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A hopeless case.

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DanJT
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Hello all, and thanks for reading,

Some time ago I bought a ukulele and I’ve been practicing a fair bit. I’ve really come to enjoy playing it and recently decided it would be even more enjoyable if I could sing the songs I play as well. I have no desire or ambition to become a singing star, but I would just like to be able to sing without anyone calling the police about noise complaints.

I know that I have a fairly low-pitched, loud, and far-reaching monotone talking voice and that my singing voice is just as monotone and really awful to listen to. For this reason I decided to look up some tips and exercises to improve my vocal range, of which the Internet is all but devoid. The problem I’m finding is that all these ‘tutorials’, if you will, tell you to do and practice things I simply do not understand. For example, I’ve recorded myself ‘singing’ the do-re-me-etc. thingy, which is supposed to help you determine your vocal range. But it just all sounds the same – there is no variation in pitch when I say or ‘sing’ these things (not as far as I can tell at least). I simply do not know how to do it, and when I do try to sing or say something in a high-pitched voice, it doesn’t even sound human. It just makes me cringe of shame listening to myself talk, even worse listening to myself hopelessly trying to produce different vocal pitches.

By analogy, I feel like online tutorials explain to me how to paint by providing drawing exercises, without first telling me how to handle pencil and paper or paintbrush and canvas. They tell me to exercise my voice, but I do not know how to use it in any other way than to produce monotone speaking vocals.

My question to you, some more experienced people out there, is this: is there any hope for me? And if so, what would you recommend for me to do? I’ve read that practically anyone can learn to sing at least decently, but I’m starting to think that I am not included in this group called ‘anyone’ – which, in this case, is not something I’m very happy about.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read!

Dan.

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First thing is; TONE and Pitch are 2 different things. Pitch is the frequency of the note( high or low, very basic definition). Tone is quality of sound(rough,smooth, gritty, light, airy....).

The main thing to work on is matching PITCH. On you Ukulele strike the biggest string, then strike the second biggest string. the difference in sound there is pitch.

When you first work on the Do, Re, Me you are working on the small adjustments of matching pitch.

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Thank you for clearing that up MDEW. I've edited my original post, replacing 'tone' with 'pitch'.

I'm still entirely clueless though as to how to practice matching pitch. I hardly understand what you're saying. Matching pitch with what? How can I tell if my pitch is 'right' or 'wrong', if these terms even apply? I can't tell any pitches or notes apart from each other without knowing which strings I'm striking on my uke. I've also read that when practicing, one needs to try and match notes from an instrument. How does that even work? Vocals and ukulele strings produce entirely different sounds. How could you even compare the two?

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You match pitch with the melody you are singing. Melodies are made of notes of different pitches. The notes that are used depend on the SCALE (Do,Re, Mi...) The scale depends on the KEY you are playing in...... Chords are made by a combination of pitches (From the same scale) sounding at the same time.

Confused yet? :o Look up basic music theory.

Lets say you are singing Mary had a little lamb in the KEY of C. The melody would be made from the notes C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C The pitches that you match would be......E,D,C,D,E,E,E,D,D,D,E,G,G.......

First just try to match your voice to different notes on the ukulele. Maybe even just sing one note and keep striking different notes on the ukulele until you find one that seems to match the note you are singing and start your do, re, mi scale from there.

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It's so simple, find a vocal teacher, they are almost always happy to give you

a free evaluation lesson. Yes, you can do it with Skype over your computer, but

there are almost always local teachers and being in a room with someone is SO

much nicer.

You say you want to sing, so challenge your fears, and do this, all your questions

will be answered :)

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Hi, well its hard to say from just text.

Lets say that you try to mimic what I did here:

https://app.box.com/s/j3e0r5emhj6oa5oy52zr

(on the ones just with the piano), how do you feel about it? (do try to mimic)

This is an interval jump, a major third. From C to E.

If you want record your attempt somehow and send it over.

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First just try to match your voice to different notes on the ukulele. .

That sounds easy, and it is, for experienced musicians.

But matching pitch to different timbres is a learned skill and one with which many people have difficulty.

A story from church: no organist was present, the pastor wanted us to sing a new hymn, he outlined the melody on the organ. Then he started singing, and being a high tenor he sang it about a fourth above what he played and nobody in the congregation could do it.

I turned to a good singer in my pew and asked, "how is that even possible? He played the right notes, and sang something completely different?" She said, "I can't do it either. I can't match pitch to the organ."

Inexperienced people can usually match pitch to another voice. They can sometimes match pitch to the piano, because we hear that done so often. And it often stops right there. Violin? Trombone? Not a chance. Ukulele? probably not, and that very well may be the problem.

It can be learned, and it isn't even all that hard, but you have to start somewhere and expand your range.

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That sounds easy, and it is, for experienced musicians.

But matching pitch to different timbres is a learned skill and one with which many people have difficulty.

A story from church: no organist was present, the pastor wanted us to sing a new hymn, he outlined the melody on the organ. Then he started singing, and being a high tenor he sang it about a fourth above what he played and nobody in the congregation could do it.

I turned to a good singer in my pew and asked, "how is that even possible? He played the right notes, and sang something completely different?" She said, "I can't do it either. I can't match pitch to the organ."

Inexperienced people can usually match pitch to another voice. They can sometimes match pitch to the piano, because we hear that done so often. And it often stops right there. Violin? Trombone? Not a chance. Ukulele? probably not, and that very well may be the problem.

It can be learned, and it isn't even all that hard, but you have to start somewhere and expand your range.

Part of the process is separating tone and timbre from pitch. If all you have is a Ukulele that is what you use.

