Updated: Feb 12, 2022
It is entirely possible to be a great singer without a shred of formal training. However, there is no such thing as a great singer "without training". Training can come in many forms. It may be as simple as growing up around a lot of music, learning many instruments as a child, singing for worship/celebration/pleasure or simply singing every single day! Even if a singer never took formal lessons, their vocal prowess can indisputably be linked to a lifetime of absorbing great music and constant thought and effort towards understanding their art and growing it.
Though most of us have the same vocal apparatus, every individual’s body is different. Some people are born with better breath and pitch control owing to their muscle tone and genetic disposition to have naturally better vocal conditioning. However, this natural advantage will not amount to much if it is not trained.
Formal or not- any kind of vocal training, especially as children makes a great difference to the development of the singing voice and improve the coordination required to sing. No wonder it’s very common to find that people who sang a lot in their childhood or who sing very often as adults tend to be good at singing even without training. While not entirely accurate, there is some truth to the advice that singing everyday will strengthen and develop the voice.
However singing as a profession is very competitive and many singers work a LOT to pay their bills consistently. That makes it necessary to not only make a mark with your singing but also be safe and avoid injury.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITIES OF A GREAT SINGER?
A great sense of pitch/rhythm and the ability to produce accurate pitches and adhere tightly to the rhythm.
Ability to emote through their voice and evoke feelings in the audience.
A resilient voice that can stand the test of time and withstand vigorous use.
Mastery over the vocal instrument which enable the singer to exhibit excellent vocal range, agility, accuracy, control etc. (Though not essential, this certainly is a feather in the cap)
The first two qualities are things that many many singers are naturally born with. However, most of them are unprepared for the challenges of a career as a singer. Vocal injuries are incredibly common and are better prevented than cured. A voice unprepared for the vigours and unpredictability of a singing career is at risk. Investing time in vocal training is a great idea, for this reason alone. As a matter of fact, training addresses all these points. Not only does it allow a singer to build the voice of their dreams but also conditions the body to sing for long hours safely and consistently.
A natural disposition towards singing is a wonderful gift but in the end, it is merely a head start. Even the best voices stagnate due to under use and lack of consistent attention.
There is an unhealthy social obsession with talent and singers are far too often under the false impression that talent is the primary factor determining the current state of their voice. This creates dejection in the minds of some and complacency in the minds of the others. Talent outside the context of dedicated practise and training is very rarely going to yield results.
When you’re in the business of voice coaching, you are often faced with students who are not fully convinced that they can sound good unless they’re naturally “gifted”. They’re not to blame because there is very little conversation around improving your singing in India, except for classical training. Voice coaching in India is an upcoming practise and in more traditional voice lessons, technique is very often considered a by product-something that repertoire building will automatically take care of. Most singers, irrespective of their level of skill, have not the slightest idea as to how much their voice can grow with systematic training and dedicated time.
Can I be an exceptional singer without a teacher?
While many singers are shaped not by formal vocal training but by cultural and personal influences, many others choose to work on their voice in a more targeted and supervised manner. Suffice to say, your voice will tell you which way to go. There are undeniable advantages to studying with a good vocal coach as they would organise the ocean of material that is voice pedagogy and offer constant supervision.
To say that a singer is exceptional because they were "born that way" is to essentially discredit the multiple hours of effort and years of experience. Don't let anyone tell you that "true artists are naturals". You’d only be depriving yourself of the opportunity to upgrade your skill. Several of your favourite artists have worked with vocal coaches to get to their current level of skill and even more are joining the bandwagon.