Why Some People Just Can’t Sing Well, No Matter How Hard They Try!

The element that makes some people sing nicely and others poorly is problems with pitch accuracy, which is also called intonation. Pitch can be understood as the ‘sharpness’ of a voice; higher the pitch, higher is the sharpness and shriller the voice sounds.

Some people are born with certain innate abilities that melt our hearts or amaze us. Watch a great movie and you’ll feel inspired, read a good book and you’ll appreciate the complexity of the world, listen to a good singer and the world will suddenly seem more beautiful.

Singing, more specifically, is the result of a combination of an innate talent and relentless effort. Unfortunately, not everyone’s voice is particularly pleasant to listen to. So, why do some people seem to always sing bad?

What is ‘Bad Singing’?

Kind of a strange question, right?

Although it’s quite difficult to define the boundaries of ‘good singing’, since ‘good singing’ to you may not be the same for your friends, good singing can be scientifically differentiated from bad singing. If you’re a bad singer, it means that you are lacking in one or more of these areas; timing (the ability to keep time in the music), note memory, and pitch accuracy.

It has been observed that the majority of people are fairly decent when it comes to note memory and timing. Regardless of being trained in singing or not, most people would be able to identify the song you’re singing, even if you were not singing particularly well. That is undeniable proof of an ability to remember notes. Similarly, people are fairly good at timing their notes and changes while singing.

Why can some people sing well but others can’t?

The element that makes some people sing nicely and others poorly is problems with pitch accuracy, which is also called intonation. Pitch can be understood as the ‘sharpness’ of a voice; female voices are typically higher pitched than male voices. Pitch is measured in cents; 1 semitone is made up of 100 cents, which is equivalent to one-twelfth of an octave.

Pitch errors can be regarded as the difference in the number of cents of the sung tone from the intended tone. If your tone is off the intended tone by more than 50 cents, then your singing would likely be considered “bad.”

Why Does This Happen?

It all comes down to those tricky activities of the brain. The problem with the brain lies in not being able to adjust its activities against a particular target (which, in this case, is a particular tone). That may be a bit confusing, so let’s break it down a little further.

bad singing meme

When you hear a tone, your brain has a perception of its various parameters, such as loudness, pitch, tone and so on. It turns out that human brains are pretty good at perceiving the right tone, which means that the possibility of an error in our brain’s perception of the tone is ruled out. Hence, the ‘input’ component in this case is alright; the problem occurs at the ‘output’. After hearing the tone, the brain maps out an output tone to match the one it heard, but sadly, it’s not in tune.

Why can’t I sing?

It’s not that you don’t realize when you are singing off-key; ears do register that you’re not quite producing the tone that you intended to, so the vocal cords ask for instructions from the brain. However, the brain still sends the same instructions, and you simply can’t get the tone right. It’s almost as though the vocal cords have locked themselves in a particular position to produce the same erroneous tone every time, even after knowing better!

Practice is Key

People are born with certain connections within the brain that make huge differences in many abilities and weakness they possess. However, the good news is that these connections, which were long thought to be permanent, can actually be changed with extensive practice. Yes, practicing the same activities over a long period of time can be very effective at readjusting and redefining these connections, and consequently, your appeal as a singer!

Therefore, don’t worry if you can’t sing well now; it’s just a matter of time and patience. Who knows, one day, after enough practice, maybe you’ll be belting out a beautiful song to an auditorium full of people. Don’t let anyone tell you that you “have a bad voice”. You can always buckle down and practice to find that perfect pitch!


  1. University of California San Diego
  2. The College of New Jersey
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About the Author:

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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