I agree that it is usually easier to match pitch using a piano. It may be because the piano (in the voice range) has more over tones and a richer timber than other instruments.

What probably tripped up the paster is that he is used to singing the Tenor part which would be a 3rd or 4th above the melody line. He was singing his "Part" not necessarily the Lead Melody line.

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I can't tell any pitches or notes apart from each other without knowing which strings I'm striking on my uke.

This is what strikes me as interesting. Are you saying that you cannot tell one note from another? That you know you are playing a song because of the finger positions that you are doing on the fret board, and strumming with the other hand? But otherwise, it simply sounds like a series of, what? taps, plunks, thumps, like fingers drumming on a desk?

I ask because such a description is one of the signs of actually being tone-deaf. Most people who think they are tone-deaf are not. For example, if you have a door chime and most simple chimes have two notes ("ding, dong") and most people can hear the two different pitches. Are you unable to hear these? If so, you may actually have a physical problem that would need the diagnosis of a medical professional. Of which I am not.

Anyway, as far as not having luck from youtube vids, I could suggest getting a singing teacher. That way, if they express a concept, they can also make the sound and let you know when you are also making the sound correctly.

Also, we have no way to judge, other than by your words in this interesting conundrum, what your voice actually sounds like. So, yeah, it would be helpful to hear a sound file of what you are talking about. And it doesn't have to be high-tech. Some of the more advanced members here have recorded something on their phone while in the car to express an idea or exercise they are working on.

People here love to help but one sound file could speak better than volumes of text and bandwidth.

And you can use an easy filesharing site like box dot com. Free 10 meg storage.

Edited to add: and don't worry about being "judged harshly" for your voice. I bet I have been ripped harder than you will be.

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If you cannot distinguish between pitches, How do you tune your Yukulele? And do you know the pitch that is associated with the thickest string? and which notes name the other strings?

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Many people do not have relative pitch perception developed. I know a very capable guitarrist that has a similar issue (or had, he was exactly working on it when we talked about it).

Its not hopeless, just will take some work. In any case, if the sample I sent is already complex for you, either lessons or get a musician friend to help you experiment. I recommend simple 2 notes interval jumps for starters.

GL!

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Thank you all very much for the helpful replies!

I've been reading up on some basic music theory and things are starting to make more and more sense. Surprisingly enough, understanding a bit of theory has given me a lot of confidence in improving by practice - the feeling of "ah, now I see!".

To answer some questions: I do in fact hear a difference between notes on my ukulele (how could one not?), but I cannot tell if one is higher or lower than the other. Nor can I hear that two notes are the same if I strike them an octave apart. Nor can I tune my ukulele by listening to tuned ukulele online. I use a tuner to do this. Sometimes I'll be surprised by how far it's out of tune when I haven't tuned it in a while - I wouldn't even have noticed.

I think I'll start with some practicing to develop relative pitch - there's plenty of tips online for how to practice this. And Phil's idea of a chromatic tuner sounds very helpful too. I hope, ronw, that you don't mind if I pass on your offer to listen to my voice, for now.

Again, thanks for all your replies!

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The way to start hearing the difference in different pitches and the "Sameness" in pitches that are an octave apart is to start listening for it. Active listening. Use a tuner to make sure that your instrument is tuned correctly. Get an electric piano of some sort, even if it is a toy for a few dollars. Play the same note on your Yuke and the piano, listen for the similarities. It takes a while when first starting. Just like when you were younger and first learning colors but it will come. You have to train your hearing also and learn what to listen for.

Start on the thickest string on your yuke. Compare it to the next string. Strike the thickest string first fret. Compare it to the next string (open not fretted). Strike the thickest string second fret, Compare it to the next string(Open, not fretted)..... eventually you will find a fretted note that sounds like the next thickest string. If the yuke is tuned correctly both tones will sound the same.

If you are learning to play the yuke you should get a book. Apply some of the same concepts to your voice.

I am glad the basic musical theory idea is helping you out.

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Hello all, and thanks for reading,

Some time ago I bought a ukulele and I’ve been practicing a fair bit. I’ve really come to enjoy playing it and recently decided it would be even more enjoyable if I could sing the songs I play as well. I have no desire or ambition to become a singing star, but I would just like to be able to sing without anyone calling the police about noise complaints.

I know that I have a fairly low-pitched, loud, and far-reaching monotone talking voice and that my singing voice is just as monotone and really awful to listen to. For this reason I decided to look up some tips and exercises to improve my vocal range, of which the Internet is all but devoid. The problem I’m finding is that all these ‘tutorials’, if you will, tell you to do and practice things I simply do not understand. For example, I’ve recorded myself ‘singing’ the do-re-me-etc. thingy, which is supposed to help you determine your vocal range. But it just all sounds the same – there is no variation in pitch when I say or ‘sing’ these things (not as far as I can tell at least). I simply do not know how to do it, and when I do try to sing or say something in a high-pitched voice, it doesn’t even sound human. It just makes me cringe of shame listening to myself talk, even worse listening to myself hopelessly trying to produce different vocal pitches.

By analogy, I feel like online tutorials explain to me how to paint by providing drawing exercises, without first telling me how to handle pencil and paper or paintbrush and canvas. They tell me to exercise my voice, but I do not know how to use it in any other way than to produce monotone speaking vocals.

My question to you, some more experienced people out there, is this: is there any hope for me? And if so, what would you recommend for me to do? I’ve read that practically anyone can learn to sing at least decently, but I’m starting to think that I am not included in this group called ‘anyone’ – which, in this case, is not something I’m very happy about.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read!

Dan.

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