I Wonder if I Could Ever Learn to Sing

katysax

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I'm over 60 and I've played various instruments since I was 8 years old. My ear is decent; I'm pretty good at identifying relative pitch, can usually match what I'm hearing being played, can hear chord changes. So my problem isn't as my parents always said, that I am "tone deaf". I'm not.

But I can't sing. When I sing what I hear in my head isn't what the listener hears. I can carry a tune if it doesn't slip out of my very limited range and if I really know the tune, but it's easy for me to get lost and lose the tune. I can't transition at all from the lower part of my range to the upper part of my range; it seems like there are several notes in between that aren't anywhere in my range.

Not being able to sing is kind of a bummer. I'd like to do more with my uke than only play instrumentals. Don't get me wrong. I sing at home when no one can hear me a lot. I just can't sing in public.

I'm thinking about taking some singing lessons. I wonder if I could learn to sing well enough at least so that I could sing along with my uke.
 

janeray1940

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I'm a lifelong failed singer - like you, I can hear melodies and intervals and chord changes, but it's my voice itself that is the problem. My natural range is less than an octave, my break between upper and lower registers is in an awkward place (that transition that you mentioned!), and I can't breathe properly unless I really focus on it. With all that going against me, when I was a much younger person - mid to late teens - I took voice lessons with several instructors, most notably a gentleman named Seth Riggs, who founded this method. And my voice did improve, immensely, but it took a lot of practice - I was dead-serious about it and practiced anywhere from 2 to 6 hours a day.

Long story short, I developed vocal nodes, had a surgery, and had to give it a rest. And within a matter of several months I was right back to where I had started - all those years of work just vanished. That was over 30 years ago and while I've considered revisiting voice lessons, I know realistically that in my limited spare time, I'd rather play instrumentals than sing. Although if a song is in A or Bb I can usually manage pretty well... but C, the so-called "people's key"? Forget it! :)

So - my guess would be that yes, you could most likely learn from a voice coach and improve - I don't think age has as much to do with it as time and perseverance does. But speaking from experience, you'd have to be really committed to working at it. You might also try playing around with switching keys for the songs you play on uke - you might just hit on a key or two that works with your voice as is.
 

electrauke

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Some of the problems you described could possibly be resolved by a vocal coach. That is what I would try if you are committed to learn. It would be very beneficial.
 

Down Up Dick

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I'm an old guy, and I play lots of instruments from tuba to flute and tin whistles. My Hawaiian Godmother gave me an old Pinapple ukulele years and years ago, and I hung it on the wall where it gathered dust. I took it down a long time ago and tried to sing with it, but my mean ex-wife laughed so hard that I thought she would croak. So I put it back on the wall.
Then a coupla years ago I cleaned it up and gave it another try. I'm an English Major, and I felt the need to sing some good old folk music. Well, to cut this history short, I found that I really enjoyed singing again, and my Ukes are an added bonus.
My range is also shorter than I'd like, and I'm having some problems with pitch. I still fumble with my chord changes, but I'm having a very good time learning and warbling my heart out.
 

Freeda

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I wanted to sing better so I joined my local sweet Adeline's chapter.
 

Down Up Dick

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A guy (college singer) that I met at the local Subway said if one sings lots his range would extend. It seems to be working with me; I've gained a note at the bottom and one or two at the top, and that's really enough for now. I've solved the pitch problem too, and now I know where I'm supposed to sing and what chords to strum.
 

artwombat

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Go monotone.

It has worked for many over the years and they have become stand-outs.

I right myself off as a hopeless singer but I reckon the trick is do not try. Instead, do a monotone dialogue with the Uke providing background music. You just have to find what suits you.

I tried playing the chorus and talking only on the C chord and that sounded good. Anyway, have a fiddle about with a monotone it might make you happy.
 

Rllink

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I've never been a singer. I don't even sing in church, I just stand there and look around. But I want to sing, I just don't for some reason. So I attended a ukulele festival last weekend, and I just got caught up in the energy and started belting out the songs. It wasn't bad at all. I enjoyed it. I don't know whether I was good or not, but it was fun. So I've been out on the front porch singing away when I play every day this week. Just a little bonus for the neighbors. I don't know, I guess I will go with it until someone pays me either keep singing or to shut up. Either way, I'll get paid. Actually, I've always wanted to be a performer, and it is so far out of my comfort zone, but that is where I want to go, so it will be what it is. It is the same attitude I have with the uke. At my age I don't have the time to put years into it before I make my public debut, I gotta go with it now and hope for the best. My thought on it is that the more you do it, the better your going to get.
 
