How to Sing in Tune

By Chris Chew

If you have been watching singing reality shows such as The American Idol series, you would have heard the judges using words such as “pitchy” or “off key”. What exactly does pitchy means? It simply means that the singer went out of tune or could not sing well in a certain key or at times singing off key.

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Contrary to popular belief, it is not only people who are tone deaf who sings out of tune. Even professional singers do sing out of tune occasionally. By the way, most tone deaf people when trained rightly can sing in tune. But that is for another article.

There are many reasons why people sing off pitch, such as developing bad vocal techniques, breathing the wrong way, singing in keys that are above or lower their vocal range or just simply being inexperienced or are not trained to sing well.

Furthermore, when performing on stage, because of the wide range of sound equipment and sound engineering, you may not be able to hear yourself well or are disturbed by other sounds being produced such by the band or from the audience. These environmental situations can make even veteran singers sing out of tune.

So how can you sing in tune most, if not all, the time? The first thing you should do then is to know your voice, your range and your comfort with the songs you are singing.

This of course comes with practice, not only on the songs you want to sing, but much more so with vocal exercises to train your voice production as well as exercises for pitching and voice flexibility.

One of the most important things you must be able to do in order to sing in tune is the ability to “hear” the note in your head before you sing it out. How then can you hear the notes mentally? Well, think of the note first, then sing it.

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The problem is that if you do this on stage, you will be thinking too much and this will affect your performances and the delivery of the songs. You may sound too clinical and the delivery of your songs may sound too opaque, devoid of emotional feelings.

So the answer is to practice with the right vocal exercises and songs until hitting the notes accurately becomes your second nature. Remember, for musicians and singers, the practice and rehearsals are the actual work. The performance is something to be enjoyed.

Once you have achieved the ability to sing in tune all the time, you must be very meticulous and fastidious during the sound checks before the performances. If at anytime you have difficulty in hearing yourself, you must insist that the sound technician control the sounds until you can sing and pitch comfortably.

The same applies to your band members. If any of the instrumentation is disturbing or distracting you, you will have to ask the musicians concerned to do something about it. Remember, the lead singer is the star of the show and no musicians should overshadow you and make you look bad.

So to be able to sing in tune all the time ultimately boils down to practicing with the right vocal exercises, meticulous rehearsals and sound checks.

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About the Author: Chris Chew is a writer on music, fitness and relationships. Read his free articles at Ear training perfect pitch and How to sing higher range.


2 thoughts on “How to Sing in Tune

  1. Hi..just came across your article and wanted to thank you as there’s not much else out there on this subject! I am a vocalist who just had my 1st jazz band rehearsal last night and am kind of questioning myself. I am only used to singing with a piano accompaniment and last night, I had a trumpet, sax, trombone, banjo and piano. I was very familiar with the songs we were doing, but I am familiar with the arrangements on the recordings I have. They played something totally different last night and with everything going on, it was SO diffcult to find my starting note! Can you give me any advice on how better to find my starting note when people are playing phrases and notes that are totally new to me? I feel like I’m not much of a musician after last night! We have our second rehearsal next week so I guess I wasn’t too horrible for them not to want to continue… 🙂 But I’d love some more advice you’d be able to offer any. Thanks!

  2. First off, congratulations on your new jazz band gig!

    You’ve got the first part covered – you’re familiar with the songs. The only thing different is the instrumentation and the arrangement. But, what a difference that can make!

    For example, I normally perform as a duo with my wife, but we often have other musicians sit in with us. All of a sudden, the arrangement has changed. Even though we may have performed a song hundreds of times, auto-pilot no longer works. Now, we have to listen carefully to the other musicians and adjust to what they are playing. Sometimes it works out great, other times, not so much.

    You have an advantage in your situation in that you’re still in the rehearsal stage. That’s what rehearsals are for. Find problems in the arrangement and the interaction between instruments and musicians.

    Particularly with jazz, there is a strong element of improvisation, but there is also a strong structure that each musician works within. Rehearsal is the time to get the structure set and familiar so that everyone can move around comfortably.

    While you are singing, you are the most important instrument. While it’s almost second nature for each musician to feel like their part is the most interesting and most important, most would agree that the vocal is the focal point.

    Still, you’ll also sometimes get an attitude of “you’re just a singer, I’m a real musician.” (This can apply to drummers, too.) Be aware of this and don’t take it personally, but also realize that you all need to work together as a band.

    With that in mind, the first thing you need to do is make sure you can hear yourself. The instruments you’re working with are not subtle or quiet. You need to have proper amplification and monitoring.

    Once that’s taken care of, the next thing you need to be aware of are cues within the arrangement that point to your starting note. Mostly, this will just mean hearing the arrangement enough to hear your part coming.

    At first, you may need to ask the other musicians to run through (and repeat as often as necessary) the measure leading up to your entrance until it becomes very familiar. If you still have difficulty, record this part of the rehearsal and practice on your own time. (Notice: there is a difference between rehearsal and practice.)

    The rest of the band should be agreeable to this, since this is the purpose of rehearsal.

    The longer you play together, the more you will consciously and unconsciously hear the way each musician leads into your section. It may vary between performances, but there will still be a recognizable transition.

    I hope this helps. Enjoy your music!

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