So my friend has been given a few months to live. She is incredibly strong and makes me feel like a coward for not having courage to do things that have interested me, but my fear of failure always held me back. Yet here she is facing her death without a hint of fear.

So we are putting together a celebration of life for her. People will be singing, bands will be playing, speakers appearing, family members sharing stories. So in an attempt to change my outlook I thought I would use this as an opportunity to sing a song to her. To show her that she has inspired me to start facing my fears in life. The problem is I've never sung a note in my life.

44 years ago, I weaseled out of a school play that involved singing. I could not deal with attention of any sort. I was physically and sexually abused a few years prior and I couldn't handle any sort of attention. I just wanted to hide and not be noticed by anyone. After all these years I can remember the teacher in charge saying “It's too bad you refuse to take part. You have one of the best voices participating“. Those words stuck with me until now.

I feel like I sound terrible and can barely hit a note. Yet I downloaded one of those phone apps that gets you to hit notes and sustain them. I was quite surprised to hit some very high notes for a man of 50 years (A3). It has given me hope that with some help it may be possible to actually sing and not embarrass myself.

My question is or my questions are: Do those apps really work? Where should I go to get real help that won't put me in a situation to feel unworthy or not good enough? Any techniques to improve quickly? Basically anything you can tell me to quietly achieve my goal without putting myself in situations where I will be laughed at. I struggle dearly with this. I’m on 2 types of anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds. Just going to get grocery is a task not looked at with anticipation.

I know you're thinking this dude wants to go on stage and perform when he can barely go buy groceries? Yes, and I've never sang a song. I'm fairly certain my voice sounds like a bag of pots and pans clanging together.

The song I have chosen is no campfire song either, it's John Legend’s “All of Me”. I know right, nothing like starting off easy. I would love to hear something other than “you're nuts”.

Like my friends have said. Which is actually giving me a bit more determination, as if that were possible.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Regards, the vocal newb without a clue, Mig

  • 1
    Regarding singing for your friend: You have no reason not to. That you sing for her at all will be more important than if it's clean, intonated etc; "technically correct". I'm no expert, but emotion is always more important than technique. That is, practice putting emotion into it.
    – user43681
    Oct 30, 2017 at 17:31
  • Thanks Dawg. It seems everyday I get a little more control of my voice. It's so weird actually. All there years and I've never taken it for a spin sort of speak.Hitting and sustaining notes is one thing, the sound I project is another. I'm so looking forward to the event and I'm also not looking forward to it as it is a party for a dying friend.Life is so effed up sometimes
    – Mig Apren
    Oct 30, 2017 at 17:57
  • You might want to consider contacting the music department of your local university and asking to work with a graduate voice student. By exploring your own voice, you'll to manage it as well as your confidence. Your song might need to be put into a different key that is more comfortable for your voice. I have a hard time believing you trust the opinion of someone (yourself) with no musical training over others who do. Lastly, I guarantee that people will be focusing on your gesture more than your voice. If they don't, they're heartless, superficial, and missing the point. Nov 2, 2017 at 15:43
  • Just on technical points: A3 isn't high (typical bass vocal range per Wikipedia is up to E4), and your range has far more to do with genetics than age. Dec 27, 2023 at 13:30

5 Answers 5


First of all: I'm really sorry to hear about your friend. What you're aiming to do is absolutely fantastic, I hope she likes it - and as the first comment above says, the important part is in the doing, not so much how good you are (although no harm in making a nice noise !).

Don't let ANYONE tell you "you're nuts". If you want to do this, I thnk that makes you something of a legend.

I don't know about those apps but if you can get to A3 then you've probably got most pop/rock songs covered.

Regards getting help quickly:

  • See a vocal coach/tutor. I never have myself (been singing rock for 30 years) but the advice I've read on this site which has come from a singing coach/tutor has helped, so if you want to make quick progress, that's probably a good start.

  • Sing. A lot. By which I mean .. in the car, in the shower, in a lift, anywhere. just keep at it.

  • But don't tire yourself out. The vocal chords are operated by a set of muscles like anything else, and they can get strained, pulled etc so if it starts to ache or hurt, give it a rest for a day or so.

  • Don't practice, just sing. Sing because you like it. I know that sounds really happy-clappy-hippy but if your'e enjoying yourself, it comes across and is often what turns someone just mumbling lines or going through the ropes into a really great performance. Also, it's really the only way of getting better :-)

  • Re nerves (or fear of ebing laughed at): I was very shy about singing at first, and here's what helped me out:

    • Think about why you're doing this. Is it to impress everyone? Doesn't sound like it. It seems to me that there's something much deeper, for your friend and for your own confidence, which drives you- so try to put the opinions of nay-sayers in the bucket they need to be: irrelevant cynicism.
    • No-one wants to hear apologetic singing from someone who'd rather not be there. That does not float the boats, for the audience or the performer. So when you get a chance, sing your tits off and like you mean it, with no apology. It comes out how it comes out, and that's that. If someone doens't like it --------- hot news get ready --------> so what?

I'm not sure I've ever answered a question on stackoverflow with such urgency .. I really hope you go for this & enjoy it !


I like that, vocal newb without a clue. Might I add that you seem to have a voice. User 2808054 has all the correct answers. Your voice is a muscle, work up gradually. Love what you are doing and it will show when you do it. A vocal coach will show you how to protect your gift, how to breathe properly to conserve energy and to hit the notes with good intonation. Just one other word, prior to singing to your lovely friend, sing to somebody else first, maybe that room mate and you will know where your nervousness will make your singing fail and that knowledge will arm you against doing just that. Your friend will be carried away with your efforts. All the best, and continue to do what you love and love what you do. E


You aren't looking for vocal hints, you're looking for confidence. Maybe your friend's situation will help you find it. We both know that none of the life factors you mentioned have anything to do with vocal technique, don't we?

This really is a classic case of 'just do it'. Get the recording of the song you want to perform. I don't know it, but presumably it has some relevance to you and your friend? Sing along with it. Don't think vocal technique, just imitate. You'll be OK. Give your friend my love.


I've worked as an accompanist for several decades now and many of the most moving and meaningful experiences in that time have involved singers that were far from professionally trained. What you're doing is beautiful regardless of anything. My only suggestion other than the excellent ones above is to try and put yourself in a place of accepting where you are as a singer and performer and not to struggle against it or be unnecessarily apologetic about it. Try to imagine what you want to convey and let your voice do what it naturally does - there is no need to fix it.

Also, and this might sound naïve but it's often useful to imagine as vividly as you can the situation and what you'd like to happen in the "performance". Even experienced musicians can find the transition from what things feel like in practice to what things feels like on any sort of stage to be tricky, so its often useful to simulate that to some degree beforehand. Sing for friends and family before the event.


Echoing Laurence's excellent answer on confidence, what would really help you (if you have time) is to join a community chorus. In my experience the vast majority are...

  • welcoming to inexperienced singers
  • full of people just like you, who have decided (often later in life) to pursue singing
  • ensembles that do NOT require you to audition
  • led by a conductor who will place you where your voice type will be successful

In addition, rehearsals will begin with a lengthy vocal warmup. Not only will this properly prepare your voice for singing, it should have a positive effect on your breathing, overall technique, range, and tone.

You will also meet some wonderful people and they will be great supporters of you.

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