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Booksniffer

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Go monotone.

It has worked for many over the years and they have become stand-outs.

I right myself off as a hopeless singer but I reckon the trick is do not try. Instead, do a monotone dialogue with the Uke providing background music. You just have to find what suits you.

I tried playing the chorus and talking only on the C chord and that sounded good. Anyway, have a fiddle about with a monotone it might make you happy.

Do you have a sound (or youtube) example of what you mean by that?
Not necessarily from yourself, just someone doing what you're recommending.

It sounds promising, but I am having a difficult time picturing (earing?) it - might be a vocabulary problem on my part.
 

cunparis

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But I can't sing. When I sing what I hear in my head isn't what the listener hears. I can carry a tune if it doesn't slip out of my very limited range and if I really know the tune, but it's easy for me to get lost and lose the tune.

I'm not a good singer but I'm making progress so I thought I'd share what I'm doing: I'm working on singing some very simple songs with very limited vocal range. I'm also using the same to learn to play by ear.

There is a free workshop on the toneway website that is excellent. They have a specific video (or set of videos) on vocal range and choosing a key that is comfortable for you. I think you may need to create an account for this link but you can go to the homepage to get an idea if it interests you. I have watched the workshop several times and it's been very helpful to me.

Here's the link to the video on range and keys, but do watch the others too if you like it:

http://toneway.com/learn/get-started/lesson-two/chapter-1
 

VegasGeorge

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There's a "singing" technique you could try. Instead to trying to actually sing, you speak the words in time with the music, almost like a narration. The idea is you'll find yourself changing the inflection of your voice and you'll start raising and lowering the pitch of your voice to accompany the music. Pretty soon you'll start sounding like one of those pop singers who sort of talk through the lyrics. It isn't "singing" in the classical sense, but it can sound good, particularly with the right tunes. Maybe real singing will develop out of that, maybe not. But in the meantime you've got some vocals to perform.
 

acmespaceship

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Let's try a new perspective:

"I never play uke. I sound terrible! Every few months I take the uke out of the closet and try again, but after a couple of strums it's obvious I haven't gotten better. So back in the closet it goes. I suppose I could try taking lessons or reading an instruction book -- but I'm afraid it's pointless. Do you think I'll ever learn to play?"

You can't learn to play except by playing, right? Well, you can't learn to sing without singing. It's not some crazy voodoo magic. Singing is just another a skill to develop. You learn to sing the same way you learn to play uke. Teachers, lessons, videos, listening to yourself and other people, and most of all practice!

Just last weekend, a friend was telling me about his first session with a vocal coach. He said he could already tell he was singing better by the end of the 40-minute lesson. He has homework exercises and he expects to practice every day.

If you don't want to pay for a vocal coach (not cheap) then maybe you can find a friend who sings and is willing to show you a few warmups and help you learn to sing on pitch. Join a choir. The Sweet Adelines is a brilliant suggestion. Give yourself permission to sound terrible -- we all sounded terrible on uke as beginners (and some of us still sound terrible) yet we survive and have fun on the journey.
 

bnolsen

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it's always possible to try "sing" in the style of rex harrison (as in my fair lady) or Richard Harris in Camelot. Neither are real "singers" but they seemed to be able to make a go of it.

I think I agree with acmespaceship. Joining a choir or something like that can probably help. You'll learn warmups and other good skills, perhaps you'll improve more than you can ever know. Of course you may not want to listen to anything I say. My mother said I was able to carry a tune very very well about the time I learned to walk and used to enterain people from the shopping cart seat.
 

IamNoMan

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I have been performing for over forty years. I have been playing uke for less than a month. I am a great storyteller, a good singer and a mediocre musician - (banjo mostly). I specialize in getting audience participation.

Here are some ideas you'all might try:

Stand up to sing. It gets your diaphragm working to give you the most of whatever you have got.

If you have a limited vocal range but can sing a complete scale you can sing many songs. Find out what key(s) you can sing in. Get some good musicians to back you up when singing. By the end the the song they will be able to tell you what key you are singing in. Alternately get a capo (banjo capo works for ukes), and play with it while singing until you know what key your singing in.

When singing with a "uke song book" and the song won't start right; I sometimes start a song with one or more pick-up notes. An F(4), An F and G note, or a G(5) note followed by a C(1) chord frequently works for me when playing in the key of C(1_4_5 chord structure). Don't strum the pick-up note(s) pick them!

