The ability to sing on pitch is obviously a critical one for singers. All the style and artistry in the world is of little help if you can’t match pitch. Sure there are famous singers who use the assistance of technology to sound good, but do you want to be that singer?
Before I started learning to sing I thought that I would never be able to match pitch. Most of my early attempts wandered woefully astray. Even though my ears could hear I was wrong, I seemed to be able to do little to get my voice to match what I heard (or thought I heard). Here are three things I wish I knew then.
Lack Of Prephonatory Tuning
Ummm….what? Prephonatory tuning is a fancy way of saying you need to adjust your voice to the pitch before you make a sound.
Phonation – making sound
Tuning – adjustment
All great singers mentally create each pitch a split second before they sing it. They may not be completely conscious of the event, but they are already mentally preparing the adjustments and making them in the microsecond before they sing the note.
Try this exercise:
Go to a keyboard and play a note that is comfortably in your range (not too low or high). Listen carefully to the note and now recreate it in your mind’s ear. Hear that note being played mentally.
Now mentally hear yourself singing the note. Once that is strongly rooted in your mind now go ahead and sing it.
You should find that you have landed squarely, or very close to the pitch.
Repeat this again on random notes for 10 minutes, twice a day. Within a few days you should find that you are able to hit the notes more quickly and accurately. Within a couple of weeks your should be able to match pitch with much more accuracy.
As you increase the range of notes you are singing, correct vowel adjustments become critical.
Your voice has a lower and upper register, usually called chest and head voice. If you try and stay in chest voice on a high pitch that should be in head, you will begin to widen and yell the vowel.
This will cause great stress on your vocal cords and will usually pull the your voice below the pitch, or what is called “flat.” Most singers who are out of tune are pulling chest voice too high and going flat.
Learn to make correct vowel adjustments and you will correctly transition into you head voice on the high notes. This will make singing in tune much easier.
Too Much Air
The speed of airflow through the cords will actually affect the pitch. A faster rate of air flow will cause the pitch to rise.
You can experience this by making a pitch and then pushing your hand on your belly in a pulsing fashion. The pitch will raise with each push.
On higher notes the air won’t raise the pitch quite as obviously, but it can still be enough to push you sharp, or above the intended pitch. This is particularly grating on the listener’s ears.
As a closing point I want to address tone deafness. It is pretty rare, especially cases that cannot be corrected by training. I have yet to find someone who could not learn to match pitch with proper guidance.