A compelling story related to why IFR sings the numbers

Are you still a musician if someone takes your instrument away?

Read the first half of this article for a story and another voice telling us what IFR already tells us


That’s excellent! Thanks for posting. There are many tips here that I can incorporate into my playing to develop musicality.

1 Like

Great article, thanks for posting. I think I’m finally starting to understand how important this skill is. I’m now determined to improve my ability to learn by ear. I usually just grab some sheet music and labouriously work my through it, trying to play from the music. Now, my method is to get a recording, play it, slow it down, break it down, and play what I hear. And as I play it, I sing it. And when I’m away from my instrument, I also try to sing it. I think, if I can’t sing it, I won’t be able to play it. I’ve also tried learning to sing it first, before even trying to play it. Just listening to a song or a phrase, many times and singing from memory before picking up my instrument. It really makes playing a different experience.

Also, I’m really enjoying the recent videos being posted on Sing the Numbers. Singing along with Mireia is really helping with my hearing chord progressions and playing melodies over them. Thank you for making these generally available.

1 Like

I wonder why singing is such an “issue” in western culture. “I can’t carry a tune.” “I have a tin ear.” When I hear this I always think that if Tom Waits can sing… so can you. Same thing with drawing.

Anyway, it’s great to “get over” this stuff and move forward. To be a little bit pithy, there’s world of sounds out there, and can appreciate and use all of it.

That’s a thing that always seemed odd to me. In my case the ‘why’ is quite simple. My teachers way back in early school told me I couldn’t sing (& that in some situations shouldn’t even try). They seemed to be right about plenty of other stuff so I believed them…

Looking back, a really odd thing is that back then right through school from age 5 to 18, aside from a few unusual situations, we started every school day with an ‘assembly’ in which everyone (including me) sung a hymn. However the assumption was that you either “could sing” or you “couldn’t” & those of us who hadn’t cottoned on to the idea that pitch matching was a thing you could learn to do just remained in the “couldn’t” classification. I can only assume that it hadn’t occurred to any of the teachers that it was a learnable skill either!? Given what I’ve learnt about this in the last few years, even just an hour or so of simple tuition could have made a huge difference to my perception of the possible. As it was I didn’t make that leap till I was nearly 60.

The only people who got any help (i.e. tuition) with singing were those who could already do it well enough to be in the choir.


Yes, I agree. And you could say the same about music study in general. If you weren’t considered “musical”, then you were not encouraged to do music.

Singing is such an exposing thing to do, you have to make the sound yourself, rather than using an instrument. I think this adds to revealing nature of singing. But only when you do it in public. Singing on your own as part of your music practice, who cares what it sounds like.


It’s weird right. I spent my life thinking I couldn’t sing. And of course I’m not Ella Fitzgerald. But I can reproduce a melody just fine. I had the same thing in school. Either you where considered ‘musical’ and got extra lessons, or you were not and that meant no extra instruction. Weird stuff. Now when I hear people say about a musician ‘he/she is so talented’, I’m like: Yeah, sure, but they are a craftsman too!

1 Like

Great comment - except i personally think tom waits is an amazing singer! maybe i have a tin ear…:slightly_smiling_face:

Nice to hear stories similar to my own. Definitely a case of " please shut up" which lead me away from singing and subsequently really limited my guitar playing, thinking I could not accompany myself. My friend had no inhibitions and performed whilst I gave up. For me it wasn’t Tom Watts but Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen that made me think its not always the sound but the content. Now at the age of 61 I am struggling with cancer and have a lesion in my pharynx which means I can’t go higher than G before croaking out but am adapting to a lower range and enjoying exploring it with singing the numbers. Think Lee Marvin’s " I was born under a Wondering Star". I am understanding that you don’t need a huge range just the imagination to do something interesting with 7 notes (plus the 5 outriders). Thinking what better rehab could there be for my vocal cords.
Happy Christmas all and may many carols be sung, hummed or numbered.

1 Like

Welcome to the forum. Fair comment. He’s certainly amazing. :slight_smile: I think that at least of the point that @niborsilliw was making, was that there’s scope for a whole range (no pun inteded!) of voices & you don’t need to have an opera star voice to be ‘A Singer’? @AdrianY 's Lee Marvin is another case in point. :slight_smile:

Anyone else here old enough to remember ‘Tiny Tim’ singing ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’?

In Tiny Tim’s case he was ‘putting on’ that voice for effect, and could have sung it in a variety of other registers, but his big success what with a song sung outside many people’s idea of a fine voice.

1 Like

Wishing you tons of luck in 2021, Adrian!

I lurve Tom Waits. But his voice is his own and one could argue that without a little encouragement he could have just not sang. From what I understand the Tom Waits “voice” comes from him channeling his nonfiltered Camel smoking uncle Ray. May he rest in peace. ;O)

Welcome to the Forum!

In the pocket David!