How to Learn To Sing On Pitch – 3 Recommendations For a Budding Singer
Pitch, in baseball, where the ball and the bat meet in order for a home run to happen is like a human voice and a music note together in the right spot in a song is crucial to be able to sing in tune.
In singing, the phrase “on pitch” or “in tune” is where everything begins. It is the foundation and most fundamental possession a singer or someone who wants to sing must have. I have a friend that has a very rare quality deep bass voice but can’t carry a tune. I told him he can even apply for a radio broadcasting career with his unusual voice quality. Someone with a quality sounding voice doesn’t mean a worthy singer unless he is able to sing a melody line in tune, to begin with.
We hear the word “pitchy” a lot in singing competitions on TV, meaning, the singer’s voice is not hitting the intended notes of a song.
There’s a difference between “off-key and off-pitch”, but we won’t discuss them here. People use them interchangeably to mean something is “off”, which we will do the same for our discussion. Aside from the two I just mentioned, out of tune, flat, sharp are also being used.
After learning the qualities of a good singing voice, you definitely need to learn to sing on pitch.
Some Reasons for Being Off-Pitch
Before we dive into my 3 recommendations, I’d like to talk about why people are off-pitch when they’re
singing. Most of us have at some point been “pitchy” once or a couple of times before, whether we’re aware or not. Even professional singers go off pitch because of too many things going on while singing. For instance, when its a fast tempo music with a lot of words and runs in between. There are so many things to think about, the words, timing, rhythm, intonation, vibrato, technique, too high or too low and so on and so forth.
Professional singers are aware (hopefully) that they went off-pitch and they recover and correct themselves when needed, especially on slower and longer notes.
Whether you are a seasoned singer or a budding singer, other causes of being off pitch is cold, fatigue, tight or constricted jaw, neck, tongue, preventing tone resonation and “lift” in the vocal tract to its potential, making it sound flat or sharp.
The most common reason for beginners, in my opinion, of being off-key is when someone is not able to differentiate between what is spot on and what is off internally inside his brain. The result then is that individual would not be able to fine-tune since he won’t know exactly whether to go up or down the intended pitch to match it.
Here are my three recommendations for a budding singer to learn how to sing on pitch on his own, without having to pay a voice teacher. Don’t worry, anyone can learn this and how to sing good.
1. Sing Acapella with Single and Series of Notes
Pick a note within your vocal range on the piano or any musical instrument you may have. Concentrate on the tone and memorize it in your head, making sure the sound linger long enough before singing it back. Hum or sing “ah” to match that sound and listen to the pitch similarity or difference between your voice and the instrument.
If you know and feel that your voice and the tone from the instrument are already in unison (the same pitch), do this exercise:
With your voice, intentionally slide up or down against the tone from the instrument, then back again to match it, but constantly concentrating your focus on the base tone. You hear stringed musicians do this (sliding the tone to the intended pitch) all the time when they tune their instrument. This will help train your hearing whether your voice is microtone lower or higher, recognizing pitches and adjusting them when you need to.
Then repeat this process with other notes on the keyboard or any other instrument you have.
When you feel comfortable singing single notes, move on to a series of notes, like the notes C, D, E (Do, Re, Mi). Keep expanding as you progress to add more notes of the musical scale – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do). You can do a series of four (C, D, E, F), then five (C, D, E, F, G) and so on.
Lastly, when the series of tones become a cakewalk, experiment on skips by singing arpeggios. An example would be C, E, G or C, E, G, B and other variations of the scale.
If you still have difficulty matching notes after the exercises above, there are software and/or hardware you can use. Below are two examples
2. Use a Software or Hardware Based Tools
There are some programs out there that can guide you to train your pitch accuracy.
One example is Pitchperfector. This is a software-based tool that shows you a real-time visual representation of the sound of your voice in comparison to a built-in keyboard in the program. It records your voice along with the visual graph for playback. You can then adjust your pitches to match the correct pitch locations on the keyboard. Click here to learn more.
Another example is the Roland VT-12 Vocal Trainer. It’s a hardware tool that displays your pitch on the illuminated pitch meter on the device. The meter will tell you right there if you’re singing on pitch or not. Then you make the adjustments with your voice if necessary. Click here to take a look.
I highly recommend this device because aside from pitch correction, there are other multiple features built into it that you can use as you progress in your singing– a metronome, a microphone to record your voice, vocal exercises and warmups, you can load an accompaniment track to it for practice then record and play back your voice along with the track.
It’s tougher to hear yourself while singing than when listening to a recorded version of yourself. By doing the same exercises mentioned above (matching a note or series of notes with the voice) use the tools I listed above to record your drills. You can then hear more vividly by becoming a critic of yourself from the recording.
3. Pick One Song You’re Comfortable With
If you’re a seasoned singer and missing certain pitches when singing for whatever reason, the standard advice is to isolate that specific area that you are having trouble with. I’m assuming that since you’ve been singing for a while, you should be aware which locations of the song you’re singing are “pitchy”. Practice very slow if you need to that there will be no way in the world to miss those problem areas.
For most beginners, my 3rd recommendation is to pick a very simple song that has a 3 to 5-note series melody and practice singing the notes accurately. Again, to master accuracy is to slow it down on your comfort level, then gradually increase speed as you progress.
One example, Mary Had A Little Lamb has only 3 notes in the whole piece. Of course, this is a really simple song and not very exciting, but your goal is pitch correction and accuracy, it is absolutely necessary to go through this process if this is a major problem for you. You can always move on to the next song, to gradually increase the complexity level of your choices. The more you sing, the better you’re going to be down the road.
