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What actually is sing on pitch?

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IamHo
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I know that you have to sing in the same pitch as the song is, but I have listen to a lot of covers in Youtube and all of them sing in different pitch but yet they are still singing on pitch? Does pitch mean the "note" or the frequency which is "volume"? I'm so confuse... please clarify...

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Maybe you're confusing "pitch" and "key"?

Singing in pitch means singing the correct individual notes (not going flat or sharp) as they relate to the key of your song.

So for instance, if you're singing to an instrumental of a song, but the key is too high for you then you'll be singing off key/off pitch throughout the whole piece most likely.

If you're singing in a comfortable key then you should be in key/on pitch throughout the piece, unless you're missing notes here and there, and it that case you'll be off key/off pitch for those specific notes.

I probably made it sound more complicated than it is. :P

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If you sing single notes for example and go through a scale note by note you want to be on pitch. You play a single piano note for each note you sound out. You want to match each piano note. If you don't match the note and either fall flat or go sharp, that is being off pitch. So when you sing you can be perfect throughout the song but be off pitch in a few spots. Now. Those notes in a song have to all be on pitch otherwise you have flat or sharp spots. But. If you take away the music and sing acapella then you still need to be on pitch. A note is a note, always. However without any music you'll never be off key. The key is whatever key you're singing in if there is no backing music. It's just the particular key (of choice) for the song. Add backing music and you and the band/back track must be in matching keys.

Now "key" is a little different. You can sing a whole song on pitch even without music. It will sound good because the pitch is correct, note by note. As and example a C is C when it's supposed to be and not sharp or flat etc. The same holds true for all the notes. So everything can be right and sounding great. Suppose you are singing in the key of E. Wow, sounds great and every note is on pitch. Let's add some music. If the music starts and the band is playing in E then you and the band are in matching Keys and all is well. If, however, the band goofs and plays in C, the you and the band will be in different keys. Your singing may be fantastic and every note pure as the golden sun (on pitch). However it will be out of key (synch) with the band and sound like two different songs.

It can also work the opposite way. The band is in the right key and you are singing the wrong key.

Pitch may be the individual notes while key is the key signature of the song.

Ok, now you can say you're confused :D

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I learned to play "Dust in the Wind" in the key of C, which also happens to match all the notes in the 8-tone chromatic starting at any C in the range. And the relative minor for the key of C is Am. And that is the intro, in a contrapuntal picking strategy, admitted by Kerry Livgren, as a finger exercise he would use to warm up his hands for playing. Now, if I sing or play a note that is not a match to any note in the C scale or the Am scale, that is off pitch, especially if it is slightly off, rather than an intentionally different note to provide an harmonic variance. For example, I go for one of the A4's in that song, and I wind up somewhere between Ab4 and A4, that is off-pitch, specifically flat. Most people singing flat are somewhere between 1/10 to 1/4 flat. Since the majority of humans have relative pitch, the 1/10 or less difference is usually unnoticable.

Now, IamHo, you are asking about people that seem to be singing in a key different than that song. That is, they may have the right notes for the key they are in, which is not matching the key of the song. Like, if you could shut off the music, they would sound okay. Well, I don't know what happened to them then.

But singing on pitch is singing the note, regardless of the key of the song. For example, singing an A4 on pitch is singing or creating a frequency of 440 Hz (cycles per second.) That is regardless of instrument, whether piano, guitar, or voice. A4 is 440 and whatever is creating that A4 is vibrating something, whether a string or vocal folds or the reed on a clarinet at 440 Hz.

It is said that half of singing is good listening. So, get to a point where you can hear well and it will help to inform one's singing.

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To break it down into laymans terms..... Singing on pitch is singing in tune with the music. I have heard people even on this forum. Record their singing without music and then dub the music over their singing. The result is that the The singing does not match the music.

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MDEW I would say that was a Key issue rather than pitch. If it were pitch it would sound off even with no music.

True, I was trying to give the general idea without going into the concept of "Key". It seems that some "Singers" do not look into basic Music theory like beginning musicians would for another instrument.

To convey the idea of singing in tune or on pitch we usually end up describing music theory just to relay what singing in tune means(singing on pitch).

I should have added to the earlier post "without realising that the singing did not match the music".

"Singing on pitch" is singing one particular note within a line matching the same frequency as the other instruments that are sounding that note.

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It seems that some "Singers" do not look into basic Music theory like beginning musicians would for another instrument.

