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Why can't I sing in tune?

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Doctor John 09 Jan 01 - 04:34 PM
Wesley S 09 Jan 01 - 04:42 PM
mousethief 09 Jan 01 - 04:47 PM
Doctor John 09 Jan 01 - 04:49 PM
mousethief 09 Jan 01 - 04:53 PM
Ebbie 09 Jan 01 - 04:56 PM
Doctor John 09 Jan 01 - 04:56 PM
Allan C. 09 Jan 01 - 05:16 PM
Greyeyes 09 Jan 01 - 05:43 PM
sophocleese 09 Jan 01 - 06:01 PM
Jeri 09 Jan 01 - 06:13 PM
Matt_R 09 Jan 01 - 06:22 PM
NightWing 09 Jan 01 - 06:43 PM
Bill D 09 Jan 01 - 07:03 PM
radriano 09 Jan 01 - 07:36 PM
Tinker 09 Jan 01 - 08:10 PM
Max 09 Jan 01 - 09:40 PM
Sarah2 09 Jan 01 - 09:47 PM
Allan C. 09 Jan 01 - 09:47 PM
paddymac 09 Jan 01 - 10:37 PM
Sorcha 09 Jan 01 - 11:08 PM
Alice 10 Jan 01 - 12:30 AM
Barbara 10 Jan 01 - 01:53 AM
Joe Offer 10 Jan 01 - 02:33 AM
Extra Stout 10 Jan 01 - 03:48 AM
Dave the Gnome 10 Jan 01 - 03:59 AM
Grab 10 Jan 01 - 09:40 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 10 Jan 01 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Jan 01 - 09:56 AM
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mousethief 10 Jan 01 - 06:34 PM
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mousethief 09 Mar 01 - 02:14 PM
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Kim Hughes 09 Mar 01 - 07:20 PM
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Peter C 27 Oct 11 - 12:41 PM
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Subject: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Doctor John
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:34 PM

Just why can't I sing in tune after half a century of trying. I can "hear" tunes in my head and even whistle them a bit; I can hear when my guitar or banjo goes out of tune but I just can't sing. Is there something in my brain that's no wired correctly or are my vocal cords just plain useless? Not just why but grateful for any tips on how to!
Thanks Dr John


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Wesley S
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:42 PM

Doctor - Believe me I'm no expert and I'm sure you'll get better advice then what I have to offer. But one thing I have found out is that the vocal cords are like any muscle. The more you excersize them the better they will respond. You can't expect to hit the notes correctly if you only crank up the voicebox every other week or so. The airconditioner in your car was invented so that you could roll up your window and sing along with your favorite tape. The more you use it the better you'll get { to a point }.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: mousethief
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:47 PM

I'm interested in this topic. My poor wife can't carry a tune in a bucket. She starts in one key, just fine, but when she has to jump more than a second, she changes into a different key and keeps on from there. She wants to learn to sing but for the life of me I can't figure out how to teach her to carry a tune (and we can't afford professional training at this point). Looking forward to seeing some wisdom dispensed here!

alex


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Doctor John
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:49 PM

What really beats me is how people manage to sing in church. They immediately sing a melody that they have never heared before, that is, they must hear the very start of a note and then reproduce it at once. Even more amazing to me is that this is done to an organ which must produce the most complex and "impure" sounds and certainly not an instrument to pitch your voice to. The must "unfolkie" of instruments, the organ!
Dr John


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: mousethief
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:53 PM

And the weird thing is I couldn't tell you how I does it, Dr. J.

I just does it.

Which drives my wife crazy!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Ebbie
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:56 PM

A local luthier told me that he has successfully taught a number of 'tone deaf' people how to do it. He begins with a single note that he has them match. They are invariably, he says, aware of when they've gone too far. He says that a few times of correcting it themselves is often all it takes.

He thinks the reason that some people can't carry a tune is that they haven't learned to 'listen', that they're not aware that there is a physical note to match. He says that the people who don't have a problem simply instinctively listened. Other people have to learn it consciously.

Don't know if this helps?

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Doctor John
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 04:56 PM

Mousethief, I'm glad there's more than me out there as both my wife and daughter can sing. The curious thing is if someone is "trained" to me they start to sound unnatural and strained. Is it possible to teach someone to sing in a "natural" way? By that I mean a pleasant, folky, unaffected, in tune voice - Dave Burland, Cisco Houston, Isla StClair. However I wouldn't wish to sing like the latter!
Dr John
Wish my wife could though!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Allan C.
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 05:16 PM

DJ, I suspect that you can probably do a passable job with something like "Happy Birthday" or a Mother Goose song. I have found that most people who claim to not be able to sing in tune can do reasonably well with VERY familiar songs. This relates to what has been said above. They have unconsciously HEARD these songs over the years. The other songs they try are usually songs they have not truly HEARD.

Training your voice to reproduce the notes takes quite a bit of practice. Probably the best way is to SLOW DOWN a song A LOT. Sing a single song note by note. This will give you plenty of time between notes to think about the next one and to convince your throat to produce it. Once you feel as though you have captured the notes, try singing the song a little bit faster. With time, your voice will learn to do as it is told.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Greyeyes
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 05:43 PM

There is also the element of hearing the tune as you sing it, not just recognising the tune you are trying to sing (if you see what I mean). This is why so many unacompanied folkies sing with a finger in the ear. Even though everyone thinks it looks risible, it helps you hear the sound that you are actually producing, and thus makes it more likely that you will hit the right note.

I have experimented taping myself singing with and without a finger in the ear (in private) and there is definitely a difference. I always have a finger in my ear on Paltalk, although anyone who's heard me would probably claim it is no improvement.

What Wesley says about singing in the car to exercise the vocal muscles is very true. Also try taping and listening to what you sing, what you hear as you are singing it is very different from what everyone else hears.

Also be uninhibited, practice alone if necessary, and don't be afraid of making a fool of yourself.

A song well sung is one of the great joys of the world, it's worth persevering.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: sophocleese
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 06:01 PM

Lots of great advice here. I'll go along with the idea that you need to slow down and consciously match voice to pitch one note at a time in a song for awhile. The nice thing is that as you do it you get better and faster at it. You could then slowly start practicing scales and then arpeggios and other larger, trickier intervals. As a child I could recognize tunes very quickly but tended to sing out of tune. A lot of practice with singing while playing the tune on the piano made my voice truer.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jeri
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 06:13 PM

I read a really good article by Pete Seeger in a SingOut! reprint.

