Singing in tune and having a good sense of pitch is one of the most important elements for a singer. According to the well known and respected vocalist Doug Williams, there are two non negotiable points for singers.
He calls them the "two Ts"
What if pitch isn't your strong point though?
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to music.
Some people can sight read complicated compositions at a glance. Others can transcribe amazing solos by ear.
Some have incredible vocal power and stamina.
Others are excellent songwriters.
Some can do riffs and runs with beautiful flexibility.
Others can arrest a room and bring people to tears with their pure and heartfelt sound.
Knowing your strengths is a vital step, as is recognising your weaknesses.
Kerrie Biddell, who held the title of Australia's leading jazz singer for many years, teaches that acknowledging your strengths FIRST is paramount. We can all rattle off our weaknesses quickly. Self deprecation is a finely tuned art form - especially for Aussies.
However, recognising that you have strengths, first, is part of your bigger picture when it comes to your growth and development.
Maybe you have a lovely tone, or you can learn songs and build up your repertoire quickly.
Perhaps you have a large vocal range, a unique sound, an exquisite vibrato or you have great stage presence. Find your winning points first.
Now if pitch shows up as a weakness - it needs to be taken seriously. It is a problem to be solved day by day. A challenge to overcome.
I've taught a number of people who were what is commonly referred to as "tone deaf."
This is usually a term reserved for people who cannot match pitch. They often don't realise that they are not in tune either.
Results WILL come when you work though. These people have ALL improved. Exponentially. Some who were off key literally 100% of the time and then move to 50% in tune or even 75% or more is huge victory.
Training the ear is a beautiful thing.
When I was a teenager, I thought you either "had it" or you didn't. Now I realise that everything can be improved. Everything. You may have to work harder yet you can improve. Always.
1. If you cannot recognise whether you are on, or close or nowhere near the note, you really need to work with a teacher or a musician who can advise you on your pitch improvement journey. So when you say, "was that it? Am I on the note?" They will let you know.
They will instruct you to go higher or lower till you can match pitch. If you really can't tell - then you can't work alone on this step.
If you CAN hear that your pitch isn't always accurate yet you're not laser-beam perfect, work with the accompaniment of a piano with a recorder playing, and hit a random note in your range. Try to sing it until you are able to perfectly sing it in tune. Do this simple and short exercise for a week, or longer, and you will notice how much improvement this routine can do for you in hitting the note with accuracy.
Recording yourself is crucial.
You may listen back and surprise yourself. In a good way - or a bad way. Either way, you may have a surprise. So that's gotta be cool right?
2. Play and sing the chromatic scale. It pertains to every single note and occurs in order on the keyboard ascending and descending in semitones. Listen to each note for two seconds. If you listen carefully, you can reproduce the exact sound played on the keyboard. The simple steps involved here are - play the note, hear yourself while singing the note in the back of your mind, then finally, sing the note.
I know and believe in the value of chromatics so my double CD set of fundamental vocal exercises has chromatic scales included. So important. I advise you to invest in these CDs (go here to purchase) and hear the difference they will make in your voice and pitch. Brilliant results.
3. Listen and Imitate. Some people have a natural gift to exactly retain in their memory what they have heard and mimic the sound as it is. For singers, listening skills and the art of copying sounds plays a significant role in perfectly hitting the right notes. Start with singing along with your favourite song until you finally blend in with the tune and vocals. Listening and constant imitation of sounds can improve your pitch.
4. Learn the proper breathing for singers. By learning to do correct breathing it provides the vocal cords with the necessary support to hit the right pitch. Slack and lazy breathing habits affect pitch. In a bad way.
I give a very clear breathing explanation and demonstration on the DVD set called Sing From Your Soul. (Available here)
This was a live workshop setting and has helped many. I recommend this small investment to help you reach the next level.
5. Proper posture helps a lot. Keep your shoulders relaxed, head level, and chest lifted. Maintaining proper posture while singing can help you to stay on key.
The talent to sing on pitch may not be natural, even in professional singers. What makes other singers more in tune is that they have acquired the skills of listening and hitting the pitch perfectly through constant practice. This is something you need to work out and improve more. Listen, record yourself, practise - that's what matters most in hitting the pitch perfectly.
You Have A Voice!
ps: You can do it. Find a musical friend to help. A piano or harmonic instrument. Press record. You can do it.