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Can you sing anything?

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Hi,

There is something I'm curious about. I was recently asked to sing a song at a piano bar and my response was, "I don't sing that." The requester seemed a t little annoyed by my response, turned his back and said "well I don't know what you sing, pick a song", then pushed a song book at me. But there are certain songs I just don't sing. They are either out of my range or maybe I'm just too unfamiliar with them. Being unfamiliar is one thing and I hate to sing if I don't feel like I own the song or especially if I don't know the lyrics. I don't like to read as I'm singing. I like to really know the song so I can add the "feel." But range is another question and what I'm getting at here. I see so many singers just getting up and singing on request. Like anyone who plays an instrument, upon request of a song they just play; if they know it. I see so many singers do the same. I can't. Is this something a singer should be able to do...just sing anything? Or does a singer (different then any instrument playing musician) have to sing only songs in his/her range?

I'm wondering if it's a case of "are you a singer or not?" If you are then if asked to sing, you should be able to sing, no matter what it is. I do see a lot of singers just "jumping in."

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They're probably jumping in because they happen to know the songs. Maybe they've just been singing longer? In any case, it seems like a misconception among non-singers that all singers can sing anything whenever they are asked to. Your sight singing abilities can be improved with practice and you can always learn more songs. Not many people really come out of the uterus singing.

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They're probably jumping in because they happen to know the songs.

Probably/maybe. I've thought about that. But it happens so often. Someone is asked to sing and if they don't know the song are handed a lyric sheet. Aside from the obvious uncomfortableness they are singing it. It's like I rarely hear good singers sing bad. Meanwhile I usually say "sorry, I don't sing that, it's not in my key. " While a good singer usually smiles and says "sure, I'll sing that!" Then again I couldn't see Eddie Vedder singing Freddie Murcury! :D

I just hate saying, "I don't sing that song." And wondered if this was natural/common.

Thanks

Tommy

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I mean I hate being put on the spot to sing an unfamiliar song. I avoid it if I can. But the better you can do it, the more work is available to you.

This is true. Don't get me wrong. I am a beginner at all of this. Yes, I have been singing since I was a kid so at 55 that is a great many years. BUT that is years of uncontrolled uneducated singing only to myself and anyone else who would listen. Now that I am finally trying to do this right (and find out if I can actually sing) I question myself. I try to sing everything. I reach for notes; and notes I can't hit I attempt to adjust and/or find a way. I try to train myself. But some songs just seem untouchable. I was just wondering if this was normal or if experienced and educated singers know how to find a way to get around the notes that are sort of out of their normal range and end up singing the song anyway. And singing it good, in the original key, but maybe altered to fit their range. (?)

Tommy

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Can any of us sing any song? Technically, yes. Should we? No. For the reasons you listed, Tommy. Not just a matter of range but a matter of voice timbre, style of music, style of singing. Voices are not plug and play. Each one is unique. It's possible to do well on one song by a certain singer and not so well on another song by that same singer, let alone different singers. For listeners, educated and uneducated will expect to hear the song in the voice of the original singer. Happens all the time. For example, could Rik Emmett of Triumph sing a Guns n Roses song? Sure. Even the high parts are comfortably in his range. Would people buy it? Maybe not. Because the are expecting Axl's buzzsaw sound. And the lyrics and phrasing might present problems.

One thing to do is to not take requests. And some people may not like that. Sorry about their luck. What if someone asked Tom Petty to sing "Fight the Good Fight" in the original key? Ain't going to happen. First off, Petty will tell you himself that he doesn't sing that high. Then, if the "requestor" persists in being a pain, one of Petty's security detail will take care of the "problem," who will suddenly becomes silent, reticent, even. But I still think it's okay to stand up and holler "Freebird!" It's always good for a laugh.

You have just as much right sing what you know how to sing as anyone else. I don't, can't, and won't sing every song there is to sing. At least not in the original style. I have to raise a leg and put my "stink" on it. Like you, I have to "feel" the song. I tried the other way, recently. Basically sight-sang a song, reading from a lyric sheet adn received some decent positive comments, as well as some more pointed criticisms. Perhaps the song was wrong for me, no matter how much I wanted to do it. That happens, too. Wanting to do a song and it just isn't right with one's voice.

