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Does thinking change pitch?

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showtunesongbird
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I've noticed that when I sing actually thinking about staying on pitch, I'm slightly sharp and occasionally flat, but when I just sing without thinking and just feeling, I'm on pitch perfectly. I've always been told by my choral directors that thinking is extremely important. I'm not sure if this means I'm doing it right or wrong. I'm a little perplexed as to how this works now.

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Emotional state greatly affects your singing.If you connect with the rhythm,and feel the song,you wont get nervous on how you perform.Just stay relaxed and feel the song,that is the beauty of it after all ;)

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with singing there has to be a right balance of thinking and feeling. over thinking any aspect of singing usually results in it going wrong in someway. i also think it depends on the situation. it can be helpful to think about things from a technical standpoint when your learning technique or going through a song, working bits out here and there but when it comes to actually performing then, from the thinking youve done just like from the technique practice youve done you can just rely on feeling and getting in to the experience of it.

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"Good singers sing and listen, great singers listen....then sing

My father was a jazz musician who played a lot of rock sessions and tours. He never really liked rock, simply because he felt they usually were not particularly good musicians. He was always on about rock musicians dont listen to each other. For years I was always listening to the people I was playing (guitar) with more than myself and only after about 15 years of playing did I start to listen to myself. I immediately became better when I began paying attention to my own sound. That quote is a confusing concept.

Dad on sax ;) :

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This is no different than an athlete's thinking, and being less capable and fluid when doing so. When I was growing up, athletic coaches would always say something like "Don't think". This is partially right.

My opinion is when one is thinking about staying on pitch, one's mind tends to try to force certain muscles and one's body to do some thing. Problem is there are too many muscles to pay attention to, and certain muscles are over-strained and others loose as a result of this focused attention to something. Most of the time, this is due to certain muslces already out-of-tone prior to singing. Holistic means everything at once, and thinking and muscle tone is generally not holistic in most people.

This can be subtle in its effects. My belief is that depending on your body's alignment and muscle tone, your self hearing can even be affected (one of the blogs from a famous teacher supports this). I'll make a further claim that the alignment and muscle tone can even mentally affect one's total hearing (I'll support this in ZenSinging.org). This is such that, as some people are thinking, surprisingly, they can actually be not hearing correctly (I know, probably an unusual conclusion).

Just as many athletes are able to think and be fluid, so many singers are able to think and easily be on pitch.

Anyhow, to get to a short suggestion, rather than the convulted hypothesis in the above paragraph,-- try this as a temporary treatment.

Before each phrase of the song, mentally decide what pitch you're going to sing it at. Your thinking has to make all kinds of adjustments for this process--acoustics of the room, who you are singing next to, timbre, etc. Then initiate the phrase without thinking. Next phrase, mentally adjust pitch prior.

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I've never really had a problem with pitch. If Im flat or sharp, its usually through carelessness or because I havent sung for a long time and everythings rusted up. Pulling chest was/is my big problem. I think having fairly good knowledge of where everything is on a guitar neck, the dominant, sub dominant, automatically visualizing every semi note as a fret, etc, is very helpful.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is a great Clint Eastwood quote regarding over thinking about what you're doing artistically - "never get caught in the paralysis of analysis". So true.

Think of The Beatles singing to 55,000 people at Shea Stadium - a STADIUM full of non-stop screaming girls, a PA system rated at about 1000 watts by today's standards - NO MONITORS and NO SOUNDCHECK. Yet they were able to sing on pitch and nail their harmonies. How?

Easy...it was confidence. (and to a slighter degree muscle memory from years of singing almost every day for months on end)

half the battle of singing on key/pitch is hearing the note a fraction of a millisecond before you sing it. Its like a weightlifter who envisions himself already completing the lift as he grasps the barbell in his hands. Its a mental psych-out.

another great example is Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trench in "Star Wars" - as Luke approaches his target he turns off his computer and trusts his own instinct to fire the shot. He "sees" his action before he makes it and lets his brain tell his muscles what to do. He lets himself "go" and in one fell swoop the Death Star is dust.

Anyone believe Bono is up on stage thinking about his vocals? Nope. He just lets himself go and lets his brain and body connect and guide him. It actually takes practice to be able to let go of the apprehension and doubt but it mostly comes with confidence. Tiger Woods envisions himself making the shot before he swings the golf club and then lets his brain guide his muscles.

Confidence comes from knowing your foundation/technique is sound. Once your technique is sound you can let the music take you - or as athletes call it "get in the zone". "The zone" is a perfect connection between mind and body. Trusting Yourself.

I remember in school my teachers would often say for tests to avoid correcting yourself as "your first answer is the usually right one". Same concept.

I hate to admit I read it or advocate "Dianetics" because I think the rest of Scientology is dangerous, but part of the overall concept of "Dianetics" is silencing the "reactive mind". That part of you that gets "caught in the paralysis of analysis". Instinct is your best ally. Your "little voice". Your "Spider sense".

