Most people find it challenging to sing on pitch. No matter how good you are at hitting those high notes, you’ll agree with me that learning to control your vocals is not a walk in the park. Can anyone learn how to sing on pitch? Of course! Before I learned how to maintain my pitch efficiency, I would always go off tune soon after I began with a good pitch. This made me believe that singing on pitch was only meant for a few.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I later came to learn that singing on pitch is just a game of balance and all you need do is to pay attention to your breathing, onsets, placements, resonance, and other pillars of a healthy voice. This article will explore some important factors you need to consider when learning how to sing on pitch.
Identify Your Vocal Range
As you may observe when playing the piano, Soprano is the highest feminine note, with a high of anywhere between C6 and G6, which is very sharp. Singers such as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey fall under this range.
Conversely, Contralto (F35-F5) is the lowest female pitch and is very uncommon. Singers that fall into this category include Adele and Amy Winehouse.
In comparison, Tenor is the highest range for a male voice, and singers such as Steven Tyler, Michael Jackson, and Justin Timberlake fall under this range.
Although everyone has a unique vocal range, long-term training may be needed to perfect your singing skills. As you begin to learn how to sing on pitch, it’s important to maintain a neutral range to avoid stretching your voice too high or too low. Remember that your comfortable range is mostly your normal speaking voice and you should use this as the base support to determine your highs and lows. This will also enable you to choose the right song that fits within your range.
Master your range and learn more about your voice type, in order to really be able to sing on pitch easily!
Learn Voice Control
Once you have identified your vocal range, it’s important to nurture the ability to control your voice as you shift from one tune to the other. Even if you’re new to music, you may be familiar with the term “scale” which refers to when a musician sings a series of pitches in a row going up and then down. This technique is popular especially during warm-up sessions because it’s gentle on your vocals as you move across a range of pitches.
Remember to use singing scales that are within your comfortable pitch to avoid damaging your vocals before the actual singing begins. Alternatively, you may use the Solfa system, also known as “do-re-mi” to do your vocal control. This system involves naming each note in the scale allowing you to identify your areas of transition, thus making it easy for a singer to sight-sing. Personally, this technique gives me confidence when singing in a group or attempting to harmonize because I can use it to know what pitch to sing at a specific part of a song.
Develop Aural Awareness
After you have prepared your vocal, the only way to be confident that you can sing on pitch is by singing real songs. The simplest way to train your ears to match a pitch with your voice is by matching the pitches on other musical instruments such as pianos, guitars, and digital tuners.
Thanks to the world of technology, there also exist apps and software that can be used to train your vocals. Although studies indicate that most people have a neutral ear, some may need to develop their pitch recognition ability through training. If you like, you can take a tone-deafness test to determine which category you belong to. I have always preferred the digital tuner over other pitch training methods because it alerts me when my pitch is too flat or too sharp. Although recording your voice and listening to yourself sing may be quite embarrassing, you’ll agree with me that it’s nothing compared to singing to an audience. So, don’t be shy to take on this challenge; lock yourself in your room and get the training started by following the steps below:
- The first step when using a tuner is to identify the target tune and play it on the device.
- Second, listen to the pitch carefully and visualize it in your head. This skill can be developed over time through consistent practice.
- Third, sing the target note and observe your tuner to identify your highs and lows. If you notice that you’re off-key, adjust your voice accordingly until you hit the right pitch. You can repeat this process as many times as you want until you perfect your pitch.
- Once you have perfected your target note, pick another note, and continue practicing. Don’t be scared to practice on pitches in different octaves.
To further strengthen your aural awareness, try singing major scales and major arpeggios. You can do this using a guitar or piano or even download singing apps designed to play the scales.
Scales are tones within a key arranged in a sequence from the keynote to the tonic one octave and are divided into two categories; major and minor scales. When using scales, you can train your pitch by focusing on specific areas such as singing vibrato, overcoming pitchiness as well as developing and expanding your vocal range. The C major scale might be a good place to begin because of its predictable pattern; C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, C, B, A, G, F, E, D, C. It’s important to listen to each pitch and visualize it in your head before you decide to sing along. Also, as you transition up and down the scale, try focusing on matching the target pitch. Once you have mastered one scale, repeat this process with other major scales to ensure perfection.
