Why Can't I Carry a Tune?
Nancy E. Harris, M.H., Vocologist
I have been teaching private voice since 1974, and during that time have made several observations on which I have not found any research, elsewhere. This particular topic has been brought to my attention, frequently, as adults who have always wanted to sing, but couldn't, have decided to try to learn how before it is too late. They have no aspirations to creating great art, just to staying on pitch, being able to sing along in groups, and entertaining themselves.
From my observations, I have developed a hypothesis:
There is a certain percentage of people (TBD) who are able to sing correct pitches easily without intense active engagement of their diaphragms. There is another percentage of people (TBD) who cannot sing on pitch UNLESS they actively engage their diaphragms. This occurs even without apparent speaking difficulties.
This problem seems to be genetic, as siblings I have taught have had the same issues, to a greater or lesser extent. These people can speak normally, which requires that they be able to produce the melody of speech patterns, but when they attempt to make the more sustained and energized sound required for singing, there seems to be a "disconnect". When taught to use the diaphragm correctly actively, they are able to match pitches with no problem whatsoever. However, if they do not engage the diaphragm actively, they cannot. There does not seem to be an "in between" for them.
If funding can be found, I would like to have the opportunity to do some testing and observations of this group that might explain why this difference exists. In the meantime, I continue to train people who "can't carry a tune in a bucket" to sing.