Singing is all about letting go. Even if you hit a bum note, if the feeling is there and its true, audiences won't even notice. They'll be too engaged in your performance. I have seen many a blues singer hit some questionable notes but the feeling behind it was true, it actually added to the performance.

Let go and your mind and body will connect. When that happens, sharp or flat won't matter. You'll be "in the zone" and oddly enough you'll find yourself singing on pitch.

Its not magic - its trusting in yourself.

Kevin Richards

www.rockthestagenyc.com

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I'm working on ear training myself, and it seems like a very difficult issue to tackle so I invented something myself for it. If you have a piano or a guitar or whatever instrument play a major 7 arpeggio like C, E, G, B, G, E, C

twice in a row...the first time you sing through the scale slide on it without hitting any individual notes and then the second time slowly slide into each individual note until you are perfectly on pitch...the best tone to use for this is a Sine Wave or Sine Lead which is found on most keyboards...why does this work?

Since we go a note below the octave it tricks our brains into feeling the note as lower so we don't strain or pull up as we go higher...second the sliding action helps us feel what it is like to slide into notes so that if we hold a note on pitch and we are slightly off (you hear a pulsating sound) you can slightly slide into it...the reason we use a sine wave is because it has no overtones and we can hear the pulsating very clearly

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Since we go a note below the octave it tricks our brains into feeling the note as lower so we don't strain or pull up as we go higher...second the sliding action helps us feel what it is like to slide into notes so that if we hold a note on pitch and we are slightly off (you hear a pulsating sound) you can slightly slide into it...the reason we use a sine wave is because it has no overtones and we can hear the pulsating very clearly

Frank: When there are strong overtones present, the pulsing of the constructive/destructive interference is very easily heard, and for fine gradations of tuning, IMO more useful than the sine wave. The reason is very direct:

Out-of-tune overtones beat faster than the beats between the fundamentals.

As an example drawn from your quote above, as you tune your sung fundamental closer to the sine, the pulses slow to the difference between the two frequencies. Its been my experience that it is very challenging for a singer to hear beats when the differences approach 1 cycle per second, which result in 1 slow beat per second betwen fundamentals. However, if both tones contain the octave harmonic (H2), which is at twice the frequency of the fundamental, the beats will be 2 times per second. At the 3rd harmonic (H3), which is 3 times the fundamental, the beats will be 3 times per second. At H4, the beats will be 4 times per second. You get the idea. The general expression for the number of audible beats is the difference in fundamentals in cycles-per-second, times the number of the harmonic.

As a choral singer interested (and fairly practiced) at close-harmony, I've found that once a singer has learned to 'listen to the overtones', their tuning becomes better. For this reason, I prefer to do my own fine-tuning exercises these days with a square or sawtooth wave drone, and sing intervalic harmony against it.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Steven...

[As a choral singer interested (and fairly practiced) at close-harmony, I've found that once a singer has learned to 'listen to the overtones', their tuning becomes better.]

I don't know about the actual science of the trueness of the pitch in overtones, but I do know as a matter of practicality that if I have the bass up loud in my headphones, the overtones of the bass will make me "hear" sharp! Why do you think this could be?

Btw... I'm so glad you're on this forum. Your intelligence and at the same time, your kindness and respect, add such quality to our thoughts.

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Does thinking change pitch... uh, yes. You need to hear the pitch before you sing it. Good Singers sing and listen, Great Singers, listen and then sing... this anecdote applies profoundly to the issue of pitch. In my experience, I have seen very few people that truly suffer from amusia, or a disorder where by the brain not process sound in a way that results in a pleasant aesthetic, apparently, they still hear cacophony/noise... but it is rare I believe.

Students with pitch problems typically will develop the ability to sing pitch but only after very difficult and sometimes grueling drills and practice... the student singer needs to learn to listen. not hear the sound, but listen to the pitch in a deeper focus then what they are used to. It takes a lot of work and patience from the voice teacher and student.

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Hi I'm with Robert here :lol: you can only sing what you can hear in your head! Yu also have to clear your ability to listen! Pitching then doesn't need thought it becomes natural. If you are trying to think too hard you are missing the point of pitching! :rolleyes: Hilary

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Steven...

[As a choral singer interested (and fairly practiced) at close-harmony, I've found that once a singer has learned to 'listen to the overtones', their tuning becomes better.]

I don't know about the actual science of the trueness of the pitch in overtones, but I do know as a matter of practicality that if I have the bass up loud in my headphones, the overtones of the bass will make me "hear" sharp! Why do you think this could be?

Judy: In terms of tuning, the harmonics are always at the frequency multiples of the fundamental, so they are very reliable for that purpose.

Your mention of 'pitch' is insightful. Pitch is partly sound, partly psychological. To most people, a loud sound of a particular frequency sounds 'higher pitch' to the listener. Similarly, a sound of the same frequency but softer, sounds 'lower pitch'.

There is another effect as well, in which the sense of hearing makes 'in-tune' notes of lower frequency sound sharp, and high notes sound flat.

If you are interested to read the studies on these sorts of things, I will look them up and post some references for your enjoyment.

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