Common Vocal Problems Q&A
Singing in tune, Singing on Key, Singing on Pitch, Singing the Correct Notes
What do these terms even mean?
The "Pitch" or the "Note" refers to the highness or lowness of the sound. On the spectrum of high and low sounds, a low sound could be a fog horn and a high sound could be a dog whistle. The Key refers to the particular set of notes that are used in a specific song. To sing in tune is even more specific. One can try to sing the notes in the song's key but if one note is just a little lower or higher than prescribed, this variance can change the song and even the quality of its performance. While all of these terms may have slightly different meanings they are usually referred to mean the same thing: to sing the notes in the song absolutely correct.
Why is "singing in tune" important?
Because singing in tune separates the singers that we want to listen to from the ones we don't. As mentioned previously, a note that is just a little higher or lower than the note meant to be sung can ruin an entire performance.
How do I know if I am singing out of tune?
The best way to know if you are singing out of tune is to seek out the instruction of a voice teacher. Voice teachers have been trained to listen and understand the nuances of singing precisely in tune. Another way to test your sense of pitch is by consulting a friend or musical confidant. While someone with some musical training may be able to tell you if you are singing out of tune they may or may not be able to help you fix the problem. Another option you may have tried without meaning to is getting direct feedback from family or peers that have told you that your pitch is off. Like a musical confidant, they may be able to point it out but you might still struggle with pitch as friends and family members have not necessarily been vocally trained. A common option is to test your sense of pitch with various music and singing apps and karaoke softwares. A popular app available on the apple store is called SingTrue. In the Pitch module in the app click on the voice section to listen to a pitch and then sing it so the app can test your accuracy. However, these apps cannot test the accuracy of the pitches across the whole span of your voice. For example, you might have low notes that are very much in tune but the high notes in your voice maybe underdeveloped and sound under the pitch when you sing them. The opposite can also be true if your high notes are more developed, and low notes are under developed. Another issue could be that you may be able to hear certain pitches more easily in one part of your voice versus another. Pitch issues can vary from one singer to another and a good voice teacher is trained to help you identify the pitch problems you may be having. Having a voice teacher helps to lessen the time it would take to figure out such things on your own.
How can I learn to sing in tune?
While you maybe able to train yourself to sing in tune with the help of piano or apps, it is always best to learn with a voice teacher. A voice teacher will be able to assess your aptitude so that you will know exactly what to work on.
What can I expect the learning process to be like when working with Rebecca Johnson
As your voice teacher, I will assess what you specifically need to work on and will assign you exercises to improve your weakness in this area. If for example you are able to match pitch to one note on the piano but not the others, I will practice musical scales with you starting on the note that you hear best. If you have difficulty hearing certain notes in the scale we will break down the scale into musical intervals and tune each note accordingly. When teaching my students scales I use the musical language known as solfege: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do. There are two types of solfege, fixed and moveable, but I use moveable. For my students that sing occasionally in monotone I will have them recite a text to increase the variety of pitches they use so that nothing is on a single pitch. Increasing this pitch variety in speech can drastically improve a student's hearing while singing. With my students that occasionally sing under pitch I employ a lot of humming. In my teaching I like to hum on M's or N's for pitch accuracy. I will also have my students hum on pitches that are close in proximity in case a note needs to be tuned to a higher frequency or a lower frequency. In addition to helping my students cultivate a more musically trained ear, I also teach my students to strengthen all the areas of the voice so that pitches that may not have been accessible are now tuned perfectly. These are only a select few of the many tricks I have up my sleeve to help you sing precisely in tune.
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