Singing in Tune

You Can Sing in Tune

There are people who seem to sing in tune from birth. There are others who are OK most of the time but wander off occasionally. There are still others who are off base most of the time.

Singing in tune is the result of the interaction between your ears, your nervous system, and a lot of different muscles in the larynx and the vocal tract. The ability to coordinate all of that takes a while to develop, just as the ability to ride a bike takes a while. It’s comes easier for some people than others, but everyone can learn to ride a bike eventually, unless you have some physical disability. You just have to want to do it, and be willing to practice a lot. And it’s easier if you start young.

One of the main reasons that there are so many of us who insist, “I can’t carry a tune”, is that we simply don’t sing enough. In village cultures where music is something you DO instead of something you LISTEN TO, everybody can sing. Why? Because they do it all the time. There is a song everyone sings while they walk from one place to another, and another one they sing while they are planting the seeds or weeding the rows, or harvesting the crops, and others that they sing at weddings or other big events. Everybody sings all the time, and children hear the adults singing all the time, and all of the kids learn to match pitches. Some folks have prettier voices than others, but EVERYONE LEARNS TO SING AND IT’S NO BIG DEAL. It’s just part of daily life.

But in America, for some reason we think that you have to be good at singing before you’re allowed to do it. That is backwards. Most folks aren’t great at something the first time they try it. They have to do it again and again to build up skill. However if someone humiliates you when you try, and says you should stop because you’re not good at it, you’re not likely to continue. And if you don’t keep doing it, you won’t improve. There is no magic trick.

If you are already an adult who is self-conscious about not staying on pitch, here are some things you can do to improve…

  • First, GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO SING. You may want to work on it when no one else is around, but do it.
  • Second, LISTEN for the note you want. A lot of people don’t realize that they have to pay attention to what they are doing. They just open up their mouths and begin to sing without thinking about what note they are looking to produce. You need to stop and think about the pitch you want. This develops your “inner ear” so you can hear it in your mind before you sing it. It becomes automatic after a while.
  • Proper BREATH SUPPORT relieves a great deal of tension that you are carrying in your vocal tract…larynx, neck, tongue, jaw…even shoulders and back. Tension in any of those areas can keep you from singing on pitch.
  • Work with a teacher who can give you CONSTRUCTIVE, SUPPORTIVE FEEDBACK. Nothing beats another pair of ears and eyes to encourage and instruct you.

Work with someone who will SING WITH YOU. A lot of beginners cannot match pitches they hear on a piano, but can do so if someone sings the note for them.