Have you sung or heard someone singing flat before? I hear flat singing all the time, and most of it is coming directly from me. Isn’t it just terrible to hear and embarrassing to do when performing? Are you trying to get out of this bad habit and just don’t know how where to start? I want to share some specific things you want to practice in order to avoid going flat when singing.
But first, you should know that it’s not a crime to be flat when singing here and there. Your voice is a very delicate instrument in comparison to the piano or a guitar, and no one is perfect! If you’re hearing all absolutely perfect notes in a live performance, chances are they are lip-syncing or using a mic pitch-correcting effect. Aim to be flat to only a few times per performance to the point where most people can't even tell.
How does flat singing even happen? People tend to miss the right pitch and sing below it rather than above it, causing it to be flat. If you hear someone singing above the note, that means they’re sharp. I often hear people saying “oh that person is singing flat” when they’re actually above the note since "singing flat" is often interchanged with "singing out of tune". If you’re singing sharp, you’re likely doing better preparation for that note and need completely different advice than a person going flat would.
Breathing correctly and fully before singing a note or phrase is critical for staying in key and avoiding going flat. If you don’t have enough breath to make it through a phrase, you will not be able to keep up much support in tuning your voice to the right pitch and will be prone to missing the mark and hitting a note under the correct one. In order to breathe correctly, be sure to breathe deeply by expanding your ribs and planting your feet firmly on the ground for anchoring.
Related Post: How To Use Breath Marks For Breath Support When Singing
Speaking of warmups, your melodic warm-ups can also play a big part in your note accuracy when singing. If you have not set aside the proper amount of time to warm your voice up, dusting the cobwebs off your vocal cords, getting rid of phlegm, and tapping into your full range, you will be at risk of missing your notes. This is especially true for higher notes that you may have not prepared your voice enough for, and you could end up flat, or right below the correct pitch. Do not skip your warmups if you are serious about singing!
This section is a bit obvious, but I thought I’d point it out nonetheless. No matter how much you warm your voice up, if you can’t hit a note because it’s not in your range, you just can’t hit that note. Similarly, if a note is at the top of your range and you’re putting a lot of effort into practicing it, your voice is likely to get tired and start going flat.
I often hear this problem in choirs with tenors who are hitting powerful notes that are at the edge of their upper range, especially if it’s a note that they need to sustain for a long time. Those guys try their best, I can tell, but they're putting a strain on their voice that’s causing them to be right below it and likely mess up the chord the choir is singing. And it sucks for tenors, it sucks for the choir, the director, and the whole audience. That’s what I like to call singing wrong and strong.
Related Post: How To Sing Beautifully And In Key
High notes can also be just intimidating in general, particularly if you’re performing in front of people. When we’re nervous to hit a high note as singers, we’re inclined to hesitate and risk missing the pitch by going flat. We also often hear vocal slides that cause people to go flat, where the singer timidly slides into a higher note instead of confidently hitting the note head-on. Don’t do that! If anything, it’s better to overshoot it and go sharp than to go flat. Both sound pretty bad compared to hitting the note accurately, but singing sharp is actually a little bit more pleasant on the ears.
Sometimes, you may not even know if you're flat or not when singing. There are two things you can do here: you can record yourself singing, or you can sing in front of someone else who has a good ear for music and let them tell you what they hear.
Related Post: I Thought I Could Sing Until I Recorded Myself...
If you're a beginner, your best bet will be the second option since you may not know what you're hearing when you record yourself. For assistance in recording yourself alone, get a music instrument or app to check the notes you hear and see if it's in tune.
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This blog was written by singer, songwriter and producer Yona Marie. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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