It said something about "tone deaf" people not being able to sing on pitch because they never learned what it feels like to do so. There were a lot of these folks who were told to match a note someone else was singing, and they weren't sure to go up or down, and couldn't really tell when they weren't quite right. The thing that worked was having the learner sing a note, and having another person match that one, just so the learner could hear and feel what it was like to be on pitch.

If you can hear when something is or isn't in tune, it's not your hearing or your brain that's the problem. It sounds like you need to practice getting your vocal cords to produce the sounds you want.

If it makes you feel any better, I sometimes hear a tune in my head and when I try to sing it, it's all over the place. I slow down and very deliberately match each note I'm hearing in my head - in the same key. Once I do that a couple of times through, I've got the tune.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Matt_R
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 06:22 PM

I always sing on key. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: NightWing
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 06:43 PM

    a   y         o     y   t  
I l s s g ke o
wa in n , o

BB,
NightWing


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 07:03 PM

I know a couple of people who really have trouble with this, and it almost seems like dyslexia...instead of left & right, they can't seem tell when to go up or down...they can't 'point' their voice the right way...others just don't hear what the right note should be.

My problem is different.. I can tell YOU when a note is right, but I can not always reproduce it in a song...I suspect MY problem is simply practice and 'feeling' the sequences until muscle memory gets me there...and often, it is just that I have not processed the song in my head enough to be aware of drops or rises...it is simply WORK...I can do it if I practice..(singing in the shower really helps with the acoustics right in your ear!!)


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: radriano
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 07:36 PM

There are little tricks you can use to find intervals. For example, a 6th interval seems complicated but it's the same interval as the in the first two notes of "Here Comes the Bride" which everyone can do because it's so familiar.

I also cannot overemphazise constant practice as was noted earlier in this thread. Tape record yourself singing and you'll surely hear where you are off pitch. If possible, practice intervals with a piano. If a piano isn't available to you just practice singing along with a recording but be careful not to choose something that's out of your singing range.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Tinker
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 08:10 PM

Mousetheif, I spent a very long time jumping keys wiley nillly through out a song. I'm most comfortable singing in 2nd alto or 1st tenor,and would simply flip to sing with the guys if it got to high.

I was able to work with a voice teacher this year and have learnt a few really simple things that really help. 1) Breathe, deep and from the diaphram a strong supported tone is more likely to ring true 2) Keep it familiar enough to relax, tense muscles effect placement too, yawning is a good thing. 3) Practice something that makes you smile

Tinker


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Max
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 09:40 PM

This is Marymac. I certainly identify with what you other "vocally challenged" people have said. I've been taking lessons these last coupla months, so hopefully will see some improvement soon!!!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Sarah2
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 09:47 PM

Doctor, this may sound silly, but how do you sound to yourself in the shower? It happens to be a great place to practice singing. First, there's no one there (usually!) to make faces when you hit a wrong note. Second, the White Noise background of a shower can let you concentrate on your voice.

Something to remember is that it's difficult to sing along with someone who's not in your own range. If you're a baritone, find a baritone to sing along with, not a tenor, and you'd probably do better singing the lower line with women in the alto range than with sopranos. If you're a tenor or bass, then you're probably going to find it easier to hit the notes singing along with a tenor or bass or soprano. Straining to hit a note above or below your abilities doesn't help.

But most of all, remember that the injunction is to make a joyful noise: Nowhere does it say you have to be able to carry a tune or stay on key.

Sarah


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Allan C.
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 09:47 PM

Improvement has already been notable, Marymac.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: paddymac
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 10:37 PM

radriano - The first two notes in "Here Comes The Bride" span a 4th interval. The first three notes in "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" are a 1 - 3 - 5 sequence. A 6th interval is found in the first two notes of the chorus to "A Nation Once Again".

What are some other songs singers use to "plant" specific intervals in their minds? There must surely be many more.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Sorcha
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 11:08 PM

From the "deaf" lady--it is also possible that there is some hearing loss. I can't stay on pitch, or key either one, but it has to do with the fact that what I hear (in my own ears) is not what other people hear when I sing. Get a hearing test.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Alice
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 12:30 AM

I'm with Sarah, practice in the shower! (Sarah, this is an old joke about me here, going back to a thread about how people memorize lyrics. I have pages and pages taped to my shower walls in layers - really.)

Practice slowly, practice scales and intervals, tape record yourself and listen to the play back, practice every day (in the shower, if you'd like).

Alice


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Barbara
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 01:53 AM

Learning to sing in the right octave can be really hard for beginners. Boys wipe out trying to match the girls' pitch, and vice versa. I remember hearing a man try to sing with a high piano part, and instead of getting an octave lower, he got a fifth -- this is the next easiest interval to find, because it has fewer vibrations than any except the octave.
When you are learning, you really need feedback. Picking out melodies by ear will help you visualize how a tune goes. Some of those electronic tuners will let you sing at them and tell you where you are and where you are going. But they're awfully picky about what's on pitch. (I've never been able to sing a note at mine that it thought was exactly in tune).
Showers are also good for their resonance, and the hot steamy water helps your throat and vocal cords relax. One trick I like that works in a lot of showers is to slide up and down the scale like a siren until I find the notes that are suddenly much louder than the rest. These are in the resonant frequency of the shower space, and if you sing in that key, you can sound like you're using an amplifier. Making like a siren is a good warmup, too.
Blessings
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 02:33 AM

I think many of the best hymns almost "sing themselves" - they have intervals between notes that are not too unusual, and the tempos are usually pretty standard. In a typical church anthem, the first, second, and fourth lines are the same; and the third line is a variation related to the other three - so, basically, you learn the tune of a hymn by learning just one line.
We Catholics have been trying to develop a completely new catalog of music since we got rid of the Latin Mass in the mid-1960's. We are supposed ot encourage congragational singing, but a lot of our new hymns are too difficult for a congregation to learn (and they're often beyond the capabilities of our choirs).

We men in our church choir usually stand very close together when we sing, and we listen closely to each other and try to "lock on" to each other's voices. More often than not, the four of us sing with one voice, and it's wonderful. Our women are all afraid they won't be heard, so they fight each other to get close to the microphones. I tried to defeat that by using only one microphone for eight people gathered in a semicircle, but the women wouldn't buy that. While I was on vacation last fall, they dragged out another two microphones. So now I moved over to the women's side of the choir (and the choir director, a woman, sings with the men). I don't enjoy it as much as I do singing with the men, but it does seem to give the women confidence.

