Being out of tune in musical terms means that's you are not in the right musical key or scale. When someone is singing or playing a tone that is out of tune, that means that several of their notes are off the pitch and do not fit well within the song's key signature.
A song's key signature designates which notes will fit in the scale well with the song. You will often find that songs include many notes that are not included in the original scale of the song, and these notes are referred to as accidentals. While it sounds like a huge mistake, an accidental is a purposefully placed note that adds a certain spice and vibrance to a song because the accidental note doesn't originally fit in the scale that the song is currently operating in.
When you're completely out of tune, though, you're not stylistically hitting accidental notes to make your melody pop, but you are hitting notes that would not be sonically pleasing to the ears since it doesn't fit the song's key at all. No one is perfect, so hitting a wrong note here and there won't really be considered being out of tune, but if you're wrong and strong with several notes, you're probably out of tune.
Being out of tune is a bit different than being pitchy if you're singing. When you're pitchy, you know what key you're supposed to be singing in, but you're just having a hard time hitting the right notes. It's not often that's you'll find a professional singer that is completely out of tune when they are performing, but they are more likely to be very hit or miss with their pitch accuracy.
If you are completely out of tune when singing a song, it is likely one of two problems. The first problem is that it could be is that you are tone-deaf and cannot hear the notes and scale in a song properly. People who sing while they are tone deaf can't really tell when they are hitting the right or wrong notes. While they might be right some of the time, they are more likely to be very off with no way of knowing how to fix their pitch.
Another common cause for singing out of tune is that you cannot correctly hear yourself. If you are in a very loud environment, you may find it hard to sing the right notes since you are unable to hear what is coming out of your mouth. Even the best singers are at risk of hitting all the wrong notes if they are unable to hear themselves during a performance. To avoid this problem, most singers use in-ear monitors to have headphones that can give the singer exactly what they need to hear in their ears for them to stay in tune and in the right key.
It is more common to find instruments that are out of tune. Instruments often need to be tuned due to changes in weather and the environment, so it is a regular practice for instrumentalists to tune their instruments before practicing or performing. If an instrumentalist is trying to play a song but their instrument is out of tune, their whole performance will be out of tune.
It's easy to tell when an instrument is out of tune when you hear it along with other instruments, recordings, or singers, but a solo instrumentalist is at risk of not knowing that their instrument is out of tune without using a pitchfork or something similar that is digital and can allow them to match their instrument to the right pitches.
Beginner instrumentalists that have tuned their instruments are still at risk of playing out of tune just because of the fact that they might not know how to play the right notes yet dues to lack of practice. You can be pitchy on an instrument as well, but while it's really to sing every note right with your voice, it's a bit easier to hit every right note on an instrument simply because it's an external instrument that's easier to have control over in comparison to our voices.
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