Good point. I would say that it's more than just some. More like most new singers. Aspiring singers seem not to consider the voice another instrument like any other. I think of it as a stringed instrument. :)

I think some basic knowledge of theory, notes and scales, progressions, some guitar and even horns (yea, I said horn. Too much to explain here though) would help vocals so much. Especially with interpretation and phrasing. (Phrasing is why I mention horns).

Good point MDEW

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People will often change the key for a few reasons. For example, say there's a song somebody wants to cover, but while singing along with the original song, it's hard to match the exact notes that the artist is hitting. For their cover, they would change the key to something lower, so that it would be easier to sing.

As for pitch, say you're sitting at a piano. You press one of the C keys, and the sound rings out. You then try to hit that C note with your voice, but it's not exactly right. Something is off. You then try to double-check to see whether or not you properly hit that note by hitting the C key again, and just as you thought, it doesn't sound quite like the sound you made. You end up hitting the key just below that, the B key, and it turns out that the note you hit with your voice was a B instead of C. Your pitch was off. In this case, your pitch was off. More specifically, you were "flat", because you hit the note below the one you were supposed to hit. Had your voice hit a note above the C, you would have been "sharp".

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  • 3 weeks later...

To sing on "Pitch" is to match the frequency of the note. A note can play on any frequency... when your voice is matching that frequency, you are "on pitch". Roughly speaking, "Pitch" and "frequency" are synonymous.

 

Yeah, I think a little science can help. Sound is vibrations, so it is a pulse of of a vibration through the air. Frequency is how close together or how far apart these pulse waves of sounds are. When a sound wave is pulsing faster it makes higher 'frequency' noises.

 

http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/sound/Lesson-2/Pitch-and-Frequency

 

However, not all sound waves are shaped the same.

 

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If anyone has done electronic composition, they would recognize electronic waves, triangle, square, sine, and sawtooth (there are more, but these are the simple ones), Each is a mathematically perfect wave form that can still approximate a 'pitch' but will have a different 'tonality' or timbre.

 

In reality, other acoustical instruments that aren't mathematically designed are way more complex than a single frequency and have a lot of 'overtones' (less dominant frequencies) above the fundamental tone.

 

To me, singing on pitch would be matching the fundamental tone (frequency) of the intended note, the caveat being, no one is ever completely in tune, and they just get close enough, unless they are autotuned by a computer. This is because the wave forms of their voice, will simply not match fundamental tone completely. Another interesting point is all western music is slightly out of tune as sound frequencies couldn't be transposed to different keys if they were 'truly' in tune mathematically. This resulted in a compromise of 'out of tuneness' called equal temperament which is compared to just intonation (perfect tuning, which cannot be transposed). In other words, in order to create perfect harmony mathematically, a higher frequency wave needs to fit mathematically into a lower frequency one at a defined ratio, but these ratios only work for one key. You'd have to retune and even redesign western instruments for every key and never play in another key, to play in tune.

 

 

 

One thing I'm less educated on however, is exactly how overtones play in the human voice. I'd be interested in what a more educated engineer would say about overtones. I've noticed people complain less about pitch when rasp is included even if the fundamental tone is more off key. Rasp to some degree sounds like 'white noise' (think a snare drum's rattle, or the sound a TV makes when it has no signal) with no fundamental frequency, so maybe including an indefinable timbre makes people less 'sensitive' to the tuning of the fundamental. Vibrato also 'fluctuates' a pitch up and down, so the sound is waving in and out of tune in a way that people relate to, where as a 'straight tone' might be more on pitch, but might not communicate emotion as well as waving in and out of tune.

 

Like every instrument, every voice has unique overtones as well. It could have a lot to do with someone hearing a fundamental note on pitch from one singer thinking it is great and hearing a fundamental tone from another singer and think it sounds bad. If not overly trained, they might even think it is off pitch. Often, it is, but sometimes I'll hear a singer that sounds in tune to me, and another person will say it is pitchy. Often their timbre is strange.

 

I know some people like Steven Frasier have made posts in the past that appeared more informed on sound spectrums and formants as it relates to voice. The voice is the most interesting instrument, as some people simply hate oboes. You can define the sound of the oboe, it's a manufactured 'standard' you can benchmark. But every voice is unique and leaves a sonic footprint of its own. So where as someone can point to an oboe and say "I hate the sound of this instrument,' with a voice, they might be more inclined to say "this is a bad voice, this person can't sing" as there is no real benchmark. In reality, there are times that it is just the 'oboe' of voices.

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