I think the best way to learn to sing in tune is to sing with other people in a circle, when everybody can hear each other well - listen for the sound of the blend of the voices, not just for the sound of your own voice (that's the idea I can't get across to our women - they want to hear themselves). I also find it's easier to sing in tune if you sing on the soft side - but it you sing TOO softly, you'll be like a plane that flies too slow and you'll stall and crash. If you sing too loud, you're sure to go off key.

Since I don't play an instrument, I often sing a cappella and often don't start songs on key the first try. If people are singing with me and try to correct things, it usually ends in disaster. You're better to stop and start over again - but sometimes people won't let you do that.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Extra Stout
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 03:48 AM

Hi,Doc. If you record yourself to practice, be careful not to just repeat and reinforce things that didn't work before, same with singing in the car. It protects others (its where I practice tin whistle, but not while driving) but if you can't sing in tune, practicing out of tune sure won't help. About a hundred years ago,not long after my voice changed, I took private voice lessons for a few weeks. A teacher was just what I needed to explain the mechanics of voice production and the rudiments of how to control my strange, new instrument. In college in the 70's I had a genius choir director ( Robert Porter, tall ,Abe Lincoln beard, BMW motorcycle) and every class session was as good as a private lesson. Better,really, I didn't have to make all the mistakes myself. Maybe you could find a situation like that in a church. The main point of church music,of course, is praise rather than technical skill, but if you find the right group to sing with, along with the liturgical benefits, you might find some valuable coaching, and a feedback and support group as well. On the other hand, maybe you just plain can't sing and should take up the harmonica. Seriously though, I think that almost any one can be taught to sing,except my mother-in-law, and just because you don't sing on key instinctively is no reason to give up. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 03:59 AM

If the worse comes to the worse, come to Fleetwood during the Fylde festival and go in for the worse singer in the world contest!

Seriously, having listned to (and nearly entered!) above mentioned contest and then followed the fortunes of one or two of the winners I can assure you that practice realy does help. Goes like this - 'Bad' singer wins. Bad singer gets invited on lots of shows. Bad singer sings a lot. Bad singer gets good. Good singer can no longer win contest!

There have been one or two notable exceptions but generaly speaking real bad singers are very rare - it is only inexperience and lack of confidence masking a good voice.

Then again, if it is realy bad, you can make a fortune anyway;-)

Good luck and keep warbling

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Grab
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 09:40 AM

If you're not completely sure with the guitar/banjo backing, you'll concentrate more on playing that than on listening to your singing. Personally I can't play "Donald where's your trousers" and sing it at the same time bcos in spite of the guitar part being simple (2 chords) the speed we play it at requires more processing than I can spare from the singing and remembering the words.

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 09:55 AM

Doc, I seem to share your "problem". I think I'm singing OK (sounds OK from where I am): it is the audience (2 stray dogs, usually) that run off howling. I don't let it bother me and I've learned to dodge the missiles.
RtS


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 09:56 AM

This is a great thread -- so many useful insights.

Here's a new tip from a Ph.D in choral music: breathe in, as if you were sucking air in through a straw. This sends air down deep, right "to your diaphragm." Now reverse this flow to sing. Ta da!

A lot of people who assume they always sing in tune do not, actually. They get off, just like everybody else. So don't get overconfident, you "stars."

Singing can sound bad, not because one is out of tune, but because something (such as running out of breath) caused the tone of the voice to change. In other words, one accidentally went from chest to head tone, or from nasal to resonant. People don't like to listen to this. I think not running out of breath helps you avoid this problem. Also, listening carefully to yourself.

Cupping your hand around an ear helps you hear what you are actually singing, and it doesn't look as silly as sticking your finger in. I do this in church (inconspicuously, I hope) when the instruments prevent me from hearing myself.

Another piece of good advice I got - join a regular choral group.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: radriano
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 10:55 AM

Thanks paddymac! I had a feeling I might have been wrong about that interval just after I posted it. Sometimes I'm just too quick with that submit button.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Pseudolus
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 10:56 AM

I always sing in tune, except when I don't. Sometimes it's being able to hear, out of breath, or one too many lagers! It's always something. But the key is, whatever you do, don't stop singing!!!! Practice doesn't always make perfect but it does make better and it is fun!

Frank

P.S. I've also found that, the more I drink, the more people lose their ability to judge my abilities....nag, nag, nag.....but I play on....


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: sophocleese
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 03:16 PM

Another trick for being able to hear yourself sing if you're holding sheet music or a lyric sheet is to bring it up almost in front of your face. You get some of the soubnd bouncing dircetly off the page instead of going out to the walls or whatever.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Rizla the Green
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 06:27 PM

Where I always fail in my singing is that I listen to a song on record, like a four voice harmony, then try to sing it on my own. I never know which of the voices is the true melody and I am trying to sing all four parts myself. The end result sounds terrible. Oh how my wife and children suffer.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: mousethief
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 06:34 PM

Oh the humanity!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Burke
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 06:40 PM

Dr. John, I think you're giving those church singers a lot more credit than due. There are a very few people who can sight sing right from the page.

What usually happens, is that the organist plays part or all of the hymn through before everyone starts singing. If they play all the way through, everyone had a chance to hear the tune & then join in on the words. If they only play part, it serves as a cue for a hymn that the congregation presumably knows. Our old organist used to play all hymns, all the way through & if we knew it, that was too much. Our current organist plays the 1st & last lines. Sometimes it's not enough, and you can tell by how well the congregation does not sing. I've reminded him that at times it would be nice to have the whole hymn played.

In addition if there's a choir, they've probably sung the hymns in rehearsal so they can sing it out right from the start. Do not be intimidated by them, they are there to help. They also get a chance to ask to go over a passage they did not get right the first time, you don't.

In an ideal situation the majority of hymns on any given Sunday will be pretty familiar with only 1 or 2 new or done infrequently & so unfamiliar.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: little john cameron
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 08:11 PM

It didnae seems tae bother Dr S Connors. ljc


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: ddw
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 11:28 PM

This may sound trite, but a friend who was a voice coach once told me a good song to practise on is "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music. She said it has both close and long intervals and scales, so it's very good for developing the musculature to hit the notes you want. Never liked the song much myself, but her argument seems to make sense.

I think Rizla's point is well taken, too. If you try to learn by singing along with recordings, pick ones by single vocalists to avoid the "muddiness" of group singing.

