Welcome to muso tips, a blog dedicated to demystifying music… an exploration of all the ways people can develop their own musical abilities; especially singing, to start with.
At least, that’s my intention. Time, being the limiting factor of all things (including teaching yourself music), will dictate how much of my thoughts I can put to words that may be of use to others.
I’m going to start the journey at the first hurdle, which is expressed with a question that many people typically wonder about themselves:
Well, the answer is yes, you are… depending on you accepting a couple of key propositions.
Proposition #1: Musical ability is granted an exceptional, mystical status that it mostly doesn’t deserve.
There is nothing special about music. It’s really just another language to be learned; another way people can express themselves. Someone who is considered talented at music really shouldn’t be held in any more regard than someone who has, say, learned any spoken language to a level to where they can engage in casual conversation.
Sadly, many people consider the question of musical ability to be binary; believing that a person is either talented, or they’re not… typically thinking of themselves to be on the not talented side of the equation.
It’s as if people believe that ‘musical talent’ is bestowed at birth in some kind of mystical lottery, or through the random assignment of particular family genes… and that they have somehow lost out.
I think this notion of talent is an illusion; existing for many reasons:
• It’s a convenient excuse for people who are not really interested in music.
• It’s perpetuated by those who wish to see themselves as ‘gifted’.
• Talent and fame are mistakenly intertwined.
• Famous musicians often do tend to be extraordinarily talented.
I would say that musical ability is a wide spectrum; and the distribution of humans across it most likely takes the shape of your standard, long-tailed bell curve; with the vast majority of people already possessing the requisite abilities needed to be considered ‘musically talented’. In my opinion, most people should consider themselves somewhere in the area of Position C on the graph below.
But even if a person can accept this model, they typically will still feel they belong somewhere down near Position D. I think this is mostly because self-appointed music critics can dish-out harsh judgements which have the effect of intimidating people into silence. There is, somehow, a high degree of assumed embarrassment attached to the idea of trying to make music in public and not being very good at it.
Now, keep in mind I am talking about musical ability as it relates to making music; not listening to it. There are far more listeners (including critics) of music than there are makers of music. And if your participation in music involves simply listening to the music of others, then there’s absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t limit your precious time to the enjoyment of musicians on the scale from Position B and up.
However, if you’re considering making music, you must firstly learn to ignore the opinions of the critical listeners. If you listen to them and their snarky opinions, you could deprive yourself a lifetime of rich pleasure and enjoyment.
Making music is, and should be considered as natural and normal a human activity as breathing, talking, laughing, eating… something that humans are mostly talented at.
Talent is not “a gift”.
Except, of course, when it is.
Proposition #2: Gifted musicians exist, but you aren’t one of them.
Of course, there are people who are born with un-earthly musical abilities. And who, in the specific area of singing, have bodies that can produce, seemingly without effort, beautiful and unique sounds that capture the world’s attention. These people typically become famous for their talent, which is great for them; but for the rest of us, projects the assumption that fame is somehow the primary indicator of ordinary talent.
If it so happens you are somewhere closer to an “A”, then you probably won’t be reading an article like this. You most likely will have already been:
• creating music since you were a baby;
• grown up with access to music and musical instruments all around you;
• are simply too focussed on making music to do much of anything else.
The chances that you are an A, and don’t yet know it is vanishingly small. You may as well just accept this fact and move on. The truth is: if you are reading this, you are most likely a “C” and that’s perfectly fine. There is plenty of great music to make right here.
Welcome to the C team.
This is where most musicians live, and is no reason for you to become defeatist about it.
To not participate in making music because “you’ll never be an A” is like saying there’s no need to learn how to write because you’ll never be Shakespeare.
The musical abilities you already have can be developed to a level you will find supremely satisfying. And with singing, the voice that you are born with… in fact, are stuck with… can be leveraged to produce fantastic results.
This is the point of what I am trying to do here.
I’m not interested in exploiting those with dreams of being an “A” … as many music magazines and websites seem to be in business to do. I’m interested in working with the abilities you already possess. To push you, depending on how much time and motivation you have, towards the direction of “B”.
You just have to put your mind to it.
Let’s see how we go, shall we?