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How to help a singer as an instrumentalist?

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DeadAim

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Hey guys, sorry if the title is a bit misleading but I couldn't think of a better way to phrase it.

Long story short I am a bass/classic guitar player and my girlfriend is a singer who is currently in a singing competition. She is a purely self taught singer but has (to my ears) really nice timbre and has a contralto singing range, however since I've been playing instruments for a while and played in a lot of cover bands I have a developed a fairly decent musical ear and can hear when instruments/voices are out of tune.

She had a tough round right now and her singing was pretty pitchy at lots of parts throughout the song, this isn't exactly new, first time I ever heard her sing she had moments of brilliance and other moments where things just didn't sound clean to me or slightly off, and I know if she could clean up her singing she would be much much better and have a good shot at making it far in this contest.

Where we currently live there are literally 0 singing coaches/teachers and I would really like to help her improve her intonation at the very least, is there anyway as a musician who has close to 0 experience at singing I can help aside from just being supportive or blurting out things like "that didn't sound right"?

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Hey DeadAim,

There are a TON of things she can do about this challenge, only a couple of things you can do about it. Your real dilemma is more of an issue of your rapport with her as a singer and a friend. It's great that you are trying to do this carefully by inquiring in this forum. If you really believe in her voice, there are remedies. It's so easy to unintentionally offend in this scenario that you will need some effective tools for avoiding that result. 

- there's some good ideas out there about how to go about engaging in this discussion with your lead singer.

read a few posts/articles on giving constructive criticism, I read through a few to find one I thought was decent (linked below).

http://lifehacker.com/5915687/how-to-give-criticism-without-sounding-like-a-jerk

Here's a thread Ronws posted here in the Modern Vocalist World:

- Regarding practical suggestions on how she can train her voice to increase her sense of relative pitch:

Not much hope can be pinned on your success in this endeavor unless ultimately, she is willing to spend a few hours a week training. This will be the conclusion that is best for her to make (rather than for you to suggest), as you refer her to certain ideas she can review.

you have quite a resource here at TMVW you could refer her to.

Several awesome Voice Coaches roam the halls of this forum and may post some more choice morsels of advice for you here AND, can possibly point her to their training system for developing relative pitch. However, often, it's unlikely that for her to myopically focus on relative pitch training is the solution.

Several aspects of singing impact pitch, a holistic approach would be to, at minimum, have a consultation/evaluation with a coach. A good voice coach can put together a complete training regimin that customizes her training for ALL aspects of her voice. One does not need to take endless lessons, especially if the coach she is working with has a home training system. This would achieve faster results! Personally, I'm a student of Robert Lunte and can vouch for him as one of these coaches who can do this for her! 

Good Luck Deadaim, I hope this helps some!

k

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/28/2016 at 1:00 PM, DeadAim said:

Hey guys, sorry if the title is a bit misleading but I couldn't think of a better way to phrase it.

Long story short I am a bass/classic guitar player and my girlfriend is a singer who is currently in a singing competition. She is a purely self taught singer but has (to my ears) really nice timbre and has a contralto singing range, however since I've been playing instruments for a while and played in a lot of cover bands I have a developed a fairly decent musical ear and can hear when instruments/voices are out of tune.

She had a tough round right now and her singing was pretty pitchy at lots of parts throughout the song, this isn't exactly new, first time I ever heard her sing she had moments of brilliance and other moments where things just didn't sound clean to me or slightly off, and I know if she could clean up her singing she would be much much better and have a good shot at making it far in this contest.

Where we currently live there are literally 0 singing coaches/teachers and I would really like to help her improve her intonation at the very least, is there anyway as a musician who has close to 0 experience at singing I can help aside from just being supportive or blurting out things like "that didn't sound right"?

Speaking from experience.  Not able to hear pitch correctly is a fairly major flaw in singing and like everything else work needs to be put into it.  It is an extremely humbling experience for a singer to make all these good progress only to be told that "you are pitchy".  Feels like knives thrust into your heart.  It has happened with me. What you are describing with respect to "Moments of brilliance" is very characteristic of an untrained singer.  Only with effort and practice will she be able to improve this.  Professionals are professionals not because they do the incredible(which they do), but they make very very less mistakes..  

If she has pitching issues heading into competition, she will likely not make it very far(although you can sing really familiar songs and that helps to a certain extent).  That is ok.  Pitch issues can definitely be corrected, but they take time.  It took me more than a year to improve my pitching issues.  A lot of pitching issues are because of technique, but the main cause of pitching is because the ears of the singer are not trained(most untrained singers do not know what this means).  She needs to put effort in three places

1.  Your girlfriend needs to put in the effort to ear train and practice relative pitch.  There are many many resources that can help here.  My best suggestion would be to recommend this amazing software called Functional ear trainer.  If she spends a few months with it, it will really really improve her ability to sing on pitch.  When she reaches an advanced level she will be able to make out the melody in her head in form of relative notes.  When you reach that stage, you know that your sense of relative pitching is good.  

2.  To improve the ability to match pitch with instrument, she can practice with another instrument preferably with long sustain, like a drone or a piano with sustain pedal.  She needs to practice with a note and try to match the frequency exactly.  

3.  Practice listening.  Listening is a learned skill.  The more you do "active listening" the more your pitch will improve.  This is why some people are able to spot pitch issues and others can't.  You need to listen a lot

All of these can be done by her without any coach(although a coach will really help expedite the process).  If she can get access to classical teachers, they can help with these issues. 

I have done a lot of all three and my ears have improved a great deal.  But, these exercises need time.  Sorry there is no shortcut to improve pitching issues.  But it is a learned skill and not a "gift", so the more one works on it, the better it gets. 

Hope this helps

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