Great Singers: Born with Talent or Honed with Practice?

I was unequivocally born a singer. It’s plain and simple. I was singing before I knew what notes were. I’ll have you know; I was also singing in key too! There is no doubt in my mind on this. The only difference is what you, or I, consider a singer. In the traditional sense, at age 5, I wasn’t a singer that could sell records, but I knew I was on the right path.

Kurt Cobain was a great performer but not a great singerThis is such a loaded and unfair question. I fear it may be nearly impossible to answer correctly. But I’ll take a shot. The biggest problem with this question is that everyone has a different definition of “singer.” Some people think Kurt Cobain was a good singer. I can assure you he was not. He had a memorable voice and sang with his soul. That’s what made him famous. But his voice had a particular quality that sold records. The label says “singer.” Therefore that is what he must be right? That’s where my definition of “singer” differs from most.

Be Great with Training

To be an R&B singer, jazz singer, opera singer, etc., and be good at it, you need to have training. The now proverbial 10,000 hours needed to be good at anything, is inevitably required to be any kind of success as a singer. Any yahoo can sing up a storm at the local karaoke bar. They just don’t have nearly the fit and finish of a trained singer will have, like someone who has taken the best singing lessons in NYC. But to be a pop singer, you don’t need as much of the 10,000 hours. Mostly you need heart & soul. Just like Dylan. And to clarify, this is about just “singers” and not “singer-songwriters.” I say this before I get bashed for putting down two of the best songwriters ever. I am not putting them down as songwriters, just as singers.

If you ask any person on the street, not intimately familiar with Dylan’s work, if they think he sounds like a good singer, you would get a resounding, NO! Conversely, you are more likely to get many people who think Miley Cyrus is a great singer. OUCH! I think this is where the possibility to answer this question correctly starts looking grim. What it comes down to is the opinion of the people. The problem is people don’t know what they are listening to.

Maroon 5 songs feature too much audio enhancementsSingers by Technical Enhancements

In today’s fast-paced society, with technically enhanced voices, and a lazy public who couldn’t care less if the singer is good or not. Because they just want a good beat and looped shreds of older good songs, it’s hard, if not impossible, to market someone as a singer without all that extra stuff. The best and only recent example of this was Maroon 5, ‘Songs About Jane’. This was a stripped down minimalist album chalk full of great licks, catchy hooks, and a singer who is a good as they come.

Are people born singers? Again, I say yes. Their talent just needs to be sharpened. There are just varying degrees of what a singer is, or is perceived to be by other individuals. Basically, it depends on who’s listening. Unlike any other skill performed by a human, singers are typically only measured by other humans listening. Singers are not quantified upon hearing them. You hear them and you like them, or you don’t.

Our ability to discern sound and music is unlike any other. We pretty much know right off the bat if we like a singer or not. Sure a particular singer might grow on us, but if we didn’t want them from the beginning, chances are they’ll never be our favorite. I believe every person is born with their respective talents. It’s up to each of us to hone these talents or pursue other ventures.