Talent or good through practice?

Bernadette & Friends24 June 2022
Labeled gears: Talent, Creativity, Success, Skill, Idea, Knowledge

The world is full of undiscovered talent. These are people who, despite their talent, did not have a supportive environment for their musical talent or were discouraged early on. Many of them heard sentences from their parents at an early age such as: "You have that certain something or you don't", "You have to start when you're five" or, all too often, at the end: "Music is a breadless art". These are sentences that have become deeply ingrained in their convictions, and later they reflexively say of themselves: "I am unmusical", or "my voice sounds terrible". 

Singing talent: beliefs and expectations

Many of the prevented singers later suspect that something has been lost to them. The beliefs they internalised early on make them unhappy, and: they do not stand up to serious scrutiny. This blog post is about the topic of "talent", sometimes underestimated or brushed aside, but often exaggerated to excess. "You've got it, or you don't", the saying goes. Either - Or, all or nothing, and: all decisive when it comes to success as a singer. Is that true? 

First of all, let's ask ourselves how we can actually tell if someone has a talent for singing - a girl singing a song, for example. Then it's things like: a beautiful vocal sound that arouses emotions. Or she hits the notes well and always finds her way back to the starting note. Maybe she has a wider vocal range than others. Or a good sense of rhythm from the beginning and "grooves" when singing. 

Prominent counterexamples

But these expectations of a singing talent remain vague, and they are above all no reason to be discouraged if you don't fulfil them from the start. There are even prominent counter-examples: Ed Sheeran, one of the most successful singer-songwriters of our time, sang anything but tone-deaf at the beginning, as he demonstrates in an interview:

Lauryn Hill was also off-key a few times with her sound and was even booed when she performed at the Apollo Theatre at the age of 13:

What if young Ed or young Lauryn had stopped singing because they were told, "You just can't do it, you can't even hit the notes!" 

A touching sound in the voice or a sense of rhythm were certainly important prerequisites that both brought with them. But it is a long way from these natural gifts to the vocal magic we know from the stars. To understand this path, the concept of "talent" no longer helps us. We can see this in the case of probably the most prominent star of the 20th century, who is still considered a prime example of a "natural talent". Elvis Presley was already 18 years old when he made his very first recording, and he sounded like this at the time:

Although we already recognise the voice, it is still a very long way from here to the world hits of the later King of Rock 'n' Roll. Let's imagine that the secretary who made the recording said to Elvis afterwards: "I don't see any money here", as a singer-songwriter in the film "Inside Llewyn Davis" is told by the club owner to whom he has just played his song. But it would have been true. It still took countless rehearsals with the studio musicians, which went nowhere for months and almost made everyone give up, until the label could release a first single with Elvis. 

Hard work versus talent

As "natural" as it sounds, what we hear from stars at the peak of their success is not simply natural, but the result of hard work. True, some are born with more talent than others. Nevertheless, even someone without a conspicuous talent that is audible from the start can develop their vocal abilities to a high level and become successful. And in the process, perhaps even surpass vocal "naturals" who work less on themselves to become better. An American basketball player once said, "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard." This also applies to singing. 

Talent can help you make a fast breakthrough. If you lack this experience of a fast start, don't be discouraged. On the contrary, instead of giving up, let it motivate you to work on your singing skills and get good. The good news is that anyone can learn to sing. If you have a passion for singing, all you need is your breath, a healthy voice and the willingness to practice and make your own experiences with singing.

Openness and development versus standstill and talent

In psychology, this is called a "growth mindset", a mindset that is designed for change and growth. Studies show that an exaggeration of "talent" leads to artistic stagnation (a "fixed mindset"): If caregivers emphasise a child's natural talent at an early age, the child tends to stop developing its highly praised ability. They rely on the magic of their talent, in which they no longer have to invest any effort - after all, there is nothing to gain or lose. And: without exposing themselves to the effort of making mistakes, they do not develop any strategies for dealing with failures. A striking number of those who were praised early on as "prodigies", "geniuses" or "natural talents" later fell all the more. 

So stay open and ready to develop your singing skills. If your voice grows thanks to good vocal exercises and you gain your first experience of singing in front of an audience, then the chances are good that you will gain more than you thought possible at the beginning. Singing allows you to express yourself and your feelings in a way that is hard to do otherwise - the big ones as well as the small ones, the whole range. Singing brings happiness and even helps you out of crises. It is worth taking the first step and getting started.

I will show you good exercises for your breathing and singing technique in my Online singing courses!

Sing a Song - Be Happy!

Sing A Song - Be Happy

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