Can you learn to sing if you're really terrible?

I’m not the worst singer living in Japan, but probably in the bottom several percent. I’m also not completely tone deaf, but on the very low end of the scale for discerning tones.

With my kids, I’d love to be able to sing English songs to them, but ever since my daughter started to sing Happy Birthday with the wrong melody :smack: my wife doesn’t want me to embarrass them.

I took a couple of singing lessons, but can’t find anything convenient.

Has anyone had any luck learning how to sing? My goal isn’t to become a professional, but just to be able to hold a tune.

Yes, I used to be horribly tone-deaf when I started to play guitar. Most chords sounded pretty much the same to me and after a while, I could hear the differences in not just chords, but the difference between an open G (320003) and a barre G just a little bit higher up (355433). While my guitar playing got better, people would then ask me to sing them a song. WTF? I can play you a song, but now I have to sing one? It was a trainwreck every. single. time.

I ended up taking vocal lessons and it really, totally, and truly helped. The school I took them from had recitals at the end of each season and I was able to get up and play a song on my guitar and sing along while keeping in tune. I don’t have the most beautiful voice, but people don’t politely ask me to stop anymore.

I doubt I ever could. I can actually imitate a few singers, briefly, but that hasn’t led to any further musical ability. Some people have the core ability and are just untrained. Some of us just don’t have the basic wiring to do it. Even if I were to practice one song over and over again until I got it right, it wouldn’t really be singing, just some kind of rote echo. I wouldn’t be able to adjust to any change in key or timing, and I’d get thrown off by any change in the environment that affects how I hear myself. Hopefully you’re starting a few rungs up the ladder from me.

My mom teaches vocals, and she told me only a small percentage of people are capable of being really amazing singers. You can learn theory, ear training, etc but at some point physiology is going to be a factor.

Training can improve your singing, but according to my mom many people have a ‘ceiling’ that they will hit eventually.

If you are just looking to be able to sing things like ‘Happy Birthday’ and carry such simple tunes, I would say there is a small percentage of people who are hopelessly tone deaf who could never do it (under 1% would be my guess).

If you can hear when you are wrong but not fix it, you can likely get there.

However, doing this without involving another human who is not tone deaf will be damn near impossible.

I suppose, if some really gifted teacher were to dedicate ten years of intensive effort to my vocal training…and would lend me a large enough bucket…I might be able to carry a tune.

Since that ain’t gonna happen, I only bray<<<<sing when I’m entirely alone. Sheer humane mercy.

By that same token only a very small number of people aren’t capable of learning to sing passably. You may never be great but training, (learning how to hear your voice, control your voice, how to breathe, etc) can likely make you decent. It’s a skill like anything else. Not many people can teach themselves to play guitar or piano well, we shouldn’t expect people to teach themselves how to sing either.

My singing used to be so bad that when I first started playing out I would actually grimace at the sound of my own voice while I was playing. My singing got a lot better when I started recording my songs and really listening carefully to my vocals, and singing the songs over and over while listening live on headphones. I’ll never be a great singer - on a good day I attain adequate - but now I can at least hit pitch and I’m not embarrassed by my own voice any more.
So if you are in a position to record yourself singing, try that.

People can learn to sing on key through training. But that’s different than having a pleasing singing voice. That, you either have or you haven’t.

I was wondering about this too. My daughter loves music and loves to sing, but she can’t carry a tune in a paper bag, as they say, and has absolutely zero sense of rhythm. Sort of a bummer. I cringe a bit whenever I hear her walking through the house “singing”.

It most definitely can be done. I’m cheap so would never take singing lessons–not to mention that I am not tone-deaf at all–but I believe very strongly that anyone can do just about anything with tons of practice. It’s a matter of commitment and it’s a matter of feeling a sense of urgency and pride when you recognize small, almost insignificant jumps forward in the direction you want to go. I’ve never met any lost causes yet.

I’m also quite certain you can find voice lessons online that you can use as a simple guide. I doubt you’re attempting to go professional, so they will be more than adequate.

Probably, although my wife and daughter (Both sing semi-pro) have asked me not to sign.

Like the old saying goes
“I had a few requests, but I sang anyway…”

And only a small percentage of people are capable of being world-class marathoners, either. But the vast majority of people can still do a couch-to-5K, and enjoy running.

So yes, you can learn.

Were you able to recognize it as the wrong melody - or did someone have to tell you that she was singing the wrong notes?
If it was the former, that’s a good sign.

Yeah, but if you can carry a tune you can probably get by with a terrible sounding voice. Look at Connor Obherst, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Bod Dylan, or…well there are a whole lot of less extreme examples in rock and roll. Elvis Costello for instance has a really thin tinny voice, but he can *sing *with it.

I had a music teacher once that said he was able to guarantee that unless the student was totally actually medically tone def he could turn anyone into a passably decent singer given a year if the student would work at it.

Yes, but had these people not written the songs that they sang, which is no small feat, they’d have never made it as singers.

Yeah, but that isn’t the question. They all sing tolerably well, well enough that they can sing their own material at least. None of them sound like Biz Markee (who, after listening to that track again for the first time in ages I think probably has a pretty nice voice under all that strain). Waits and Dylan are better singers than their voices would lead you to believe (for both of them it’s like 80% affectation) and people like listening to Neil Young and Elvis Costello sing non original material even though they have bad sounding voices. In fact they both sing well enough that I doubt most people would think of them as bad singers even though their voices have a weak sound.

But the OP doesn’t want to ‘make it as a singer,’ he wants to be able to sing to/with his kids.

I found that my ability to carry a tune improve a lot when I was playing Rock Band regularly. To score well the singer has to sing along with a line that carries the pitch, I believe. If you have an Xbox or Wii maybe you could get the Beatles Rock Band game and a microphone. Or perhaps there are karaoke games that work similarly.

This has been my experience, too. It is so different from talking that you don’t realize what you need to do differently with your breathing, throat and mouth, etc unless you practice and ask questions - and lessons can be very helpful.