Also, I'd advise picking songs at first that don't have too much range and — if possible — ones to sing with that are within your vocal range. Trying to sing along with someone who goes out of your range forces you to switch to a lower or higher octave to sing the "same" note. As someone mentioned before, most people will switch to the 5th interval, which will put you into a different key. My wife has a lovely voice, but sometimes she does that — runs me nuts.

Something else that occurred to me that nobody's mentioned is that often people who think they're singing off key are really singing out of time — i.e., they're hitting the right notes, just doing it too late or holding it too long. Obviously that's going to clash with what others are doing and it sounds off-key even when that's not really the problem. Not saying that's what you're doing, but it's something to listen for and I'm sure you can pick up on it if it is.

Lots of other good advice above but the best is DON'T STOP SINGING.

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Peg
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 11:55 PM

Perfect sixth: My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean

Minor seventh: There's a Place for Us (West Side Story)


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: blt
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 12:24 AM

My problem is that I bellow when I sing. I also run out of air from nervousness, but that's a problem that fixes itself after a few moments, most of the time. I can really tell when my vocal cords are relaxed and/or warmed up. Sometimes, I practice scat singing in the car, just sounding vocables, up and down, or any which way. I also always try to warm up my voice before I sing very much, which means some slow rising and falling notes. My loud voice is a blessing in some ways but I end up sacrificing pitch for volume, which isn't what I want. I've always had a pretty good ear, if I do say so myself, which has allowed me to hear harmonies very easily. This makes singing in song circles fun, because I can jump up or down into a harmony, but if the melody singer is picky, I end up doing more harm than good. However, no one has ever really complained, they just glare in my direction.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Extra Stout
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 12:36 AM

The problem may not lie within, Dr. John. My band has done extensive, though unpublished, research which proves that the more the audience drinks, the better we sound.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: mousethief
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 02:14 PM

From CNN.COM:

Can't carry a tune? Blame your genes

March 9, 2001 Web posted at: 11:59 AM EST (1659 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- If you can't carry a tune -- or even recognize one -- it's probably not your fault. A new study released Thursday indicates tune-deafness is mostly in your genes.

This finding could potentially have implications for people with speech disorders related to how they perceive various pitches, according to National Institutes of Health researcher Dennis Drayna.

In terms of how good people are at recognizing tunes, "it looks like it's mostly genetic," Drayna said in a telephone interview.

To determine this, Drayna and his fellow researchers tested hundreds of pairs of twins, all women. About half of the twin pairs were fraternal and half identical, so that if a trait was purely genetic, the identical twins would be expected to both have it.

The test involved first testing their hearing for any impairment, and then playing snatches of 26 easily recognizable melodies from "The Star Spangled Banner" to "Silent Night" to "The Marseillaise". Some of the tunes were correctly played, others were distorted, and the twins were asked to determine which was which.

As expected, the identical twins all performed the same as their respective twins, whether their tune recognition was good or poor. The fraternal twins, whose genetic makeup was not exactly similar, did not correlate quite so well.

Most people did fairly well, about 15 percent made some modest errors, and about 5 percent were truly tune-deaf, Drayna said. That meant that the really terrible ones often did worse on the test than they would have done by simply guessing.

The study found that the ability to recognize tunes is between 70 percent and 80 percent genetic, with the rest attributable to environmental factors, such as the person's musical experience.

This was somewhat surprising, Drayna said, since many educators believe this trait can be changed by training. In the case of the absolutely tune-deaf, there probably is not much hope for this, he said.

"If you have terrible pitch recognition, you're going to have it regardless," Drayna said.

The study also found that hearing deficits did not necessarily change a person's ability to recognize tunes; much of pitch-recognition takes place in the brain.

"This does have some clinical implications in speech and language pathology, because perception of speech is very dependent on pitch," Drayna said.

"People with severe deficits in pitch recognition could have problems with speech and there is some anecdotal evidence that that is what's going on in certain kinds of speech disorders," he said.

He said his findings about pitch recognition might have implications for some classes of speech problems.

This research was published in the journal Science.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: CamiSu
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 04:23 PM

Alex,

Loved that last! My sister in law is tune deaf, and her father who had pleasant tone, had lost the bushel basket he'd been given to carry the tune in. It was truly awful. Her mom thought he was wonderful so I guess Brenda didn't have a chance.

I had a friend who was a reasonably good tenor, who told me how he learned to sing. He got a drone box that was in his vocal range and learned to match the notes it made--both of them. He truly hadn't known where his voice was before this, and had always tried to learn from people whose range was above or below his. But I would say, judging from him, that if you can hear the pitch you can learn to match it.

I think that not being able to stay on key may involve memory more than pitch match. My husband can sing quite nicely as long as he has an accompaniment or another singer there. But if he tries to go on his own, he's hopeless. Even pretty good singers can get lost when trying to repeat 3 unrelated tones.

BTW I use the NBC Aural logo for a sixth.

CamiSu who is usualy CLOSE!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: tiptoetulips
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 04:39 PM

I saw that study on the news this morning. I find it interesting since all of the women on my mom's side of the family have gorgeous voices and flawless pitch. My identical twin sister and I on the other hand pale miserably by comparison.

I can sympathize because I too can hear tunes flawlessly in my head, but my voice just doesn't translate it the same way I "hear" it. I agree with the idea that singing practice can help. I'm surprising my sister by learning a bunch of Irish folk tunes to sing to her baby (she's due in the fall so I have plenty of time).

I find that I am having to listen to songs over and over and over and then sing a line over and over and over until I get it down. And even then I think I'm varying the tune ever so slightly. But that's what's great about Irish folk tunes. So many variations, nobody's going to be able to tell if I screw up a note here or there as long as it blends into the melody.

I also wonder if it's a confidence issue. I heard all these beautiful female voices around me growing up and always felt I could never sing that well. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I'm also learning these songs to sing them around the house in hopes that my sons will be encouraged to try out their voices if they get used to having self-made music around. Maybe one or both will be lucky enough to inherit perfect pitch from their grandma.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 06:15 PM

See also"Inherited musical ability" thread, today


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Kim Hughes
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 07:20 PM

I can't off hand recall the author, but there's an excellent book called "The Natural Voice" that might be helpful for you--

best, Kim


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 07:40 PM

Doc, don't give up!

Singing on pitch is a bit like shooting from the hip. When you first try it, you miss a lot. The more you do it, the more accurate you get.

