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Anyone have any tricks to staying on pitch while singing?

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Fourth time is a charm?

How do you know you're off pitch? Can you hear it yourself, do other people tell you or do you use pitch detection software? (Just trying to figure out if it anything physical or mental not related to your actual voice.)

Without any more information I have only two pieces of advice

1) keep singing and don't be afraid of hitting bad notes. I have a good sense of pitch, but I still cringe slightly at recordings of myself - because I do miss.

2) get a vocal coach if you don't have the patience to learn the hard way. The good ones can find the source of the problem and give you tools to work it out. (Unless you're tone deaf or vocally impaired in some rare way. "Always sometimes falling flat" seems to indicate you aren't just producing random notes and changing them in the general direction of the tune.)

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I think most people tend to sing flat, especially if they have to hold a note out. Work on staying up and being able to know the moment you start to dip down. Aiming high, whether in pitch or vocal tract/head visualization seems to help me from dipping down into being flat.

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Singing in-tune with an external pitch reference, for example, accompanyment, is a learned skill. It gets better with practice. The singer does four things at once: 1) hearing the accompanyment, 2) imagining the notes to be be sung in the tuning of the accompanyment, 3) producing the notes that have been imagined, and 4) making corrections as they are needed.

Of these, I think 2 and 4 are the most critical, especially 2. If the note is imagined out-of-tune, it will not be accurate. Certain intervals also tend to be thought flat of what they need to be... descending minor 3rd, descending minor 2nd, ascending major 2nd... these are challenging for all singers of all ages and experience.

In my experience, the best exercises for developing pitch accuracy are those in which the singer practices intonation with a fixed pitch reference, a drone. The first skill is to learn to intone the very same note that is in the accompanyment, and to learn to recognize what 'in tune' sounds like.

I've told this story here before, but it bears repeating. When I was in college, on occasion I would sing into the heater fan in my dorm room. It was a constant, 120Hz hum, which I found very boring and irritating, until I realized that it was absolutely constant.. and that I could sing long tones with it and hear the different kinds of interference that would result when things were in-tune, and out-of-tune.

These days, I recommend that the student get a cheap digital keyboard, select the pipe organ flute patch, and stick a midrange note down with folded paper between the keys. The note will play forever, and the singer can then listen to the interaction of the drone and their voice. Small adjustments in vocal intonation make obvious differences in the blend of the sounds. When the notes are not matching, there are beats (sounding like volume-wahs), which occur at the frequency of the difference between the drone note and the sung one. The closer the singer gets to the drone note, the _slower_ the beats get. When the beats slow and disappear... then the singer is so close to the drone note that no listener would be able to call it out-of-tune, even if it was just a teeny bit.

Once a drone note can be matched, then the next interval to tune is the perfect 5th, 7 half steps above or below the drone. When these are in-tune, they sound so pure as to be thrilling... and when they are out-of-tune, they are jar your bones.

With these kinds of focused exercises, about 30 mins a day for a week will begin to make a difference in the singer's hearing and ability to match pitch. I think in a month or 6 weeks of that level of daily practice opens up the singers musical ear and ability to match tones in a manner that no other intonation exercises will.

I hope this helps.

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