Anyway, good luck.

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Thanks for the responses. Yes, I would feel comfortable singing anything, if they adjusted the key and I could add me feel to it. But in the original key and mimicking the original song? My range won't cover it. Apparently, judging by the replies, it isn't just me. I never felt comfortable just singing anything across the board. I feel better knowing it isn't just me :D

On another note, I don't like singing or even playing an instrument exactly like the original. I'm not even that thrilled hearing exact copies of songs by other performers. if I wanted that I would just listen to the original! I like to put my own spin on things and when listening to others I like to hear their take. I'm very much an improv kind of guy.

Thanks again

Tommy

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I dont see the point of asking this.

Our answers will not make any difference for you right now. If we say that singers should sing anything, that will not make you able to sing anything. If we say that singers should not sing anything, that also will not change your condition from what it is now. Note that there is no rule to define a singer. There is no such list of skills that you must have in order to act. But there are lots of things that will make your life easier.

Now, if are you asking us if it is POSSIBLE to sing a larger repertoire, the answer is: as long as you stay within pop music YES. But it is your call. If you feel that the audience is demanding other songs from you and that you will be able to perform better with those than with the songs you can do right now, it MAY be the case that learning them will be good for you.

And yet, having the technique that will allow you to do it is good even if you do not intend on changing styles or singing in another part of your range.

Still, the only one who can make this call is yourself.

The way I see it:

I have a style I want to sing in, I do covers of songs within this style and I do my own material. I also cover other kinds of songs to make money. Having the technique that allows me to do both has only helped me, a lot. And in my opinion, versatility is a very desirable quality, not only to allow you to sing other styles, but also because the experience with other kinds of music will only contribute to your own work.

Anyways, if you feel the answer is incomplete try reformulating the question, I didnt quite understand what you really want to know. Also note that if you want to know about the technical aspects of your own voice, showing us some recordings will help.

GL!

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I didnt quite understand what you really want to know.

Well, to simplify. Suppose a guitar player was sitting in the audience at a performance. The band may notice him and ask if he would come up and sit in. Knowing his craft he can easily say yes (if he knows the song) only needing to know the key and then, he joins in. No rehearsal necessary. I'm sure he could get by. If the song is played like the original. If I were a guitar player I'm sure I would feel comfortable with this. However, a singer sitting in the audience in the same situation may be a different story. To come up and sing a song that may not be in his key seems like it would be a problem; without the band having rehearsed it with him before hand in his key. Well, this is what I was questioning anyway. "Or" is it like a guitar player? If you are experienced enough in your craft then you can just get up and sing whatever.

You are questioning me because (it seems) you are thinking on a professional level. Like when the hell would something like this happen? Who would ask for a song not in your normal repertoire? I'm speaking more in general. Like at a party or something and people start singing for instance. "Hey, Get Joe over here, he's a singer....hey Joe, sing this song for us." Because you're a singer are you automatically able to sing it along with the record? Or might you have to say, "I can't (or don't) sing that particular song." Or you could try it and have them say "yo...I thought you could sing.":D

Like I said, I'm new to this....people actually listening to me. I've received some good compliments but c'mon...we all know how that stuff works.

I guess my question is unimportant....apparently it is to you. But in finding out about singing and my own voice, I was curious about general ability among singers and the ease (or not) which they approach various songs comparing vocals to other instruments. I like detail and ask a lot of questions about everything. That's just me. Knowledge is power. What are forums for after all? No stupid questions only stupid answers right;)

Thanks

Tommy

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As a guitar player the answer is actually the same, I've played guitar for 30 years so I can pretty much play anything and get away with it but there are still styles that suit my style of play and styles that even though I am 'technically' capable of, I avoid because I know that I cant do the style/feel justice. Every guitar player I know is also like this.

Look at Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, could they play anything - sure - do they - no. Certain styles aren't in their makeup.

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Hey, Tommy, I can't apologize for Felipe. He is the way he is. Don't let it stop you. In fact, people hate it more when they are ignored than if you respond.