Another pick-up note approach you can try is to run down the scale(or fret board) to the first chord you play and start singing to. Example: Alabama Jubilee, (Key of C, ragtime 1_6_2_5 chord structure) play C(1) B Bf AChord(6)-and sing"Old Deacon Jones fools around on the bones" Dchord(2)"old parson Brown dances round like a clown" Gchord(5) "aunt Jemima aged 83" etc. if you can't sing in C capo will allow you to try it in Key of C#,D,D#,E etc until you figure out your key.

Maybe this will help. Hope I haven't ranted too much.
 

Sabantien

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There's a "singing" technique you could try. Instead to trying to actually sing, you speak the words in time with the music, almost like a narration. The idea is you'll find yourself changing the inflection of your voice and you'll start raising and lowering the pitch of your voice to accompany the music. Pretty soon you'll start sounding like one of those pop singers who sort of talk through the lyrics. It isn't "singing" in the classical sense, but it can sound good, particularly with the right tunes. Maybe real singing will develop out of that, maybe not. But in the meantime you've got some vocals to perform.

I'm also a terrible singer, but I _think_ this kind of works for me, if i'm reading it right.

Something like John Schumann in Redgum? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Urtiyp-G6jY

John Williamson is probably also similar.


I'm yet to try it, but I have heard if you sing into a microphone and have that going directly to some earphones (much like monitors for performers on stage I guess) you can actually hear how you send, not what it sounds like in your head, and it helps you adjust.
 
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IamNoMan

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Your original post indicated you want to sing by ear. Uncle Rod's BootCamp is an excellent method for learning to play by ear for any instrument. I suspect that includes singing. For instruments other than ukulele you need to adapt the course materials to your instrument, which includes singing. The principles and methodology Uncle Rod developed for the bootcamp is valid. It will work for kids and for trained musicians who want to learn to play by ear. Check it out. And thank you Uncle Rod.
 

dhunter

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I took it down . . .tried to sing with it, but my mean ex-wife laughed so hard that I thought she would croak. So I put it back on the wall.
Then a coupla years ago I cleaned it up and gave it another try. I'm an English Major, and I felt the need to sing some good old folk music. Well, to cut this history short, I found that I really enjoyed singing again, and my Ukes are an added bonus.
My range is also shorter than I'd like, and I'm having some problems with pitch. I still fumble with my chord changes, but I'm having a very good time learning and warbling my heart out.[/QUOTE
Good for you! Dick! It's amazing how so many are creatively caged (hopefully not permanantly ) by their own "loved ones". My mom, perhaps a clone or close facsimile of you mean ex had me silenced in shame for over thirty years, afraid of my "terrible" singing voice. I played a wind instrument in school and beyond and I found several strategies that helped me get singing again.
1) take a singing class at the community college. It will be hard at first but the teacher there should be an authority in her field and she will help you find your suppressed song and your voice that badly wants for singing.
2) play with your voice like you play with one of your musical instruments. Some areas will still be hard but consider your approach to other instruments. For example, I dread the top register on my flute and still panic when seeing a new piece full of these top register notes during orchestra rehearsal. I stagger and flounder through it and eventually its over. Then I can go home and practice.

3) Its ok to play them badly. Playing badly is better than not playing at all. The same is true for singing. ♥

The ukulele has been a wonderful way for me to finally sing freely. I love being on the rythm section playing chords instead of the top of the melody (flute). It is a breath of fresh air.
4) the ukulele a day books helped me a lot with singing in tune. The chart at the top of each song shows you your starting note. So you just tune your voice to that note like you tune the flute to an A before orchestra rehearsal.
 

IamNoMan

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@Dhunter: The first (and last) note in the musical score designates the key the song is played in, (most every case). When you find a song in a key you are comfortable singing in then you should go to your ukulele and learn the chords associated with the key, including the relative minors. Next learn the keys immediately above and below that key. They might not be the easiest chords to learn on the uke but that's to bad. You want to sing right?

It is proper etiquette in singing and jamming circles for the singer to pick the Key they are going to sing in. This is true even if the best players don't like it. I play the banjo. We hate to play in the key of F. Sadly my best singing keys are F, F# and F#m.

In so far as spousal abuse goes: Get your spouse or whoever to request a song for you to learn. This works almost every time. My wife chose "If you knew Suzie". Her name oddly enough is Susan.