The human voice is capable of producing many different sounds. Singing out of tune means that the note is unintentionally not being sung in recognition to what is expected. I’m pretty sure most of you have heard some excruciating examples of this in many of the TV talent shows out there.
Ideally the singer should be able to hear the note being played and then replicate the note with their voice without sounding too sharp (above the note) or too flat (below the note). Some people are born with an excellent ear for music, but many of us need to learn and practice before it becomes second nature.
You may have come across the term ‘tone-deaf’ and it has been applied to many people who sing out of tune. Actually it is rare for someone to be tone deaf, so perhaps a more appropriate term would be ‘tone-shy’ in that they can hear the note, but are unable to reproduce the sound they hear. All is not lost if you are ‘tone-shy’ as it is possible with time and commitment to learn this. Access to a musical instrument such as a keyboard or guitar will help. Play a note (one that is comfortable for your singing range), then try to sing it back to yourself. Slide your voice up or down until you can hit the right note. Get someone to help you, or record your efforts then listen back to yourself. There’s lots of tuning devices or apps that can help with this too.
- Be critical of your efforts.
- Are you hitting the right notes?
- Are you too sharp/too flat?
Once you have hit the right note. Try again to see if you can get it. Try to feel where the note is coming from. Once you get the hang of that note, move onto a different note and repeat the process.
Yes, it is a bit laborious to begin with, but it will soon become second nature and you will find that you will hit the right notes much quicker.
If you are a more seasoned singer but having some tonal problems, lets look at trying to help solve this. A lot of pitching problems can be sorted fairly easily with regular vocal exercises, and your singing teacher/coach will be able to help you with this. However I’ve tried to explain below some common pitch problems.
Is what you are trying to sing beyond your range? If it’s too high or too low, then try singing in a different key. If the notes are within your range, but it’s not a clean sounding note, then lets look a little further.
If it is a high note that you are struggling with, make sure that you have enough air in your lungs. Picture the note in front of you. It is a note not a mountain. Practice that particular phrase quietly over and over again using narrow vowel sounds such as mee or woo until you get it right. Now introduce your lyrics, quietly at first, and then gradually increase your power as you are more confidence with that phrase. Use the consonant of the lyric to help push yourself up, but beware of adding an extra ‘H” to push it further. Eg ‘You’ becoming ‘Yoo-Hoo’.
Is the tone problem occurring in the middle of your range, in that you can sing above and you can sing below, but somewhere in the middle it just isn’t right. This sounds like it could be your break point (passagio) or middle register. You have two main voice registers – chest and head voice. Basically explained it is where the sound resonates. Low pitches tend to be sung in chest voice and high pitches tend to be sung in head voice. Your break point is somewhere in between these registers. Most people may struggle to sing across this middle register without some vocal training, but it can be resolved fairly quickly and will sound as equally as tonal as the chest or head registers.
If it is a low note that you are struggling with, then you may have a problem anchoring your chest voice, especially if you are coming down from a high note. Practice with exercises that will connect your head voice back into your chest voice. Work your song by substituting the lyrics for hard and wide sounds such as car or go
If its a high note (within your range) that you are struggling with, then work in softer, more narrow sounds such as mee, or woo, as these help drive the sound more into your head voice.
And then when you’ve found the right pitch, re-introduce the lyrics and work some more with these.
Tone and resonance will also help smooth out pitch problems, and this is explained further here.
These are just a few helpful tips to common pitch problems. It is not meant to substitute for the advice of your own singing teacher/coach who can actually hear what the problem is and correct you accordingly.
Singing In Tune