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Anyone Can Sing
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Al Hilgendorf
Nov 01, 2009
3:28 PM
Eldon couldn't carry a tune in a bike basket, unless that tune was one note somewhere between F and F#. And I was attending college to be a music minister and had it in my head that anyone could learn to sing with proper ear training. I don't remember if I had heard this from a professor or if I had dreamed it one night, but I decided that I would teach Eldon to sing.

Eldon was more excited about my little experiment than I was.

We started out with high/low recognition. I would play a note on the piano and Eldon would have to tell me if the next note I played was higher or lower than the first note. I started out with wide intervals and as Eldon got better, the intervals got closer.

Eldon lived just down the road from us so he stopped in every day and with a big, country-boy grin he would ask for his “sangin' lasson”. It didn't take him long to get pretty good at the recognition game so the next thing to do was to find his “default note”. I think we settled on a solid F and as soon as he was able to stay on it, we started working our way up and down by intervals of a 2nd, 3rd, etc. I played the note and Eldon tried to match it. This took a little longer, but he really started to get it. After some time with that exercise we started working on singing intervals in succession.

Eldon was really excited when we started singing simple melodies. He was “sangin”! I was really impressed. I knew if this worked for him it could work for anyone.

I've used this technique in different iterations throughout the years and it does really work.

So maybe you've inherited a small group of singers and a few of them can't carry a tune very well. The easy answer is to nicely and graciously let them off the team, and there may be times when that's the only way. But with a little patience and the above technique you can help your not-so-in-tune singers discover a renewed excitement and confidence.

And everyone else will be sure to thank you too.

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