Monday, February 19, 2024

My friend wants to be a professional, but can’t sing in tune — should I tell them?

Lots of people often tell me a similar story: someone they know is planning to go professional, but they can’t sing in tune.

Should they be told, or be allowed to make a fool of themselves in public?

Someone wrote to me recently with this dilemma:

“A person I know sings really badly: flat, off-key, and loud. They have no idea how awful they sound. Their friends and family tell them that their voice is great, so they have recorded and uploaded dozens of songs to their YouTube channel and Facebook page. Recently they announced their intention to go professional with their singing.”

“Should I tactfully tell them that they need to get some voice training first, or should I stay silent? I wouldn't want to destroy their self-confidence, but I fear that they are going to be devastated if they put themselves out there and then learn the truth.”

Wow! What a difficult situation to be in.

There’s a lot to unpick here.

they have no idea how awful they sound …

… and yet friends and family tell them their voice is great. Who is correct?

We’ve all seen shows like the X Factor where friends and family simply don’t understand why their friend is being booed and sent home.

Friends and family can be bad judges of singing ability because they want their loved-one to succeed. They can become deaf to any imperfections in their singing.

But maybe they’re right. Maybe this person does have a great voice.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and singing quality is in the ear of the listener. Back to X Factor: how many times have you thought someone has an ‘awful voice’ yet they’ve been voted through? Whilst another singer who you think is brilliant is voted off.

they intend to go ‘professional’

Does that mean they’re trying to earn a living from their singing, or just get a few local gigs and more followers on YouTube and Facebook?

If they’re trying to earn a living, they will soon find out whether their voice is saleable or not. They simply won’t get booked or sing to empty rooms. It doesn’t mean that their voice is ‘awful’, just that they can’t hack it professionally.

There are many talented, super-confident singers out there with great voices and who sing in tune, yet can’t get gigs or record deals.

should I ‘tactfully’ tell them?

There are two questions here: should I tell them at all, and if so, how can I do it tactfully?

I would suggest that it’s impossible to tell them tactfully! You’ll just be pouring water on their dreams however you phrase it. They’re way ahead of you with their YouTube channel and business cards. It’s a bit late to be telling them they can’t sing in tune.

But should you be telling them in the first place? In my opinion, it’s none of your business. What does it matter to you if they try to be professional and fail? They seem to have loads of confidence and self-belief, so I doubt if they’ll get knocked back. I’m sure they realise that not everyone can become a star.

they will be devastated when they learn the truth

It’s a tough world out there whatever we try and achieve. Perhaps even more so in the professional creative arts (singing, acting, writing, etc.).

There are 1,000s of talented creative people all chasing a career and limited opportunities. Some trained, others not.Not everyone is going to make it. Some people give up at the first hurdle whilst others stick at it for years. It depends on their personality rather than any talent they may or may not have.

And what is the ‘truth’ about their voice any way? It might be awful or it might be an acquired taste. In either case, whether they can hack it in the professional world or not has little to do with whether they can sing in tune.

other posts

You might find these older posts of interest too:

Never tell someone they can’t sing – it is brutal, damaging and untrue

Never let the fake perfection of pop singers put you off singing

Singing with the dirt left on

It’s good to fail as a singer (and you should do it more often)

Don’t chase fame – singing is reward enough in itself

The good enough singer

Chris Rowbury


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