On your way to become a world-class performer, one of the most essential skills you have to develop is to sing right on key. If you can’t carry a tune through a nursery rhyme, you’re in good company.
When I started my vocal journey, it was sometimes a mystery to me how to the right melody.
But hey, we can learn almost anything and a bad intonation doesn’t have to mean a lack of musicality. When I fixed the cause, my intonation skyrocket and singing from then on was so much more fun.
In this article I will reveal the most efficient approaches how to sing on pitch. You will understand that a good intonation isn’t necessarily inborn. By using the right methods and exercise you can also hugely improve singing on key and beam yourself up to a new level of singing.
Reasons for a poor pitch
Singing out of tune can have numerous reasons. On a physical level, too much or too little (proper) body tension can lead to a bad intonation. Stage-fright for instance can cause an over-tension implicating the risk of overpowering.
Another root cause can be a lack of breath support, leading to flat singing.
On a more brain-based level, it seems that notes you hear and want to reproduce are not properly converted.
As a result, something different comes out of your mouth than your intended. The whole system Ear-Brain-Vocal Chords seems to be misaligned. But don’t worry, you can work that out and get your pitch as accurate as possible.
Making fast progress, it’s always a good strategy to attack something from different angles.
A brilliant method to work on your pitch is to train your ear. Well, technically you train your brain rather than really your ear, but I guess you get it. Nowadays, there is software available for nearly everything you need.
My advice is to grab yourself a good ear training programme and start right away.
That’s how I did it and I can tell you it’s real fun, too. What you’re basically taught is to recognize intervals, scales and chords. Some programmes also have extended features, where you can improve your overall musicality like rhythm, but for me the interval exercises just nailed it. It feels like playing a game, mastering one level after another. And after just a couple of days you will realize that you’ve already improved a lot in terms of really hearing the difference between a third and a fifth. By getting better “ears”, you’ll automatically improve your intonation.
Remember, you don’t have to outperform training your ear. Just give yourself 4-6 weeks, work on it every day for 15 minutes and you will see amazing results. Once you’ve reached a certain level, you can move on.
Free your voice
There are basically two scenarios for singing off-key. You rather sing too flat or too sharp.
Singing sharp often goes hand in hand with a tensed voice. So, the focus there should be on relaxation.
What do I mean by relaxing your voice?
No, you don’t have to jump in a Jacuzzi and nip on a Pina Colada -although that would definitely be a nice way to learn.
First you should start with singing lighter. Warm up your voice with using a breathy sound. You should not stay there forever.
But to get rid of all your tensions, the air is your best friend. If you go higher, let the air sore into your head. I know, it doesn’t come easy the first attempts, but if you keep that in mind, you’ll get better at it.
Once your voice is relaxed and you sing freely with proper air support, your pitch will be perfect, without even trying to hit the right notes.
If you tend to struggle with flat singing, it means your voice and your body are not ready. Your tone is too low and your singing equipment is sloppy. Your task here is to increase your tone from head to toe.
Check out this article, where I described a simple exercise how to do this.
For most singers it’s never either or. A right balanced voice is relaxed and toned at the same time. We all have bad days, where it can go wrong in one direction.
But if we know how we can fix it, our vocal success is under our own control.
If you’ve accomplished the ear training and improved on freeing your voice, you’re on a good way. Most likely, your intonation has already made a huge step forward. Still, there can be some pitfalls within a song you’re probably not aware of. Consonants, sometimes can be a singers worst enemies. While you think, you’re Freddy Mercury already and you can sing anything, a sneaky “K” can crush your vocal euphoria into pieces. If you don’t know how to treat this little bastards, you will fall back in your achievements, without even knowing why.
The problem with consonants is, that they bring in tension again. The airflow stuck and your voice gets squeezed.
But you can train your voice to navigate through a tricky song by following this procedure:
- Print the lyrics of the song
- Highlight all vowels in the text. This will be your anchor.
- Now, practice the song by singing only the vowels. Do this phrase by phrase until you get comfortable with this method.
- If you’ve managed to vowel through the song, switch to the whole words. Approach the weak spots by emphasizing on the vowel and rapidly sliding over the consonants, barely skipping them completely. Listeners won’t even notice that.
Take your time to really work on a song, instead of just singing it and hammering on the hard parts. You will be greately rewarded.
Singing in tune is by far the most important requirement to make a song sound good and therefore worth working on.
While reasons can be physical and brain-based, I’d rather focus on solving this issue as soon as possible. By attacking different angles of pitch problems, the brain as well as unfavorable tensions in the body hence in the voice can be targeted.
With consistently training your ear and working on vocal freedom, chances are you will master intonation and singing right on pitch – always. Do you have any additional tips?