Contrary to scales, arpeggios are tones within chords that move up and down in intervals. In this case, singing arpeggios will train your vocals to transition smoothly from one pitch to the next, thus making your tone sound more melodic. Just like scales, identifying the target note and auralizing it may be the best place to start. As you sing along and adjust your voice to match the pitch, don’t forget to reach each interval and repeat the process with different major arpeggios to ensure perfection. Sounds easy, right? Well, I can’t promise that you’ll wake up the next day with a Whitney Houston vocal range, but over-time, you’ll notice that hitting the right pitch is as easy as talking.
Big vocabulary, right? Don’t be scared though. Audiation is a term introduced by Edwin Gordon in the early 1970s referring to the concept of audio visualization. Take a moment to visualize the song “Mary had a Little Lamb, Little Lamb, Little Lamb…” Don’t sing it out loud, just imagine the lyrics and the tune. Amazing, right?
That ability to hear the song in your head without actually singing it is what is referred to as audiation. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to audiate if I asked you to visualize a song that is unfamiliar to you. Therefore, the requirement to know the lyrics and tune of the song you want to audiate is what makes the technique a powerful tool for learning how to sing on pitch. Although audiation has multiple benefits, I use it most frequently for my extra practice when not in my practice room because it involves more visualizing than singing.
As a music learner, you may believe that the longer you spend in meaningful practice the better your skills become. However, in the case of musicians, this isn’t necessarily true as we are limited in the amount of time we can subject their vocals to musical strain. Therefore, the ability to audiate enables me to sneak in some extra practice that doesn’t harm my vocals. Although it should not overtake your physical practice which is important for maintaining muscle memory. Visualizing your verses in a creative and detailed way may be as effective as physical practice. This also means that you can practice your pitch from anywhere.
Even when on a long commute, I pass my time by audiating through some of my pieces trying to solve some of the issues encountered during my previous practice such as rhythm, transitions, text underlays among others. The next time I begin to practice, most of the issues will have been solved and my vocals will be ready to take on a new challenge. If you’d like to use this technique effectively:
- Make sure you are in a quiet place away from disturbance or background noise.
- Then, Select a familiar song and sing it out loud paying attention to the pitch in every note, the intervals between notes, and the melody.
- Sing all the lines of the song to ensure you’ve mastered the entire song.
If you’re confident about your pitch, you may improve your skills by visualizing parts of the song. To do this, sing a line on each verse while visualizing the lines that you don’t sing out loud. At first, you may find it challenging to sing in tune while skipping sections of the song, but with time, your skills will begin to improve and you’ll be hitting the right pitch without thinking about it. You may further improve your skill by singing specific words of the song while visualizing the rest in your head. You may even make it more challenging by singing alternating lines from the end of a verse to the beginning. The important thing here is to try your best to hit the right pitch every time you sing a particular line.
Correct Your Pitch
To become an excellent singer, you’ll also need to be conversant with other factors that may hinder your ability to sing on pitch as well as the corrective measures involved. For example, most beginners struggle to maintain an upright posture which is essential in producing the right pitch. Below are directions on how to maintain a good posture:
- Place your legs slightly apart and stand in a way that transfers the weight from your heels to your toes.
- Bend your knees slightly but don’t lock them together.
- Keep your hands relaxed on your side
- Maintain a firm stomach but be ready to expand as needed
- Pull your shoulders back and hold your chest high.
A good posture will make you more confident and put your mind in a relaxed state, essential for smoother vocal transitions, and a perfect pitch. If you realize that your pitch is too sharp, you may be having tense abdominal muscles, locked jaws, or simply not focused on the task at hand. To resolve this, try singing with little force, relax your jaw muscles, and pay attention to your breath. On the other hand, if you feel that your pitch is too low, you can try changing the key of the song and monitoring your pitch closely taking care not to go off tune. Most importantly, make sure you have enough rest before the practice or performance session and remain focused throughout your singing.
Singing on pitch may be a challenging or easy task depending on how you approach it. To be successful in singing, you only need to know your vocal range, learn to control your voice, develop aural awareness, and be able to visualize your pieces. If you follow the steps above, hitting the right notes and adjusting your pitch accordingly may become second nature to you. Your song lyrics will be on your lips, visualized in your head, and powered by your perfect pitch.
James is an ex-writer for Music Grotto who focused the majority of his writing on the musical skill development content on the publication. His 20+ year career as a singing and vocal coach provided insightful content for the website, and his continued thirst for development in guitar and piano playing helped create some excellent skill development content for the publication.