Learn How To Sing In Pitch (5 Hacks)
If you’ve been trying to learn how to sing in pitch and you’re struggling with how to sing in key, these 5 tips will absolutely change your life. Pitch in singing is linked to frequencies, but the physical frequency that your vocal folds vibrate at, and the aural frequency which occurs in the form of resonance when you do so. If you’re struggling to learn how to sing in pitch, the answer is actually in frequencies, not necessarily training your ear. The truth is, we all have the ability to sing with perfect pitch – but only when we are singing with peak efficiency. This is why you’ve been struggling to learn how to sing in pitch, it’s not the amount of hours you put in repeating scale after scale, it’s actually how you sing these scales that will improve your pitch.
This tutorial will share 5 key tips that will help you with how to sing in key. If you want to learn how to sing in pitch while improving many other aspects of your singing voice, you’re in luck – learning how to sing in key is easy when you use the following approach!
Can anyone learn to sing in tune?
Absolutely everyone can learn how to sing in tune if they are using the right approach. At the end of the day, singing in pitch requires a strong foundation and healthy approach to singing with mixed resonance, a balanced onset, singing high notes and other aspects of a healthy voice. With a rock-solid foundation, you will improve your pitch almost immediately due to the efficient technique you will be supporting your voice with. Foundation in singing includes the important basics like breathing, placement, vowels, onsets – literally, the concrete base that your range and tone will be built upon just like the walls and roof of a house!
You might think that you’re not necessarily gifted with a great singing voice, or that you’re just not someone who can learn to sing in tune – but the truth is, pitch and key are simply a game of balance and you need to ask yourself one important question if you want to learn how to sing in pitch – am I singing with balance? Lets get started with 5 hacks for singing in tune.
#1 – Balance is key
Have you ever wondered why professional singers look so relaxed and make it all looks so damn easy when they sing? That’s because it IS easy to sing when you achieve balance in your frequencies, resonance and the physical mechanism itself. One of the most important aspects of balance in singing is the ability to connect chest and head voice. That’s right, chest and head voice are ultimately just two forms of resonance rather than two ‘separate voices’ like you may think – you can, and should, learn how to blend the edges of these two forms of resonance so that your voice connects in a consistent and seamless manner from your lowest note to your highest note without any weakness or change in tonal character. Sure, chest voice is a deeper and richer tone due to the slower and lower frequency that you are resonating at, and head voice is a faster and higher tone, but a properly connected range will have a similar character that doesn’t change drastically through the middle of your range, it’s just seamless!
Balance is key to so many elements of a great singing voice, from onsets, resonance, registers and almost every other technique in a great vocal approach. Developing balance takes time and practice, but is easy to do when you take it slow, don’t try to run before you can walk, and release any strain or tension along the way by singing your vowels correctly, allowing resonant space and of course supporting your voice via engagement of the diaphragm. Are you singing with balance? Balance is the #1 key to learning how to sing in pitch.
#2 – Onsets and closure
We’ve discussed how singing in pitch is simply making efficient use of frequencies, so the next step is learning how to sing a balanced onset while achieving healthy vocal fold closure. If your vocal folds aren’t overlapped properly to vibrate with the release of air pressure, you guessed it – you won’t be able to sing in key. A vocal onset is literally the onset of your resonance, the way that you start singing. A balanced onset occurs when you centrally coordinate airflow and vocal fold closure for instant, powerful and healthy resonance. On either side of this balance we have a breathy (aspirated) onset where airflow passes the chords before they achieve closure, drying out the folds and often resulting in a flat intonation. On the other side of a healthy, balanced onset we have a glottal onset (attack), where fold closure occurs in full before air is released to allow vibration, resulting in a harsh ‘attack’ sound that often causes a sharp intonation. A balanced onset that is centred between closure and airflow is the only truly healthy onset, and the only one you should form as a habit in your singing. Sure, the occasional glottal or aspirate onset is okay from a stylistic standpoint, but you should follow this up with subsequent balanced onsets on the proceeding phrases so that you are maintaining proper vocal fold closure and taking care of your vocal fold health. Without a balanced onset, you will lack efficient vocal fold closure and you will be pitchy when you sing, either flat due to a breathy onset or sharp due to the hard attack of a glottal onset.
