The skill of advanced vocal tonation is all about being in tune with your musical surroundings. Staying on your right notes as a solo singer or choir member may seem like an easy thing to do in theory, but it's quite complicated.
When it comes to pitch, the human voice has a lot more room for tonal errors when compared to musical instruments.
Sure, instruments can be tuned wrong and cause a player to play everything wrong, but if they tune their instruments well and have the right breath and hand techniques, they're in key.
On the other hand, with singers, we are always at risk of sliding out of tune at any given moment.
But the good thing is that we have the ability to keep ourselves close enough on the right pitch when performing, unlike instrumentalists who may be stuck with a bad tuning for a whole song.
Another thing to keep in mind is that great singers can be pitchy from time to time. If you're singing show after show, statistically speaking, you will have more and more pitchy moments! That's just the nature of the game.
Striving for pitch accuracy is very necessary in the music world, but there are limits when it comes to your need for singing perfection. So many other aspects of singing will make you great, and you don't want to lose your mind too much about hitting bad notes.
Many pitchy performances have still touched hearts and made a great impression on the audience, and at the end of the day, that's what matters.
You want to get your pitch accuracy around 90% or so to be an A singer, but there is really no need to aim for 100% accuracy.
Here are six ways to help keep your ear and your vocal control on the same page when it comes to singing in your future performances.
An easy way to get in tune with your musical surroundings is to simply sing quite and let the instruments and vocals around you hit your ears louder than your own voice.
A lot of times, singers wind up singing flat or sharp because they can't hear what the music is doing around them.
In-ear monitors were created to fix the problem of not hearing the right thing when singing.
When a singer is wearing an in-ear monitor, that earpiece is directly giving them what they prefer to hear in their ear. That could be a direct line to the piano, the guitar, or other voices.
Guide vocals that give you the right notes to sing throughout an entire song work really well for those who are singing in group settings where there are multiple singing parts going on at once, harmonizing with each other.
Guide vocals are a way to zone in on your exact singing line so that you can sing along with the right notes and get a type of memory learning system in place so that your brain will already know what notes are coming next.
Afte you've practiced a song that has the vocals guiding you, then go for the karaoke track, singing it acapella, or holding down your own note against other parts to see how much the guide vocals stuck with you.
When you know your scales in and out, you develop a type of audiation that allows you to instinctively know what notes work well and which ones won't work when you are singing along to a song.
There are seven notes in widely used major and minor scales, thanks to Western music culture (not to be confused with country music).
These notes consist of Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do in solfege. The major C scale correlated with C D E F G A B C.
As you get used to hearing this scale with tons of practice and consistency, your ear will be able to tell you when you're leaning toward a note that doesn't fit your scale well.
After you get a good feel for scales, you will then want to take it to the next step by knowing your triads and chords. A chord consists of 3 or more notes in a scale played together, usually separated by 3rd intervals.
Most hit songs surprisingly share the same chord progressions. The most popular chord progression that hits across hundreds of genres share is the progression of 1-4-5-1.
Again, as you get used to identifying common chords (with the help of music theory), your ear will be able to anticipate what notes to hit next that will make sense for the chord progressions of your song.
Vibrato is the natural wobble in your voice that takes place when you hold a long or semi-long note. It's a variation between two pitches that often happens very fast and can help bring richness to your singing tone.
Sometimes, that variation in pitch can be so powerful in unique voices that it makes a singer sound like they are out of tune. If you find that your vibrato is making your pitch accuracy a challenge, try to go for more straight-toned singing.
If the pitches you are going for are hard to hear and need to be practiced over and over, try going for a higher or lower octave.
As an example, I find that when I have to sing complicated melodies that are high up in the soprano range, I need to go through it a few times below the octave in an alto range that is more comfortable for me to hear in.
Not only will this help you hear how the note fits in the picture better, but it will save you a ton of vocal fatigue if you are trying to hit that same high C 10 times in a row to make sure your not sharp or flat.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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