Don't be afraid of voice teachers. There seems to be a misconception, particularly among folksingers, that if you take voice lessons, you'll suddenly start sounding like Luciano Pavarotti or Bryn Terfel or Cecilia Bartolli or Anna Moffo. Not so! Many an aspiring opera singer wishes it was that easy!!

A good voice teacher can help you with pitch accuracy. And a good voice teacher can teach you correct vocal technique -- which is to say, how to sing naturally. This includes such things as breath control and relaxing your vocal apparatus so you can sing without strain. Strain can lead to such things as hoarseness and laryngitis and eventually wreck your voice.

I've had a lot of voice lessons, and if the misconception were true, I should sound like Ezio Pinza. My voice is classed as "bass-baritone," as his is. My voice is strong and resonant, and still in good shape for my age, thank heavens -- but since I don't try to sound operatic, I don't.

Think about taking some voice lessons or getting some vocal coaching. Believe me, it can't hurt.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Marion
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:08 PM

There is a perfect fifth between "twinkle" and "twinkle".

(I make use of this fact in tuning my fiddle.)

Marion


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: DancingMom
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:31 PM

Practice, practice, practice.Sing for the love of it.I found it helpful to sing in a large choir, (Not miked) with many voices in each section. Find the range most comfortable for you and sing in that section. I found the best training came from singing the harmony parts (alto and tenor)which often have fewer interval leaps, more repeating notes and step-wise movement. Accentuate the positive- a lovely tone, for example. Don't stop!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Mr Red
Date: 11 Mar 01 - 06:19 AM

Opera singers often are taught to visualise a note as an angle. Base notes at -45 degrees (say) middle C level, and higher notes upwards. Each note has an unique angle. It gives a nebulous concept like "the note" another, more tangible, handle. Maybe they even point their eyes in the right direction.

It probably has to be taught but there must be books on the subject. Those pitch pipes will come in handy. This will help people keep the the same key because they will soon notice the average angle has shifted. But it is all down to practice, to build up the muscle memory. Mr Atlas (after all) was a 9 stone (126 pound) weakling until the "sand in the face incedent".

Tape recording, and singing in private (car journeys)helped me, though I did get there fairly quickly. Breathing is important because if there is not enough air to finish the phrase you tend to alter the pressure which alters the control necessary over the note, so it can change. I was taught by Bill Long to breath from the diaphragm, not the ribs. (Bill runs Chipping Norton FC 2nd Mon Fox Hotel).

Some people actually see notes as colours - a condition called synasthesia I think. Hope this strikes the right note. **groan**


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Mary Mcdowell
Date: 31 Jul 04 - 11:33 AM

i can often sing in tune... when i practise with the guitar alone. however everytime i sing with a band(loud one), i can hardly hear my own voice and therefore end up singing just the correct lyrics. what should i do?? are there any special instruments, like a small earphone which allows myself to hear my own voice during performance? please help....


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jeri
Date: 31 Jul 04 - 11:41 AM

An ear plug or two. Seriously, try plugging one ear with a finger while you're singing and see how well you can hear your own voice. If the band's loud enough, you ought to be able to hear them through the plug(s).


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Escamillo
Date: 31 Jul 04 - 03:59 PM

Lower the volume of the band. If you can't hear your own voice then everything is too loud, everything will be flat and inexpressive and agressive. Just a comment from a listener who doesn't want to become deaf !

Un abrazo,
Andrés


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: shepherdlass
Date: 31 Jul 04 - 04:04 PM

Doc, If you're wary of conventional vocal coaches (most of whom in any case teach all sorts of singers, not just the operatic variety), look for an Alexander Technique teacher - just standing and breathing and relaxing properly can do wonders for freeing up the constricted muscles and inhibitions (it sounds like you've been building these for years as regards voice) which send you off key.

For all that, after years of pro and semi-pro singing, I still have problems with tuning if I have to use headphones in a studio - and it gets worse the more I think about it! Reckon it's often down to (a) not hearing yourself and (b) worry.

Range too - take a tip from the inimitable Richard Thompson - if you've got just 5 strong notes pick (or write) tunes that accentuate them.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 31 Jul 04 - 04:13 PM

Mary, get the whole band to use earpeices for the foldback. I know one band that does this, the wonderfully uncluttered stage allows the fiddle player to dance while playing and never any feedback.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Mary Mcdowell
Date: 31 Jul 04 - 04:27 PM

the thing is that the live band is closely next to me and the huge speakers are facing the audience. i will try using earplugs, thanks Jeri. if i still cannot hear myself, i will try Peter's method.. cheers everyone! with love, mary


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Frank
Date: 01 Aug 04 - 12:48 PM

Sometimes, it's a matter of vocal functioning, getting your voice to do what it needs to. Voice lessons with a reputable teacher can solve this. Check out NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) online. They have a list of qualified voice teachers in your area.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Aug 04 - 01:29 PM

I agree with alot of what I've read here the hearing of it is a big key to alot of it. I am able to sing harmonies which is another skill in itself but with the melody you have to be able to hear it either from a recording or in your head and then be able to match your voice to it. It's not easy to do sometimes but if you practice and sing alot it will come naturally. I have played in bands and I find I will go off pitch if I can't hear myself. If you can hear yourself you will be able to learn if your off pitch for sure.

Kissifur


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Menolly
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 12:47 AM

My husband could not sing in tune, but could tell when an instrument or another voice was out of tune. We eventually worked out that when he tryed to sing he mostly listened to himself, not through the air, but through the bones of his head, and they were "out of tune".
By doing the classic folkie, cupping his hand round his ear, he created a stronged passage for sound through air and could hear himself properly, and so learned to siong in tune, but it always felt to him, as if he were singing flat.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,mick
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 12:04 PM

For folk music,if all else fails, try going with the poetry of the lyric rather than struggling to get the melody exactly right. Speak the words of a song out loud over a simple guitar accompinement a few times before you start singing . If neccessary alter the tune to fit your voice and , to that end , cultivate your speaking voice .I think it was William Blake who said " A bird never soared too high that flew on its own wings"
Bear in mind that there will always be one song that you really like that you won't be able to sing . For me it's Ewan Macoll's Travelling People - the last word of every verse just throws me for some reason.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: wigan
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 12:12 PM

just picked this thread up. i've been told for 52 years that i'm tone deaf, then 2 years ago a musician friend said there is no such thing, it is /was a convenient excuse when people couldn't teach someone to sing. now i try and i'm told i'm improving (slightly). as i love singing i shall be trying some of the tips suggested. thanks to all who have posted


