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Will my voice ever improve?

  posted by Daniel on April 23rd, 2014

Hi Daniel -

I'm learning harmonium and chants, and would eventually like to sing with others and lead small kirtans at my house. However, I've been told my singing voice isn't very good.

From your experience, can one's voice improve over time, or am I best to forget singing with / for others?

Thanks for any advice!

- John [name changed]

Hey John,

Good question! And a very common one, since most chanters are coming to singing and instrument-learning late in life, not as a "musician" per se, but as a devotional practice. Sometimes at first it can be awkward, or frustrating... but... Stick with it and every aspect of your practice will develop!

From month to month, you'll see some progress. And from year to year, you'll see big changes. Music is a long-term journey.

Whoever told you that your singing voice isn't very good, was just externalizing their own insecurity about their own singing voice. Or was just callous ;) Most of us are somewhat insecure about our voices, and most of us stopped singing at some point (we all sang as kids)... but actually it is our human birthright. As a music teacher I feel that everybody can sing, it just takes willingness to open back up to singing if it's been shut down for some reason.

I've had lots of students say they had bad voices, or were tone deaf, or had no sense of rhythm. None of it is true! "Tone deaf" is a clinical condition that just doesn't apply to you :) You can hear tone, yeah? Enjoy a good melody... then, you will be able to sing in tune as well. *With some practice.*

The harmonium is great for this, since you can really let your voice follow the pitch of the harmonium notes. Particularly good is playing kirtan songs in "melody style," where there's just one note at a time getting played on the harmonium, so that your ear can easily track and follow that pitch as you are singing. As opposed to playing in "chord style," where three or more notes are being played at once ~ this also sounds good, but can confuse a beginner's musical ear, which may be uncertain which note to sing.

Usually I encourage students to learn a song in melody style first, and once they are confident they can sing the melody, then add in the chords. If you like, you can check out my harmonium tutorial courses at www.BhaktiBreakfastClub.com ~ all of the "harmonium song courses" (200-level) are taught in this way, melody first, chords later, to make sure the voice is in sync before making things more musically complex.

Hope that helps! Be easy on yourself, enjoy the practice and gradual improvement, enjoy the feeling of singing, let go of internal judgments about the voice, and you'll become an inspiration to others who want to open back up to singing but worry they don't have a good voice.

Drop a note any time.
Lotsa love,

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