I have been in a situation where, I knew a song, but didn't know I was invited to sing it. We were at a restaurant for a friend's birthday party. There is a two piec band (guitar, bass, drum machine.) My wife volunteers me. So, I sing "Brandy" bu Looking Glass. They play it one step lower than I am used to singing it. And they don't know all the chords and are a bit rough on the timing.

Made it happen, anyway.

If it was a song I had never heard before, I would refuse to do it. If it was a song I have heard a few times but never really practiced myself, I could be tempted to do it, even if I fall flat on my face. Because I enjoy a good laugh, too. There are some people who could not perform in public because they can never get it perfect enough to leave the practice room, at least to their own satisfaction.

This should be tattooed on everyone's eyelid from the inside:

Performance is not about perfection, it is about moments. If people wanted perfection, they could stay at home and listened to your autotuned cd's. Shoot, Led Zeppelin never played their own songs the same way twice. Each concert was considered and event, a work of art unto its own.

So if it was a song completely unknown to me, I would probably not do it. But known to me and not rehearsed, sure, I will give it a go.

Of course, in the original scenario, when the person thrusts the book at you and said, "well then, you pick one ,,,"

I would go ahead and pick one I can sing. Or come up with a new song on the spot, involving well-placed use of profanity explaining what I think of this person trying to bust my chops while I am performing or about to perform. Then, again, I can get away with it, I'm one of this big, tough guys. Think of me as a taller version of Henry Rollins, not nearly as handsome and not singing too much in the way of punk music.

:D

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Hi Tommy! The answer to your question is NO. Even when you are a professional singer. You know why? Because If you are a guitar player and you have in hand a classic guitar and they're asking you to join a jam session you might join and try to produce an acoustic sound, which won't be even heard with all the amplified instruments. Right? Not only that but let's say you will try to play so hard you may rip a string. That is the situation when a instrument IS NOT adapt to that certain musical context. That can be happening in the same way if you are a singer. The different is that if you "rip" a vocal chord you won't be able to buy another one.. The thing is that an external instrument which is not a part of our body, like our voice, you can play as you like, and if you ruin it .. so you can buy another one. Our voice is clearly not like that Therefor you are not playing with it. You sing when you are certain you know the song, the key is suitable for you and a lot of other parameters one should think of. Even professional singer choose their repertoire basing on their voice and its qualities...That mean that it is almost absolute NO to say a professional should sing everything. He can try, but it won't be the best thing, I think...

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Thanks.

I got the answers I was looking for. As for the song book situation. I did pick a song. Something I never sang in front of anyone but one I was sure I could sing after singing it many times to myself over the years...lol.

Thanks again...it looks like I have been giving the right answer in refusing. :)

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Well, to simplify. Suppose a guitar player was sitting in the audience at a performance. The band may notice him and ask if he would come up and sit in. Knowing his craft he can easily say yes (if he knows the song) only needing to know the key and then, he joins in. No rehearsal necessary. I'm sure he could get by. If the song is played like the original. If I were a guitar player I'm sure I would feel comfortable with this. However, a singer sitting in the audience in the same situation may be a different story. To come up and sing a song that may not be in his key seems like it would be a problem; without the band having rehearsed it with him before hand in his key. Well, this is what I was questioning anyway. "Or" is it like a guitar player? If you are experienced enough in your craft then you can just get up and sing whatever.

You are questioning me because (it seems) you are thinking on a professional level. Like when the hell would something like this happen? Who would ask for a song not in your normal repertoire? I'm speaking more in general. Like at a party or something and people start singing for instance. "Hey, Get Joe over here, he's a singer....hey Joe, sing this song for us." Because you're a singer are you automatically able to sing it along with the record? Or might you have to say, "I can't (or don't) sing that particular song." Or you could try it and have them say "yo...I thought you could sing.":D

Like I said, I'm new to this....people actually listening to me. I've received some good compliments but c'mon...we all know how that stuff works.

I guess my question is unimportant....apparently it is to you. But in finding out about singing and my own voice, I was curious about general ability among singers and the ease (or not) which they approach various songs comparing vocals to other instruments. I like detail and ask a lot of questions about everything. That's just me. Knowledge is power. What are forums for after all? No stupid questions only stupid answers right;)

Thanks

Tommy

The answer is obvious: Do what you are comfortable with. Wanna sing it, then sing. Dont wanna sing it, dont.