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Nicole
Date: 07 Oct 04 - 08:34 AM

I always love to sing but never had coaching... I'm thirty and I act some I just did a short movie where I was lead actress.. I finally went talk to a singing teacher in my town and I sang a little Dena Carter, Strawberry Wine.. I was a little nervious but not bad for my first time in front of a proffesional, and being tested ya know.. She said I was alto.. I wasn't sure what that meant..She had a smile on so I guess it wasn't to bad.. I start this Friday with my first lessons and I can't wait!! She had me go home and practice with the Dixie Chicks, If You Were Mine.. I have to say I always thought I sound like the lead singer in that song, so I was pretty happy when she suggested it.. I will try to keep yall posted with my progress..
Nicole-


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune
From: GUEST,riley
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 08:34 AM

im ten i cant sing is it my throut or is it my vocal cord help me


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,riley
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 08:37 AM

someone help me i was trying to sing a high note my voice come back


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 08:38 AM

can you train my sing voice


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,riley
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 08:56 AM

you is it my vocal cords or throut i can,t sing


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: kendall
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 09:00 AM

This is something that has always baffled me. Do all people who sing off key know they are? If so, why do they persist? If they don't know, is it a hearing problem?
One of my brothers was in the field artillery in Korea, and his hearing was damaged in a way that he could not hear certain frequencies. Some peoples voice were all but lost to him, yet he could hear every word I spoke or sang.
I had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. All but one sister could sing, but she couldn't carry a note with a co signer.
A friend recently gave me a violin, need I say more? I hit a lot of sour notes but I know immediately and I redirect my fingers to find the right note before moving on to the next one.

Still baffled.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 09:59 AM

Have you ever listened to a Gallic service? In the Scottish Kirk, (in the Highlands and the Isles) the Precentor sings the first notes, and the congregation slowly slides up until they also hit the note. It's so beautiful and strange it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! If someone is a bit 'tone deaf' they can slide up until the note is reached, and if they're a bit 'off' it only adds to the haunting quality of the singing. (You can hear all this on Youtube.)


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 10:04 AM

I've found one on Youtube you might like, it's called Martyrs Gaelic Psalm.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: tonyteach1
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 12:27 PM

Being a singer and singing teacher (which immediately arouses suspicion in folk person) I come across many people who have been told they cannot sing

Reasons are

1 Not using enough breath to create tone - voice needs support from diaphragm as well to sustain a voice over a period of time

2 Not breathing enough between words or phrases

3 Not opening throat properly

4 Not singing in right part of voice or key

5 Clenching or bracing throat and shoulders to create unwanted tension

6 Vocal damage due to drink - nicotine or other substances

7 Not exercising the voice enough - ideally voice should be worked every day

8 Hearing problems

A lot can be done with proper training and by recording the voice and finding what works to build up muscle memory


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 12:34 PM

Thanks for the info, tony.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Peter C
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 12:41 PM

Unfortunately there are many many folk singers around (some of them even get paid) who cannot pitch accurately. And to compund matters some of them also try to sing harmonies, which sound even worse out of tune than the straight melody!
I stick to playing!


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Subject: RE: In loud acoustic environments
From: Crowhugger
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 04:45 PM

I had an experience singing in a 60+ voice chorus that sometimes was so loud I could only hear my own voice by blocking one ear; even with cupping I was barely audible to myself. Obviously, neither cupping nor plugging one's ear is an ideal visual message in performance. Normally I sing quite in tune. Yet as others have said upthread, not hearing oneself can almost guarantee singing out of tune. I found that to be the most true when trying too hard to hear myself, either from oversinging (usually going sharp) or insecurity (usually going flat, "hiding under the note").

In that acoustic situation, sometimes I've found that I have the right note when I CAN'T hear myself, a very uncomfortable thing to do I should add. I learned this by using a hand-held voice recorder, which held to my chin picks up my voice in front of the other sounds, and then trying different approaches. It's very un-nerving, trying to sing according to the feel instead of the sound--but sometimes the less I feel, the more perfectly I've matched what's around me. When I can hear my own sound most clearly, it's because it is different from the notes around me, or it's out of tune with other parts I can hear. In western music, the scale and pleasant harmonies are based on natural overtones so when you have them right, the soundwaves are quite literally in synch.

That same trick was helpful to some others who had trouble tuning even in quieter passages, when they'd usually be under the note. Using this approach, when they didn't hear their voice as much or even at all (but could still feel it in their throats so yes, they were still singing), they were tuned much more accurately.

Of course at some point, singing by feel won't strictly apply, like if the volume is so high that one cannot even hear a wrong note. Also when the desired interval is less than a major 3rd, the correct notes can and should create some buzzing sensation which (more buzzing the smaller the interval). Getting to know these supplementary "sounds" can help to place a note correctly in challenging acoustics. all in all, when dealing with an intense acoustic setting, it's worth experimenting with in rehearsal.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 04:59 AM

I often (OK, mostly) sing out of tune, but usually kazoo in tune. I notice Jeremy Hardy on ISIHAC (UK radio show) has the same problem. Why can I hum in tune but don't always sing the note I hear in my head?

RtS


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 01:34 PM

After I'd been singing for a while I began to realise that my singing voice was potentially like a fair-sized room - and I was cowering in one corner.

To learn how to fill your 'room', or to use more of it, follow tonyteach1's excellent advice above.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 03:09 PM

"Why can I hum in tune but don't always sing the note I hear in my head?"

See tonyteach's post above. It sounds like you know what you want to do, your muscles just aren't doing it right.

There's a woman in my church who says "I don't sing," and she's a totally different kettle of fish. She doesn't seem handicapped, but when she tries to sing, she produces an erratic sequence of sounds which seem totally unrelated to the melody. There are big hops up and down, and no feeling that the song is in a certain key.

I wonder whether music teachers have any way to help a person with a problem like that.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: John P
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 04:00 PM

I've been a professional musician for more than 40 years. I can hear quite well, can whistle in tune, and can't carry a tune in a bucket with my voice. I've worked with multiple voice teachers and many very good vocalists in bands. My ex-wife, who used to work with people with brain injuries, thinks it might be brain damage from falling on my had a couple of times when I was young. Apparently, loss of a narrow band of functionality is fairly common with brain injuries, like people whose only problem is they can't taste salt or something.

