March 21, 2019 by Courtney Cutchins
You Were Not Born to Sing: The Myth That’s Silencing Your Voice
Okay, I admit, this post is all about perspective. But, I’m discussing this particular angle, so bear with me. Truthfully, either no one is born to sing – or everyone is born to sing! Let me explain.
I had an interesting discussion-near-argument with a particularly opinionated guy the other day. He was informing me – no, insisting that the ability to sing is simply a “gift” one randomly receives at birth – and either people can sing or they can’t. This guy was even in the music industry and had worked as a producer for some years. I rubbed at my eye in sadness and frustration, envisioning all the aspiring singers he’d been in contact with, telling them “sorry, you can’t sing, you just weren’t born for this” and sending them, crushed, on their way.
“Hmm… That’s interesting,” I said as I bit my tongue. “In my experience, singing is a natural, physical function of the body that can be trained, strengthened and developed, just like any athletic exercise. Some people may have more musical inclination and motivation than others, but regardless, the ability to sing takes focus and work. If someone is willing to put in the time, their ability to sing will improve!”
(P.S. Not to mention, singing is made up of muscle control, tone, intonation, artistry, balance, melodic interpretation, breath, connection, time, style, emotional intricacies and so many other qualities that make it beautifully complex. Even in the community of professional voice teachers, there’s subjectivity about what makes a “good” singer “good” – so what gives this guy – or anyone – the right to judge what a singer is or is not ultimately capable of?)
Anyway, I saw a slight twinge of skepticism in his eye – and, slowly, reluctantly, he asked, “are you saying that I could actually learn how to sing?”
After a little bit of digging, I discovered that, yes, he believed that he himself couldn’t sing – and he expressed regret over the many years he deprived himself of using his voice. (And for how long has he been taking this out on other people who were actually getting out there, attempting to sing? It’s hard to say.)
After this, I decided to take to my computer and write this post in case anyone else believes similarly and is limiting themselves or others unfairly – we need more people encouraging others to sing with satisfaction, not suffer in silence!
So, here’s what it boils down to.
Generally speaking, all human babies are born with the ability to scream, create sound and make their needs known – and they do so in a completely free, unencumbered way. They listen to sounds around them, learning to comprehend and communicate. Studies have shown that babies are born recognizing their mother’s voice – even responding to it from inside the womb. They’re anatomically equipped with a throat, tongue, larynx, lungs, brain, diaphragm, ears and all the bits that make up the singing mechanism. They’re born with the tools to sing.
(There are also some babies born with disabilities who, despite the odds, grow up to be fantastic singers. Were they “born” to sing? Were they not “born” to sing? The fact is – they’re singing!)
As a baby grows into a child, into a teenager, into an adult, things happen. A LOT of things happen. Physical injury, stress, tension, heartbreak, psychological trauma, speech and hearing impairments, emotional abuse, illness, mental health challenges, bullying, middle school (ugh!), dental work, existential crises, grief, anxiety, reflux, even allergies – too many things to list that may negatively affect the average human life – and voice!
Additionally, did this baby grow up in a community that supported music? With parents that encouraged them to explore their creativity? With a sibling or friend that mocked their musical interest? With the means to take music lessons? With a public school system that had sufficient arts funding? Or any arts funding? With a music program that aligned with their interests? With access to the types of music that made them feel alive? With a music teacher that told them “they can’t sing?” In a community that prioritized sports above all else? With a paradigm that singing was shameful? Or respectable? With people that honored the importance of listening? With a family that told them music was a dead-end career?
Some people have gone through so many difficulties in their lives. Some people never found the support they needed. Over time, they gave up on their voices, their ability to speak out and their capacity to sing. And in order to live with this, they created the myth that they just weren’t “born” to do those things. They didn’t get the right stuff. It wasn’t written in the stars, they missed their calling, fate was cruel.
But it’s not true! And it’s never too late.
Now, on the other hand, for those who do sing, take a moment to pat yourselves on the back, because despite everything that could go wrong, and all the stuff that could’ve gotten in your way, you’re doing your thing, and that’s AMAZING. Was your destiny to be a singer? Was it pre-ordained? Does it matter? While music is certainly one of life’s awesome gifts, I’m sure that you also played a very prominent role in making choices, working hard and overcoming obstacles to get to where you’re at. And in all likelihood, this is a daily battle. Professional singers in particular often fall into “imposter syndrome,” meaning they feel like a fraud or a fake. “Yes, but this person was born to sing – I clearly was not,” or “singing is so hard for me, I must not have been born for this” or whatever excuses we tell ourselves as we compare our voices to others. The fact is – you’re singing – and everyone is in the same boat, so take that weight off of your shoulders. Your voice is the only one like it in the entire world – and we need to hear what you have to tell us!
There are two truths you must know:
No One is “Born” to Sing.
Everyone is Born to “Sing!”
(I feel like I’m writing the voice nerd version of the Schrodinger’s Cat theory. I love a good paradox.)
Voice technique, ear training and listening can be learned. Learning takes hard work. Hard work takes practice. Practice takes dedication (and help, and a lot of inspiring, creative strategies!) Believe it or not, this whole process be incredibly enlightening – and even fun! I cannot stress enough how capable you are of using your voice, but it’s up to you whether you want to work at it or not. And it’s up to you whether you want to grow and improve in your musicianship – or settle for where you are right now with your particular set of limitations (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’m just pointing out that this is a choice!) Please don’t live with the belief system that you somehow failed to be born a certain way.
You have a beautiful voice inside of you that can accomplish extraordinary things! How are you using it? Tell us in the comments below! Or, join in the conversation on social media: follow us on Instagram or like us on Facebook!