And I really dont know what is this "stuff" you are talking about. You trying to say that the compliments you received are not sincere?

Which then leads to why I asked what you REALLY want to know:

This is just a psychological disguise to make us tell you that its ok for you to not sing anything, which as I said is quite obvious, and you knew it before asking. I am stating that you are asking this because you are unsure to whether you are actually singing with quality and those compliments are sincere, thus the horoscope like question which will lead to a horoscope like answer that you can then interpret in any way you see fit and validate the compliments.

From me you will not get this kind of answer. If you want to know something about how you are singing, send a sample, I will hear it and I promise that I will let you know exactly what I think, I will be sincere AND I will be objective. But before you do it: Did you receive any trainning on singing? Have you ever recorded yourself?What do YOU think of your own singing?

If you dont think that it sounds good, there is no need to even ask, look for a coach and work on it.

Sorry if it is rude, but Ive seen this before and its quite common. Our voice is too personal and its really not easy to expose ourselves like this, but its the only way for you to know what you want. Im not trying to imply anything other than what I stated nor I am demanding anything, but Id rather not take part in this sort of behind the bushes conversation.

If it makes no sense to you, just ignore it.

GL!

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I'd say the expectation comes from what kind of singer. People don't make requests of Tom Petty to sing Tom Jones because he's an artist who plays his own songs and is known for doing so. Yeah, he'll do covers, but it's the exception and not the norm. People who do covers and appear to do so for a living are supposed to know a lot of songs. That's the attitude people have about them. This is the difference. If you want to be one of those cover guys, you need to develop a very large repertoire that covers a variety of styles that appeal to a variety of people, so when someone asks, you can say "sure" and get that beer/tip. See, people are very egocentric. This is especially true if if they are drunk. If you deny a request - regardless of your reason for doing so - you look unprofessional. Unfortunately, you can't appeal to everyone, and you certainly can't know every song ever written. But this is how people look at these types of musicians.

For me, my goal is to be able to essentially sing anything. Will this happen - no, it won't, but the goal keeps me going. Just imagining myself nailing a Boston song makes me motivated to learn. After I am able to do that, the goal will change do something else. Maybe Mariah Carey - i don't know. The goal will be ever-changing. But that goal is just for me. It is not for the cute girl who wants to hear Don't Stop Believing. It is for me.

So, you must decide what you want to be as a singer. Do you want to be an artist, or the covers guy. Being both is possible - but not in the same gig. In order to be one or the other you have to play the great majority of originals, or the great majority of covers.

That said, it feels really nice to be able to play something that someone requests, and the opposite you can't.

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tommy, hey buddy, i'm 58, and i hear what you're asking.

you have every right and it's in your best interest to decline singing a song someone just pops up and asks you to sing. i can't tell you how many times that has happened to me. "bob's a singer, yeah?, sing us a song bob."

all you have to say is "no thanks, i'm not up to it today" or "sorry, i don't know that song..."

people that put you on the spot are usually just plain ignorant.

there's always going to be that one person, who just thinks you can just start singing "whole lotta love" out of the clear blue, and sound like robert plant......"don't do it!" is my advice......even if you can nail that song.

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For me, my goal is to be able to essentially sing anything. Will this happen - no, it won't, but the goal keeps me going. Just imagining myself nailing a Boston song makes me motivated to learn. After I am able to do that, the goal will change do something else. Maybe Mariah Carey - i don't know. The goal will be ever-changing. But that goal is just for me. It is not for the cute girl who wants to hear Don't Stop Believing. It is for me.

This is actually something I was thinking about also. Not limiting myself and just keep the goals high...keep trying and keep improving. As far as professionals or someone singing with a band, obviously any song they do would already be in the singers key. That is why it is in their playlist. Also anything they can play upon request would more than likely be something they've practiced together at some point so again...in his key.

As I mentioned earlier, I normally say..sorry, I don't sing that particular song. But I always wondered if I would ever get to a point where I would feel comfortable no matter what I was asked.