I know how to provide good support, how to relax my body and throat, and I can hear exactly what I want to sing. Something else almost always comes out.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: foggers
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 04:10 PM

I saw an interesting documentary about the human voice on BBC last year. Jeremy Hardy volunteered to be a tone deaf guinea pig for a test to show that pitch perception can be improved. He sang into a mike that gave a visual read out on a large screen in such a way that he could see the discrepancy between the note he was producing and what he was aiming for. This visual feedback meant he quickly could adjust his pitch and see the effects on screen, thus quickly grasping the mechanics of vocal pitch change. It was a very thought provoking moment!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,pete from seven stars link
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 04:37 PM

i considered myself tone deaf most of my life. it was,nt till i started writing songs that i tentatively asked about lessons.these were of limited value and i suffered rejection on my first attempt at a public airing of a song despite my teachers encouragement.
what has helped me most has been the free eric arsenaux vids on you tube.he is an r an b artist and not my taste but an excellent teacher, but you need appprox 20 mins practise of the exercises daily and be prepared to give it time.theres no quick fixes but steady improvement.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: tonyteach1
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 06:12 PM

Follow up points - no singer - vocalist ever hears their voice as the audience do - they hear a fraction of the sound across the range of resonances.

Tuning can be learned BUT it takes time and practice over a sustained period not one session but many. The voice will also retune itself as it develops ie it will get higher and brighter and fuller until it settles down. Most people give up too easily

I can turn most voices round in 3 -6 months with pupil practicing 10 minutes a day guaranteed


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Often
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 06:32 PM

"I know how to provide good support, how to relax my body and throat, and I can hear exactly what I want to sing. Something else almost always comes out."

the relaxing is what I would have suggested, as it helps me, although I can never sing in tune either.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Wolverine
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 07:08 PM

In answer to the original question, posed .. because some people have the inherent ability and talent and others while enthusiastic aren't blessed with it. Regardless if you enjoy it, do it - but maybe consider limiting it to the shower and not inflict it on others - who may be too polite to tell you that you couldn't carry a tune if it had handles on it? ... or consider vocal lessons if you're really serious about improving.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: John P
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 07:59 PM

because some people have the inherent ability and talent and others while enthusiastic aren't blessed with it.

What bugs me, as a terrible singer, are those who have the inherent ability but not the enthusiasm.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: paula t
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 08:16 PM

I think singing in tune is mainly a matter of lots of experience of singing and of learning to pitch match more and more notes.I also think it is about having confidence in yourself and listening to yourself as you sing.

I have reception children singing songs of 2 notes only at first.We start by learning how to stand, breathe etc. I also encourage them to play singing games which use their "thinking voice" (We "sing " the song in our heads.) An example of this would be a song of 2 notes only which is rather like a slow and deliberate version of head, shoulders, knees and toes. We sing the song (without a backing track so they can hear themselves)and then I ask individuals to name parts of the body which we will not sing out loud. Instead we use our thinking voice and then re-enter the song at the correct time.We gradually end up singing more and more of the song with our thinking voice and the children think this is hilarious as we stand in the classroom waving our arms around in silence and then suddenly singing a line together.It is amazing how quickly young children learn to pitch match the 2 notes, keep to the rhythm of the song and re-enter the song at the correct pitch after using their thinking voice.We sing the song very slowly to begin with and gradually speed up as the pitch matching improves. I gradually drop out of singing each song to give the children the chance to hear their own voice and develop confidence in their own ability.

We play lots of singing games, using our voices in different ways (Many of them very silly indeed!).We gradually sing more and more complex songs. I teach the older children the "Doh Ray Me" song because they love it and it is very useful when introducing the idea of harmony (A child sings "Doh" and holds that note and other children match that note and join in. More children are divided into small groups and they add harmonies by singing "Me" and "So. I quite often ask the least confident singers to choose the first note so they can hear others match it. I treat being the first singer as a "reward" for good listening etc. The children love hearing the sound they have created.)

We sing lots throughout the day. Sometimes it is just a couple of lines when I ask them to come and sit on the carpet, or a few lines when we sing about the things we need to remember to pack up at the end of the day. These songs have a limited number of notes and are sometimes very silly, because singing does not have to be a performance all of the time.

I think you should never feel ashamed of your voice. Use it more and more and HAVE FUN, because singing is good for you!Start with simple songs and build up from there.

Don't be put off by others or by the thought of what they might say.Such people are just very rude. Most of them wouldn't dream of having a go at someone for their appearance, so why should they think it is OK to be critical of someone's voice? No-one sings in tune all the time anyway, and if they think they do .....then perhaps they are just not listening to themselves enough!Enjoy!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: foggers
Date: 29 Oct 11 - 07:10 AM

Paula- what a brilliant way to get children singing with joy and confidence!
I was lucky to have some inspirational teachers through school and sang regularly in school choirs and in the baptist church I attended throughy my teens. It was this immersion in collective singing that skilled me up as a singer; I don't buy the notion that it is innate for some people at all, it is a learned skill, but if the learning is as much fun as Paula makes it, you don't even realise you are learning!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: John P
Date: 29 Oct 11 - 10:53 AM

I don't buy the notion that it is innate for some people at all

This doesn't pass the real world experience test.

I think you should never feel ashamed of your voice. . . Don't be put off by others or by the thought of what they might say.

I'm not put off by other people, and I'm not ashamed of anything. I sing all the time, just not on stage. There, I'm put off by myself, since I have a pretty good ear and I know what singing in performance is supposed to sound like.

Not being able to reliably sing in tune is one of the great tragedies of my life. Listening to people tell me I CAN do it if I just try is another. All you people who can sing need to get past the idea that anyone can do it.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Oct 11 - 11:04 AM

Tonyteach wrote "Being a singer and singing teacher (which immediately arouses suspicion in folk person) I come across many people who have been told they cannot sing."

First, let me say that you don't arouse suspicioun in ME, and I'm a folk person. Get over the idea that all folkies have hay in their hair.

But my main point is that I'm shocked that people who don't know anything about singing would shoot off their moutha and shoot down another person's hopes. Tony's post shows that many times all the student needs is coaching about certain aspects of singing, such as breathing or not being tense. Yet some big mouth has sneered at them, "You can't sing!"

The empty barrel roars the loudest, as they say.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: foggers
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 10:10 AM

John P; having read your other posts I can understand why you want to take issue with my view that singing in tune is not an innate gift.

Of course a single sentence on a forum like this can convey a rather simplistic view. What I mean is that singing in tune is a multi-faceted learned skill; it is not simply something you got or you ain't.

