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need help diagnosing pitch issues

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hobbit rock

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Hi. I just joined the forum and could really use some feedback. I feel like I'm running in circles with my quest for pitch accuracy.

Back story- I had an abrupt awakening a couple of years ago in a high pressure recording situation where it was revealed to me that my pitch was less than perfect. The producer tried to take me through the song line by line but I just couldn't hear the problem. My ear was not what it needed to be. So long story short I did some at home ear training exercises and some private vocal lessons. They both helped some but many of the vocal technique concepts did not really click.

Only recently have I begun to find any real resonance in my voice. Same with support. I definitely had been breathing incorrectly for years. So now I find myself at a really frustrating place. I know I have pitch issues. I hear them sometimes quickly enough to correct them on the fly...........but I still don't know........is it my ear? Is it my support? Is it the psychological trauma of having thought i was a good singer and then finding out I was missing the mark?


I recorded this cover song live at home as an example of what an impromptu performance might sound like. I was trying not to overthink it.....not thinking about pitch too much....just letting it be what it was. I sang the same verse twice as a comparison of 2 slightly different approaches.

verse 1- I'm simply singing much in the way I did for years.....too breathy, too throaty, a little more supported but not very connected

verse 2- I applied some of the technique I've learned...more support and resonance. still throaty at times. The fleeting moments when I connect feel great but they sound a bit singery to me. I don't want to dwell on that though because I'm still learning. It's in a low register because many of my original songs are in that range as well.

So, how bad is my pitch? does it sound like a breath support issue or does my ear just really suck? or both?

I only have so much time to work on voice so I don't want to waste a bunch of time doing ear training if that's not my problem. I'm looking for the answers anywhere I can find them and trying to remain teachable. Thanks in advance.

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You're not alone. The best aid i've found, and the fastest fix, is to take your normal singing "style" (be it wrong or not) and use a tuner to drill that specific coordination tostay in pitch. I, for example, find it difficult to stay on pitch singing with a lot of edge. If i soften/darken/dampen the sound the pitch corrects, but then I'm not sounding as good as I could were I singing with the "correct" configuration.

So if you're stuck in a rut, use a tuner to calibrate yourself (train your ear), and if you've got the tenacity, take some lessons and find out what you're doing wrong if you can't diagnose your own voice. :)

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I didn't hear anything that really bugged me. It was very heartfelt, and I wanted to listen to the whole thing. A lot of samples on hear I get sick of and turn off, but this held my attention. It reminds me a lot of Springsteen.

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I did not notice too much pitch problems in this song. What I did notice is that you picked a Low Quiet Soft song. Because you are singing this quiet and kind of whispery it takes more air to get the vocal cords flowing. This in itself can pull you off pitch.

Is that your style for all songs?

Even though this is a soft reflective song it does not need to be sung in a whisper. It can be with a matter of fact feel. Stating boldly "I raised a lot of cane in my yonger days". That way you may not feel the need to sing it softly. Once you get the pitch nailed down then you can start making it lighter as far as volume is concerned.

Merle Haggard sang this a little higher also. Lower notes are a little harder to keep the pitch centered.


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Thanks for all the replies.

Khassera- I appreciate the solidarity. Good to know I'm not alone. I have taken some lessons and they've helped. I've messed around with "centering the pitch" exercises but find them frustrating.....like some sort of bizarre water torture. I need to be more patient. I also worked with a pitch matching program online and had the best results when singing the notes back in either a very quiet falsetto-y tone or strangely enough by phonating a really nasal closed vowel eeee sound. My pitches were far less accurate when I made more usable sounds. Weird.

Seth- Thanks for the compliment. Much appreciated. I went to your band page. Sounds really good. Give my props to the piano player. Great melodic choices.

Phil- Thanks for the insight. Just today I started messing around with the vowel mods in this lower register. I had only been thinking about vowel mods in relation to higher register stuff but it seems it can be useful (for me at least) even down in the A3-D4 range. From B3- D4 is where I find that if I start to place the sound a little bit behind the cheekbones it starts to feel more controlled. Don't know if I'm starting to bridge way too early or what but this is the area that a lot of melody exists in my original stuff.

MDEW- Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I agree the pitch is not wildly out. But it is out enough that I'm bothered by it and want to remedy it. There are 2 reasons the song was done the way it was-

1) I've always thought there was a real sense of resignation and despair in that lyric. Sure-he's an outlaw...but he's on the run. A totally lonesome existence.

2) More importantly though, this version pretty accurately reflects the tempo, register and emotional slant of some of my original tunes and I'm not ready to post any of those. So this one's sort of standing in. And yes, I dropped the key a whole step or so just to keep the melody completely within my comfortable lower range.

CunoDante- Thanks for listening. I was working with a book called Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician. It came with CDs and there is a lot of interval training but it's all interval recognition. No singing. I heard of another book that teaches Ear Training in a different way....all built around a key center. As a guitarist, that's more the way I think. As for the energy thing- I hear you on that but there's gotta be a way to sing light and quiet and still nail the pitches right? This is what I'm wondering about the whole support thing. Should I be fully supported even if I'm going for a more restrained vocal? I'm just still not sure I'm engaging the proper abdomen muscles. That's what I'm trying to figure out. Sometimes I hear a note come out a little flat and I sort of adjust my stomach muscles and it slides into the right pitch. And then sometimes I think I'm breathing low and engaging the right muscles and I realize all I'm doing is sticking my stomach out and I actually haven't taken a breath at all!

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I really did understand why you were taking that approach in the song and yes it does bring the emotion into the song more. I really liked the way you sound in it. Still when singing in the lower realm and being soft you actually need more support than singing a few pitches higher just like you do when singing above the bridge.

A few reason for this is because you are singing in a passaggio area, you are loosing air because of the breathy, whispery effect and you still need enough air pressure to move the cords.

Another thing about modifications; because the different vowel sounds are do to harmonics of overtones(a chord). The fundamental pitch can be perfect but the overtones that make up a vowel can be "Off" modifying can be viewed as retuning that one string on the guitar that is out and making the whole chord sound off pitch.

If you play guitar I can assume that you understand the idea I am proposing.

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Your intonation is actually quite excellent. It's just that sometimes it takes you a few milliseconds to find that pitch - but when you find it you are very accurate. So yeah, I agree with Dante. It is not an ear thing so much as a technique problem. You need to be able to hear the pitch in your mind and then sing the pitch instantly. This may take a lot of practice.

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no this is incorrect. there is no need to modify vowels down that low.

Except in singing if you want to. But it's purely a tonal choice and you shouldn't have to rely on it to assist pitch and technique. Vowel mods for a different purpose.

You should be able to sing any pitch in your comfortable range, hold it out and go through every vowel, or recite a sentence on that pitch, without the pitch changing. If there are pitch issues there then it's the vowels screwing you up for sure. If not there may be another cause.

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