - they do it all the time, all the while thinking their singing is crap - what kind of joy would they have if they thought their singing was good?
Don't deny yourself the joy of singing
Singing is one of the most therapeutic experiences humans can have. Expressing yourself in singing will make your personality come out, also in other areas of your life.
So many people are denied - or deny themselves - this great experience.
But consider this. If what got you in this bad place was just something someone said to you, then different stories can also take you someplace different. As a singing teacher, that is part of what I do.
Singing can be learned, and the joy in singing can be re-learned. It's a matter of getting rid of bad mental and physical habits and replacing these with better ones.
The three pillars of becoming a good singer, and enjoying it
Learn how to practice
How well you practice will determine how well you leverage what you learn from your teacher.
Good practice is systematic: hunt for your vocal issues, experiment with what works and drill that in. Then move to the next vocal issue. Simple as that.
Build better mental habits
Our minds get in the way of our body singing freely. What to do?
Saying ‘I suck’ won’t get you anywhere. Replace bad mental habits with productive ones. This too, is no magic but something you can work on systematically, for example with performance exercises.
Get in shape as a singer
Your body is your instrument. How well you understand and shape it will determine how good you can become.
Time and again I saw huge improvements in how students sounded after they started taking yoga classes, for example. A lifesaver, a voice changer.
Let me guide you on your journey of becoming a better singer
If you're all in, I'm all in. I'll mail you eye-openers, systems and stories, on a regular basis.