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How To Sing In Tune

Mar 27, 2008
It may be hard to believe but the majority of professional singers experience problems singing in tune from time to time. Sometimes poor vocal technique can be the cause and other times it can be related to inexperience or bad performance habits.

When you perform you often have to deal with a wide range of performing environments that can lead to difficulties pitching or 'getting your note'. Perhaps you are on a very large stage that has inadequate foldback monitoring or you are out front of a band that is playing very loudly. In this situation you are likely to struggle to hear your voice sufficiently well and your overall pitch can stray. A common experience for beginners is when they sing in front of a band for the first time they feel like they are being blown off stage. The stage level of a band can be such that you can feel like your voice has disappeared and only your lips are moving!

Here are some things to try that should help a lot. The most important aspect of singing in tune is to be able to hear the note in your head before you sing it. It's a case of not shooting first and asking questions later. Think the note then sing it.

To practice this play a backing track, a piano or guitar and sing the whole song in your head. When you get to phrases in the song that you normally have difficulty pitching correctly stop go over them a few times, just thinking the notes as you go. Then try a run through singing it for real. Many singers open their mouths and hit a note that is only in the ballpark of the right pitch and then they slide up to the correct note. If you find yourself doing this you can greatly improve your pitch accuracy but trying this exercise.

If you find it difficult to hear your voice onstage ask for more of your voice in the foldback. Beware though that this will only help so much. Ultimately you can start to sing more out of tune if you have too much of your vocal in the foldback. This is because it can mask much of the musical pitching cues that you need to listen for. What I do sometimes is to turn off my voice in the foldback and use no monitoring at all.

I don't recommend this as a spontaneous solution to all pitching problems but it can help immensely if you get a chance to try it first in practice. It has the advantage of getting the band to turn down a bit as they will suddenly find it difficult to hear you. More importantly, you will be forced to pitch the note in your head first before you sing it.

Also try using large headphones as a barrier between you and the music when you practice. Your voice will resonate more in your head and give you a better idea of what you should be listening for when the band is too loud.
Try it, it can be a cleansing experience!
About the Author
Michael Oliphant is a singer and keyboard player based in Melbourne Australia. He is a co-founder of Explore Your Voice Singing Lessons, host of The Explore Your Voice Show Podcast and sings with the innovative band Late For Breakfast. Singing Lessons With Explore Your Voice
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