While some idols may be among the best singers the world has seen, some idols’ specialties lay outside of being vocalists. Their main role in the group may include dancing and rapping.
Veteran K-Pop vocal coaches Kim Young Min and Lee Gyeol (who have trained idols like SEVENTEEN, NU’EST, Cosmic Girls, and Weki Meki) explained the trick they use to help trainees who aren’t naturally talented vocalists make it through to stardom.
In response to one commenter who said “singing [well] isn’t something you can get by trying hard“, Kim Young Min and Lee Gyeol insisted that theory is “bullsh*t“.
In fact, both vocal trainers revealed that neither of them were born good singers. Kim told viewers he’d practice for 6 hours a day, while Lee practiced for 12 hours a day to get to where he is now. According to them, anyone can become a good singer if they train hard enough.
Everybody has different abilities, so I can’t say how long it’ll take. It could be long, or short, but it’s possible if you try.
— Kim Young Min and Lee Gyeol
Well, almost anyone. One AYO commenter shared the views of another idol trainer with Kim Young Min and Lee Gyeol. According to the commenter, the coach in question revealed it can be hard to get idols from a “zero” level to decent singing, particularly when they passed their audition because of their dancing or visuals.
And, both Kim and Lee agreed—”there are some trainees who are actually ‘zero’“.
Lee Gyeol went on to reveal that companies pressure the vocal coaches a bit when certain trainees don’t seem to be improving their singing skills. So, what do the trainers do to keep their jobs and keep company’s happy when an idol just can’t sing?
According to Kim Young Min, there’s a “small trick” vocal coaches use in these scenarios, and Lee Gyeol explained how it works. First, you find the one song that suits the trainee well—likely a song that fits their range, tone, and overall vibe. Then, you keep it hidden.
[We find] a song that shows the trainee’s strength and covers weaknesses.
— Kim Young Min
K-Pop trainees are regularly evaluated by company higher-ups to see how their skills are faring. According to Lee, only when evaluation time rolls around do they bring out the trainee’s secret weapon song.
Then you go, “He’s good, yeah?” [laughs]
— Lee Gyeol
It seems like this gives the illusion that the trainee has improved and that they have enough singing talent to debut in the future.
When they sing like that, their ability goes up.
— Kim Young Min