Think You Have a Bad Singing Voice? Here’s the Truth

There's No Such Thing as a Bad Voice - Working With What You've Got

Are you worried that you’re bad at singing? If you truly love to sing, you may be worrying for the wrong reason. Find out why in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R...


This article was inspired by the many voice students who insult their own voices. Comments like, “I want to learn how to sing, but I have a terrible voice,” or “I’m bad at singing and I hate my voice” exasperate me. You might think you have a bad voice, but your voice is probably perfectly fine, and there is no reason to disparage it. You just don’t know how to use it yet.

Don’t Blame the Instrument

People have similar reactions after hearing a world-class pianist. “She is such an amazing musician,” someone might say. “What incredible skill!” others might point out. But no one is likely to cry, “What a beautiful piano!”

After hearing a world-class singer, on the other hand, the reactions are quite different. “What a beautiful voice,” most people say. “He is so talented, his voice is so impressive,” others might suggest.

Do you notice the difference? Singers garner more compliments for their actual instrument (their voices) than for their skills. But in truth, while the instrument is important, the musician is just as – if not more – important.

The Instrument and the Musician

If someone gave me a clarinet, I would have no idea what to do with it. I probably couldn’t even make sound on it, and if I could, I’m sure it would be horrific. But if I said something like, “This clarinet is terrible!” I would obviously be wrong. That same clarinet, in the hands of a professional, could produce beautiful music. In my hands, however, it would be useless.

It’s the exact same way with voice.

A voice, like a clarinet, is an instrument. If you try to sing and it does not work, you may say, “My voice is terrible!” That is the same as if I blamed a clarinet for my inability to play it.

If you magically switched voices with an incredible singer, guess what? You still would not be able to sing! It would be like handing me, the inept clarinet player, a very expensive clarinet instead of a standard one. It would not make me a better clarinet player.

On the other hand, if you switched voices with an incredible singer, the singer would be able to sing wonderfully with your instrument. That is because the singer is a great musician.

Improving Your Musicianship

This concept probably doesn’t occur to most people because we cannot, in fact, swap voices (although I sometimes wish I could borrow a bass-baritone’s voice for a few days, just for fun). However, the fact remains that your voice is an instrument. If you don’t know how to “play” it, you have no idea what it is capable of.

Learning how to sing is just like learning how to play any other instrument. No one ever picked up a violin for the first time and started playing like a pro, and there is not a singer on the face of this earth who ever sounded exceptional with no practice.

Singing is hard work. You have to study breathing like wind instrumentalists. You have to learn how to access different notes within your range like string players. You have to gain control over all of the tiny muscles of the throat, face, jaw, and mouth. It doesn’t matter how “good” or “bad” your instrument is; you still need to learn these concepts.

If you learn how to sing, you might discover that your voice is actually wondrously beautiful. And if someone ever tells you that you have a great voice, you will know that your technique also deserves a compliment.

ElainaRPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She earned her Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by Barry Lenard

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10 replies
    • tessa
      tessa says:

      do the regular do re mi fa so la ti do scale then do the do ti la la ti do re mi fa so la so fa mi re do ti la la ti do then sing mary had a little lamb singing all nites even flats and sharps between two octaves of C on the piano it rlly helps

  1. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    I think many people praise the voice and not the singing ability because some people are just naturally good at singing, with absolutely no training or lessons.

    There isn’t a person in the world who can magically figure out what all the keys of a clarinet do or even how to hold the bow of a violin correctly. But there are plenty of people who are just born with a naturally good singing voice. (not exceptionally good, that’s where lessons come in)

    • David
      David says:

      I’ve heard plenty of babies singing beautifully. lol. Seriously, you aren’t born good at anything. There are people who are good at sports through sheer will and some who had a little easier way of it because of their body type but their will to do things like sports drove them through childhood to become better at it. Music is no different. You might have a better tool to start but you still learn whether it be on your own or through training. I learned to speed read – I wasn’t born able to do so. I’ve learned more than most people learn many times over in a lifetime. This is something I was inclined to do but I could have as easily turned out differently if I never started reading or wanted something different. I’ve had many people tell me it is “different” for me because I grasp things differently. I learned this over my lifetime. I’m sure I didn’t understand anything as a baby.

      I’m not awesome at music but after nearly a decade of training I can play a dozen instruments reasonably well. People who are “naturals” at singing simply trained themselves in a different way than normal people recognize.

  2. Dan
    Dan says:

    I can hit the notes(some of them at least). I know the breathing techniques. I know it all has to be timed and when to time it. I’m familiar with music theory and how to read it. I just don’t sound good when I do it. Admittingly, I’m not a powerhouse or a bravado singer. But I don’t need to be louder when I’ve leaned so much and still sound like shit. It’s my voice. A pianist can’t work with a broken piano…

    • Steve
      Steve says:

      Yeah, the article doesn’t touch on the fact that you can learn to play an instrument with a pretty cheap one and then, when you’re good with it, upgrade to a really nice one so you sound amazing.

      No so with voice. You get one voice. If you sound like a nasally crocodile, better find something else to be famous for like Bob Dylan with his storyteller-singing.

      • David
        David says:

        A good guitar player can pick up a $5 yard sale guitar with a missing string and bust out a good song. They can tune the remaining strings to play any song they need and give the guitar versatility. Your voice is no different. While a great guitar might sound better – you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. Heck, there are people who can play a whole song with a tin can and a piece of string that sounds awesome.

        Your voice has limitations, so you learn how it works within those limitations and apply your voice to the things it is suited for.

  3. abc123
    abc123 says:

    Yes some people are just not confident in their voice even if they have a beautiful voice. Some people does have a bad voice and are not lying when they tell you that. I’m one of them. I even thought I was a better singer than I actually am even if I always said I was a bad singer. I usually have difficulties singing without hearing the lyrics and the notes of the voice even if I remember how it goes. So recently I recorded myself while listening to the song with hearphones. I’m the worst singer I ever heard. Even when I hear myself singing and I know I’m close enough to the note, I’m actually very far away when I listen to the recording. For a bonus, I sing like my nose is plugged.

    • Tehya Thomas
      Tehya Thomas says:

      Yeah, I recorded myself too and I grimaced in disgust at my own voice. It was absolutely horrific. I’m really sad that I can’t sing, but it is what it is. I really thought I could learn, but you can’t pay somethings that broken. I guess I should stick to clarinet


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