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Five Steps to Singing in Tune

Posted by on February 3rd, 2012 with Comments Off on Five Steps to Singing in Tune

Are you struggling with your pitching?

Are you constantly out of tune –especially on your low and high registers?

Singing in tune each and every time, along with clear diction is essential for satisfactory singing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re singing jazz, blues, pop, rock, soul or classical. You need to control your voice and make sure you sing in tune.

STEP ONE – make sure you’ve got a proper posture

Believe it or not, having a decent posture leads to a better sound control and more accurate pitching.

How do you obtain a favourable posture?

Start by lifting the arms in a straight line above your head. Now slowly bring your arms down your sides, and make entirely sure your shoulders are relaxed. Your chest should be out in front of you and your neck area should be short in the front and long in the back. (With your eyes looking straight ahead of you) – You are now ready to sing!

STEP TWO – Breathe from your diaphragm

Breathing like a baby or young child is the ideal way to breathe. It’s the way that we were born to breathe. Children or at least particularly young children naturally breathe from their diaphragm.

Unfortunately throughout the years most adults have developed the wrong method of breathing. Adults use their chest to breathe and move their shoulders upwards when they inhale.

If you are an adult beginner, you are probably using the same flawed method of breathing. The issue with this method is that you cannot take in an optimum amount of air as your breathing capacity in the chest area is severely limited (in comparison with the diaphragm area). By breathing in this manner, you block the vocal cords and that leads to a harsh, nasal sound production. In addition to this unwanted effect, your posture will be affected and tense, which will make your singing a nightmare and an unusually deep frustration.

STEP THREE – Record yourself on a daily basis (or regular basis) when you practice your singing exercises

If you are not recording yourself on a regular basis and scrutinising your own technique, tone, pitch and style then you are not learning as fast as you can. By recording and listening to your own voice on a per exercise basis, you will radically improve your pitching and tone quality. I URGE YOU to get a small recorder and record an exercise, listen back to it and try to improve your tone pitch and style.

THE SECRET: do this daily or at least weekly!

Do remember that the most pertinent question in singing is, what do I sound like to others???

STEP FOUR – Practice singing arpeggios, scales and exercises WITHOUT a musical guide and record yourself to test your pitch and tone accuracy.

A musical guide would be a piano or guitar playing the melody with your voice. This is much like a young plant supported by a stick to help the initial growth. A musical guide is absolutely necessary when just starting out, but after a while you must be able to sing those exercises without a guide

A brilliant exercise in pitch control is playing a root note or bass notes – for example the note “A”. While you’re playing the “A” root note on the piano, sing the complete A Major scale (both ascending and descending). Don’t play the entire Major scale when accompanying yourself. (only play the root note) Proceed by singing the entire Major scale over the root note accompaniment.

Now record that and listen back in order to improve your pitching and voice control. (It’s hugely important that you do record to test the quality of your pitching)

At a basic level, a “Major” or “Minor” arpeggio will suffice, but at a more advanced level practice with a “Minor/Major 7” arpeggio or even an “E7#9” arpeggio. As you did before, play the root note on the piano, and then sing the arpeggio over the (root note) piano accompaniment.

Do the same thing with different intervals. Rehearse thirds, seconds, sevenths, ninths, fifths and others. To make sure you’re doing this right make a recording of your singing, analyse it and play it back to yourself. Do this on a regular basis and you will be amazed at your rapid improvement! (Time, effort, recording and adjustment to achieve a better pitch and voice control will lead to satisfactory results)

STEP FIVE – Improve your pitching by imitating a favourite phrase and repeating it back until you get the results you want!

Let’s take the first phrase of “And I Love Her” by the Beatles.

There’s a little jump the distance of a fifth during the course of the melody. Practice singing the entire composition with the piano. Now sing the entire phrase without the piano. Alternate between practising with or without piano. Record singing the same phrase 10 to 20 times (each time trying to improve your tone and pitch control). Record yourself, take a break then carefully scrutinised your pitch control.

At this stage, I would suggest you go for a coffee and listen to your voice. Go for a walk listen on your iPod and take some time to meditate (which means thinking and rethink – like a cow eats its food again…) on what you’ve been doing!

The next day go back to your practice room and record the phrase again. By keeping a practice journal, you can notate your improvements on a daily or weekly basis. Write down specific points to ponder in your practice journal such as the “second note of the phrase needs a stronger breath” or “the last note of the phrase is a bit weak – think low and sing high”. Be exact. The more exact you are when scrutinising your practice sessions, the more you will notice a development over time.

Step five is NOT ONLY an exercise for the beginner or intermediate singers – I also advise this for professional singers and actors. No matter what level you’ve reached by keeping a practice journal you can always increase your abilities. (Never be too sure of yourself – keep a level head and constantly improve your technique)

If you follow these five steps on a daily basis, your overall pitching and tone will improve drastically.

Singing is not a mystery it’s 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration (as long as your motivation levels on five) – be motivated – if you can’t motivate yourself – join a class – remember motivation is 80% of your success!

That sums up my five steps for singing in tune!

RECAP: My Top Five Steps to Singing in Tune Are:

1. Make sure you’ve got a proper posture.

2. Practice breathing from your diaphragm.

3. Record yourself on a daily (regular) basis when you practice your singing exercises. Practice the singing exercises without a guide.

4.  Practice singing arpeggios, interval scales without a guide. (record, then listen back + scrutinise to improve)

5. Drastically improve your pitch and tone by imitating (and repeating) a phrase, recording it and keeping a practice journal.

About Author: Stefan (7 Posts)

Stefan Joubert is one of the world's most renowned guitarists. He is also a great rock singer having recorded his own grunge rock album at the age of 22 called "Megalorealist". He is well known for his touch guitar techniques. He is also a master instructor and currently accepting students into his guitar, piano, singing and bass classes.

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