Co-Authored Dena Murray and Hilary Canto:
Part 3 Mastering Listening & Pitch
This is the final part of our 3-part blog on Listening & Pitching. We discussed the essential skills of listening in part 1, the use of tones and airflow in part 2, and now we will discuss matching pitch.
Pitch means to match a frequency or note usually on the pianosing/tone/pitch the exact frequency of the note without going flat or sharp. Lead singing needs perfect pitch for the melody line. Harmony or backing vocals need to be extra good and strong on pitch or everyone will sound out of tune.
The scale and key is really the same thing a singer's key is the octave range or scale of notes that the song is being sung in and most suitable for that singer's voice. You need to know the difference between the major and minor scales. Major scales have a bright, clear happy sound. Minor scales are a softer, sadder sound. Major and minor chords can be brought together in songs to add mood and colour etc. Once you have mastered pitch, it will be easier to move through variations in songs. Good vocal training should extend your range, making it easier to cross over into the different segmented vocal ranges and sing more in the style you like most.
Make sure you are happy with the instrument you use to help in learning how to match vocal pitch. Not everyone can match pitch easily with the piano. Some need strings, e.g., guitar, bass, or harp. The difficulty with matching the pitch of any instrument comes when the instrument is not in tune with your natural frequencies. Each person has a unique resonance and instrument tuning has been standardised into the frequency of A 440hz. This is actually higher than our natural frequencies (F being common) so we have to really listen hard to then match our voice to this pitch. If a singer has a problem with blocked sound memory, he/she won't be able to hear the correct frequencies needed to vocally reproduce that sound. Remember, We can only reproduce what we can hear.
Try mastering continuous octaves first, not just scales in keys from C to C. This will help you find your true voice and resonance. Most people get hung up on C to C. An octave is any 8-note scale/key. You need to have at least a good two octave range before you can start extending that range through vocal exercises and the art of breathing. Once you have at least two octaves of matching pitch, play around with intervals. Solfege is good for this exercise. E.g. do mi mi, mi so so, re fa fa, la ti ti. But also, don't be afraid to get creative. Your own reativity and willingness to play around with exercises will help you gain dexterity, especially with regard to note distances -- where matching pitch becomes an art of its own. Songs are not sung in scale-like exercises. Songs are comprised of different note intervals, which create melodies.
If you are really struggling with hitting a pitch straight off you can bend/slide to a note by using the higher or lower note to hit either. For example, c# to c, or, c to c.
Singing is supposed to be fun. If you over-think and intellectualize too much, you may only find yourself repeating habits that are keeping you from hitting the correct pitches. It will seem hard and leave you feeling hopeless
There are many approaches when it comes to singing and learning how to master pitch. We've shared only a little in our series. Good singing requires lessons. To find the right teacher, you may have try two or three before connecting with one you understand. If seeking a teacher, don't be afraid to tell the teacher you don't understand something. None of us are mind readers. There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you can't even get a grasp of things intellectually, ask yourself this, How will I have that AH HA moment when it physically begins to happen?
We hope we have helped you understand a little more about how to listen and match pitch. Every person is different, so it's important to discuss whatever troubles you have with pitch and tone with your instructor, if you have one. If you don't, and want one, take a look at what TMV has to offer!
1) Listening - You can listen to other singers and their songs of course however if you have a pitch problem these are not likely to help very much. A serious problem may need professional expertise such as hearing tests and/or The Tomatis Method, vocal technique and the art of how to breathe properly for singing songs.
2) Dena Murray teaches in- home and online beginners as well as professionals with her own style technique for correct placement of the voice as well the art of breathing. Books available are: Vocal Technique: Finding your Real Voice (Hal Leonard Corp. 2002), a beginner's book separating the voice before teaching how to bridge the passaggio. Advanced Vocal Technique: Middle Voice, Placement & Styles co-authored with Tita Hutchison (Hal Leonard Publishing 2007) focuses strictly on placement and a unique technical approach to bridging the passaggio.
Vocal Strength and Power: Boost Your Singing with Proper Technique and Breathing to be published By Hal Leonard Publishing, end 2009.
3) Hilary Canto's TRUE VOICE COURSE available to download at, is a teaching guide for your voice where you can join with her and learn how to produce tones, breathe, listen and pitch with step by step exercises to practise. There are back up written sheets too.
For more information on how Hilary teaches go to her TMV profile page and there are two blogs on Freeing the Hearts Voice - Intuitive coaching + Mastering Tones & Resonance in addition to this series Co-Authored with Dena Murray.