#3 – Vowels and tuning
Vowels in singing are a little different from vowels in speech, depending on your accent. With an Australian accent myself, the manner with which I form my vowels is very different to the way that I speak, and learning how to shape and form my vowel sounds properly was an absolutely game changer for me personally. In speech, our sounds are often articulated at the front of the face, think about how my voice would sound speaking the word “Game” as an Australian, somewhat forward, through the nose, a harsh attack and generally pronounced at the mouth. Now, if I was to sing the word “Game” without my Aussie inflection, perhaps more American or Italian sounding instead, I would then allow my sound to resonate at the back of the head up in the pharynx while shaping the articulation of the central vowel at the back of the tongue. A great way to learn this important concept is to alternate between an EE and an AH sound – you’ll notice that the EE sound features your tongue raised at the back, where the AH sound is created by lowering your tongue to a concave. There are three main vowel shapes in singing that all other vowels are created from, AH, EE and OO:
- AH – Tongue low and concave
- OO – Tongue back, lips forward
- EE – Tongue up at the back
From these sounds you can also branch off into other sub-vowels, like AA from AH and AY from EE. Learning how to shape your vowels effectively allows you to sing with the most efficient resonance while allowing clear articulation of your vowels and words – ultimately allowing you to sing in pitch and remain in key even when you change words or sing in different parts of your range. Vowels truly are one of the most powerful techniques in a great singing voice – are you forming your vowel sounds properly?
#4 – Support
Support in singing is simply a fancy word to describe the balance between airflow and air pressure. A supported tone is skewed towards pressure, where an unsupported tone is skewed towards airflow. By setting up a healthy posture and achieving diaphragmatic engagement through use of the adjoining muscles like the intercostals, lower back muscles and abs, you will actually learn how to control the balance between pressure and flow over time so that you can retain the same amount of pressure, or create more, even as you use up air on a long phrase or compress more for a higher note. Breath support is one of the most important parts of learning how to sing in key – your pitch is linked to frequencies in the same way frequencies are linked to air pressure, ergo, pressure and pitch go hand in hand. If you’re struggling to stay in key when sing, it’s likely you lack support, or the balance between airflow and airpressure is skewed too far in either direction. Remember, great singing requires creation and management of air pressure, not air flow, as resonance is a result of vibration and vibration occurs through pressure and closure in a great singing voice.
#5 – Middle Voice
Are you okay at singing in pitch in your low range, or even your very high range, but you’re pitchy through the centre of your voice? This is due to improper use of middle resonance, or a complete lack of blend through the centre of the voice. As we spoke about earlier, connecting chest and head voice is paramount to a healthy and powerful singing voice, and is one of the most important elements of learning how to sing in key. The middle voice, or mix as it’s commonly known, is the central portion of your range where you can learn to resonate with BOTH chest and head resonance instead of choosing one or the other, or even handing off between the two like a baton or switch. Middle voice has a specific tonal quality that is immediately identifiable in professional singers – powerful but pleasant, assertive but not pushed. This is because singing in middle voice allows you to retain some of the rich depth we associate with chest voice while accessing the extensive range that head is known for. Learning to sing in middle voice where you blend the resonance of both your head and chest register will allow you to create better frequencies that are more suitable for the range you are singing in, and hence will improve your ability to sing in key.
These 5 points alone will absolutely change your life as a singer. If you’ve been wondering how to sing in pitch or you’re looking to develop the above five techniques, a great place to start is the free foundations 101 singing course available here at BVS which will show you how to set up a rock solid, bullet-proof foundation of support, vowels, middle voice, resonance and so many other aspects of a great voice so that you can learn how to sing in pitch with ease. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching, you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building consistency in your voice so that you can sing in key every time you sing!
If you have any questions about learning how to sing in key, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.