Keep in mind, once again, that I'm not talking professional or with a band or any scenario even close. I'm only talking about hanging out around a campfire or being a guest at a a wedding, just sitting there enjoying dinner and someone says hey Tommy, get up here and sing Unchained Melody!

Sorry, I don't sing that song, is my answer. I appreciate the responses and I apologize because I realize this was a rather unimportant question.

I didn't mean to get deep into anything analytically. :) It was just a general curiosity. I thought that possibly with more experience and technique a certain comfort level was developed.

As I said in this thread, I am a beginner as far as educating myself in singing. I have no instruction or coaching other than a book and the internet. I am planning on starting some lessons/coaching within the next few weeks. I also have no equipment or resources to sing amplified or to record. I do have a video camera and my living room but that's about it....no backing tracks.:) But than I have stated all this already.

Thanks Seth, the quote above is what I was thinking. I got the answers I was seeking from all who responded. It isn't about it being alright to say I don't sing that song. I do that anyway. And it isn't about how well or how bad I sing. I don't do this for a living...I only sing because I like to. But I'd like to do it well. And take it further. I wondered if at some point I'd be able to do it well enough that if I went to a party for example as a guest and someone asked me to sing and picked a song that I would be able to get up and feel comfortable in an unrehearsed situation. Sing whatever anyone picked (within reason). I guess it doesn't work that way unless you can get the band to play in your key....then again, I have no idea about keys or what I am. :D

Maybe at some point I can post a video.

Thanks again

Tommy

EDIT:

Thanks VIDEOHERE. You posted while I was typing. I hear ya!

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:D

Never mind...it isn't that important. Don't worry about it, but thanks.

It was just a curiosity. It has nothing to do with my singing or anyone else's in particular. I am just impressed at times by people who sing very well and seem to have no problem singing a variety of tunes. Some that vary greatly in range. I don't mean in a band setting or a professional setting. I'm just talking about singing for fun singing along with a Record/CD. You know where you are locked into the original key of the song. The setting could be anywhere. Maybe during halftime on superbowl Sunday with friends...who knows. The one really good singer seems to be able to sing everything well no matter the song. Meanwhile, I know from personal experience (and I have sung or tried too many songs to count) that some songs I wouldn't even think about attempting in a public setting. Not in their original key. Not even amongst friends. I was only curious (since most here seem very experienced) if at some point you just become comfortable and experienced enough to make technique adjustments to compensate for tunes normally out of your range. Again...not in a band setting or anywhere that the key could be adjusted.

Ok...here's an example. Karaoke. Most people pick songs because they think they can sing them or have sung a particular song many times before. But I have seen people that even if you threw a dart at the song list they will sing the song without question no matter where it landed and sing it well. I was wondering if that was rare, a learned thing, or just luck. Because I can't do it.

But! I'm done here :D It was just something I was curious about and it seems I can't get it across well. Thanks for the answers. I got what I needed.

Maybe the singers I've seen got lucky on those occasions.

Tommy

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tommy,

this is a really interesting topic.

some singers can do this. is it something to aspire to? that's a really good question. sometimes it's not always because they are great singers, but great emulators.

do great emulators make great singers.....hymm.....lol!!

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IMO it's always good to set the bar high. Small steps but a continuous path. I enjoy the journey and don't set "goals." Goals to me, imply an ending. I leave it all open ended and my path describes more of a circle. I come back to the beginning with a new understanding.

I'm reminded of a quote by T.S. Eliot "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be, to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time."

So will I ever be able to sing anything? If the answer is no, it doesn't matter. The importance, for me, is in the trying. ;)

Tommy

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Actually I just got a call back from the teacher/coach for scheduling of my first lesson next week. As long as I'm moving forward I ain't movin' back right? Well, the few times I've sung with a mic in front of a crowd I found it a fantastic experience (when I thought it was going well) no matter what the audience may have thought. However I also noticed how different it is hearing myself through a mic and regulating my normal singing volume etc. I also know where I go off pitch and my inexperience so I am seeking to fix all that. I have nothing but time so step by step.

So a new chapter in my life? Heeeeere we go!

Tommy

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