To Cap it All
Like I mentioned, every one of us has once been off-pitch whether we’re aware or not for multiple reasons. The most common for beginners is the inability to internally and mentally hear the sound of the intended note in their inner ear, the brain, and to match it with their voices.
I have recommended some solutions in this article. You can leave your comments about other ways to correct being “pitchy”. On the other hand, you can check out my training tips for serious singers to learn more on how you can become a professional singer.
I really learned alot from your post about practicing to sing in tune using a hardware or software tools to improve one’s singing ability.I just thought some people were hopeless and just tone deaf .But it is good to there are ways to improve your singing skills
Yes, definitely. It’s just a matter of dedicating yourself into it, just like in any other endeavour, you can always find a way, like using a device to correct being off-pitch or out of tune. That’s only one aspect tho’. In singing, there are other things to work on, like breath support, tone quality, posture, diction, range, style, rapport, communication, interpretation and so on. That’s why it takes years for some if they haven’t had the chance to hone them in the early years. The good thing is, you might not have to work harder if you already have the aptitude on some of them.
Hello Richard, very true about the in tune part. That is the downfall of most singers and why they get “buzzed” off! I’ll add a fourth option to singing on pitch without having to hire a vocal teacher: 4. Have perfect pitch like me! Yes, I have perfect pitch! I can here the note of any sound and be able to determine its note in a short time frame. In fact, the note of my car horn is an E played right above middle C! Fine job here!
Good for you Evan. You’re one of the 1 to 5 percent out of 10,000 (if you are in the US) that has perfect pitch. If you are in a Chinese speaking population, you are one of 40 to 50 percent. Find out why and let me know. Funny, you mentioned about your car horn. I did the same when I was on a bus, it was E flat, but I had to verify it with a pitchfork I was holding at that time. Anyway, one major reason that people are having a hard time hitting the right note is when they can’t adjust their voices in relation to the intended tone (or pitch).
Hey, thank you for the amusing comment.
Is it okay if I pick a song that’s an actual song and not short ones like Mary had a little lamb? I always sing Frank Sinatra’s Fly me to the Moon as warm up as it doesn’t need straining if the vocal cords and it’s a nice song too. Time to learn how to gradually increase the complexity level of that song! 😀
Most definitely, Riaz. You can sing anything comfortable enough for you to achieve pitch accuracy. I just used Mary Had a Little Lamb as an example because it is a 3-note only song, a very simple one, you can’t go wrong with it, pitch-wise. If you hit all the notes correctly with a more complex song, go for it. I would say by that time you might have already mastered pitch accuracy. Otherwise, downgrade to simple ones…Mary Had a Little Lamb is the simplest one I know, but pick something a lot more advanced that you’re not being “pitchy” singing it.
Thank you for visiting and if there are any other questions you may have, I’ll be more than happy to help out.
Hello – very interesting post. I have heard the term pitchy used a lot on tv singing competitions, but never really knew exactly what it meant. I definitely am not a good singer, but I wonder if I try your 3 recommendations, if it would actually work for me. Guess I won’t know til I try it.
Thanks for the tips,
Hi Michele. The last sentence is the key to start the journey, gotta be in it to start with, right? The next thing is, you need to love it with burning desire because there’s work to be done to get you there. Of course, how far you want to go determines the tasks you tackle ahead of you. If it’s only a hobby, that’s what you get. If it’s a career, that’s also what you get. The attitude and work you put into it are dependent on your goals.
Thank you for stopping by and if any question arises, I’d be more than happy to help out.
On the off chance that you don’t ensure your whole instrument is heated up before you sing, including relaxing and stretching your neck, jaw and tongue, you risk pushing your voice and hitting notes with terrible strategy along these lines making you sing off pitch So I concur with your first recommendation on the best way to figure out how to sing on Pitch – 3 because when you Pick a note inside your vocal range on the piano or any musical instrument it will assist you with warming up your voice
I definitely agree with you. When you start singing notes within your range, even before singing a full song, it will help to warm the muscles up around the vocal track. As you mentioned, that includes the neck, jaw, and tongue. I would also add to physically move or stretch these muscles along with your whole body to get your whole system going and wake up, releasing all tensions everywhere.
Yeah, tension and fatigue can definitely cause being off-pitch because, in order to support a sustained sound of the voice, it requires energy. Even in speech, which is not a sustained group of sound, you can tell if the speaker is fatigued.
I mentioned a hardware device in this article to use for pitch accuracy and it also has vocal warm-ups included in it. It’s called the Roland VT-12 Vocal Trainer. Feel free to check it out.
Hey, I appreciate you stopping by. If you have additional questions, feel free to come by here again and I’ll be more than happy to help out.
This article has excellent info that you’ve provided. I agree, sometimes if you have a good powerful voice, you won’t necessarily be able to use it for singing. It takes practice and works to get to that type of level. Thank you for this article, I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.
I’m glad that you’re finding this post useful. We’re all capable of singing a certain tune. The next step is developing it to a higher skill level and there’s nothing that can replace “practice”. Listening to songs you love and trying them out yourself.
I mentioned the Roland VT 12 Vocal Trainer as a great tool for getting pitch accuracy. It is used by beginners and seasoned singers alike to maintain not being “pitchy”.
Thanks for stopping by and would be glad to help out if you have other questions.