It has many different components including hearing, perception of pitch produced, perception of the gap between that and the desired pitch and the motor skills in adjusting the vocal apparatus and hearing the effects etc; these are each a subset of skills that make up the over-arching skill of singing in tune. Underlying this is the neurology of learning and how the brain creates new synaptic connections, for each of these sub-skills and for connecting them together in sequence. One of the reasons I was so impressed with Paula's account of how she teaches singing at reception class level is that her system will introduce the children to all those sub-skills and stimulate their amazing little brains to build the necessary synaptic pathways to record and store these skills.

If singing in tune is therefore this quite complex equation of subskills that the brain needs to learn.it makes sense therefore that if someone has some specific neurological damage or deficit, any one of these sub-skills could be affected, and you suggest that this could be the case with you.

I am sorry if my apparently sweeping statement caused offence at all;that was not my intention.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 10:14 AM

I have an Uncle and a Sister-in-Law who could break glass, so off-tune do they sing. Neither of them think they're off tune though, hence the phrase 'tone-deaf'...

Simply an inability of the ears of some to pick up their own musical notes.

Mind you, in others it could be down to the fact of too many fingers in ears of course..... ;0)


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: John P
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 10:31 AM

you want to take issue with my view that singing in tune is not an innate gift.

Foggers, the only reason I took exception to this statement was that I know LOTS of people who have never had any vocal training of any kind yet who sing beautifully. While knowing that the definition of "innate gift" might be unclear, I'd have to say that untrained people who can sing have one. Obviously, any such skill becomes immensely more finely honed with training and/or conscious practice.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: foggers
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 06:46 PM

Interesting point, John; I too know people who have good voices and have not had formal vocal training. However, going back to Paula's post I am guessing that some of her reception class pupils may turn out to have great voices as adults but would say they had never had any vocal training, because the seemingly fun singing games experienced at school probably are not recalled as having been "vocal training". So I would be inclined to scrutinise the claims of any brilliant singer who says they have had no vocal inputs; the inputs/stimuli may not have been recognised as pertinent to singing skills.

I fully accept that some folks get a head start in terms of what Mother Nature hands them; perhaps in attentive listening, accuracy of recall, vocal apparatus and reproduction of sounds etc. My position is that no talent is simply a case of either nature or nuture; it is always a complex interaction of both (neuroscience is opening whole worlds of understanding in this arena) and for each person the balance of that equation is different. So for any person who asks the question that is the title of this thread, the answer will be a different one and may be an unknowable one without some formal analysis.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 07:57 PM

What is a reception class?


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 09:15 PM

Yes, I too wonder what is a reception class?

Leeneia, I'd be interested to know if the woman in your church (mentioned in your post Oct 28 @ 3:09 p.m.) can sing the children's chant, "nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah nyah." If so I expect she can indeed learn to sing. It's not a scientific measure but it's a pretty good indicator.

Her best bet is of course a singing teacher who specializes in adult beginners. Do you have a rapport with her such that you would sing with her in a casual, non-lesson way? Sometimes a safe place is the best teacher. Unsafe places through life are a major cause of 1,2,3,5,6 & 7 of tonyteach1's list (27 Oct 2011, 12:27 PM)

paula t, for ear training the chorus I also used word omission/singing in the head--it's a fabulous tool that I swear by! The moderately experienced singers were quite challenged at first with hearing doh, head-singing up to fa then singing sol aloud. But (even without body part motions) amid much hilarity they got the hang of it quickly. Laughter and body movement are the two master tools for keeping anxiety out of learning to sing.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Vicki Kelsey
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 09:48 PM

I was talking to some friends who have been volunteering to work with people who've been told they are tone deaf. The say they have a lot of success with having them recreate bird song first. Maybe it takes the stress off because they can separate that from "singing".


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 09:46 AM

Re: the woman who 'doesn't sing.' I don't wish to approach her about it. She doesn't seem to brood over it, and I doubt if she has any money for lessons. We'll just love her as she is.

To me, the most important thing in this thread is tonyteach's list of trivial problems for which people have been told they 'can't sing.' And they've been told that by others who don't know what they're talking about. It's sad to hear, but it's good to be warned.

If somebody tells you that you can't sing, respond with "And how do you know?"


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,pete from seven stars link
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 01:22 PM

i was told i could,nt sing and certainly i did,nt very tunefully ,but i kept at it and over the years i improve all the time till now i am mostly accepted as a singer.there were those that thought i was a no hoper but they were wrong.

ps-reception class in uk is the class when the littlies begin school.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 01:34 PM

Vicki, I expect you're right that copying bird-songs is less stressful than copying a melody. It quite effectively creates the safe place for voice experimentation.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Nov 11 - 11:20 AM

Thanks for the encouraging comment and the definition, Pete.

As a dedicated birdwatcher and birdlistener, I have my doubts about the birdsong theory. Bird sounds seem to come in two categories: the crude (crow) and the complicated (cardinal).


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 01 Nov 11 - 11:39 AM

I know what you mean leeneia, I think "imitation" can't be taken too, too literally. After all some birds have two sets of vocal cords so what chance would one-set species like us have to match their sound precisely?

Still it's a great beginning approach! The act of freely warbling is incredibly valuable both to teach muscle awareness and to generate laughter. Laughter being immensely relaxing also creates a feeling of safety. Both are of utmost importance when working with beginning singers of any age but especially with adults, who tend to hold various amounts of fear and self-loathing toward their voices.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 10:53 AM

I see what you mean.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: paula t
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 03:05 PM

I've been away from the computer for a while, so I haven't read the latest comments until now. Sorry!
Hi Foggy,
Thankyou for your very positive comments. I think it is very important that children enjoy singing and discover and then value their own voice.Singing is so beneficial to lots of other aspects of learning too, IMHO.

Hi Crowhugger,
I absolutely agree that laughter and body movement are incredibly valuable tools. Singing is something to be enjoyed, not endured!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: paula t
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 03:07 PM

Foggers! Sorry...I typed your name incorrectly and submitted the comment withour checking. Oops! It sounds far too familiar. Sorry!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: foggers
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 04:54 PM

LOL Paula - my nickname "Foggers" is based on my surname "Foggin" and many folks get them both wrong, so I am quite happy to answer to "Foggy" too!


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: paula t
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 06:04 PM

Thanks for your patience!


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Subject: RE: Elvis
From: GUEST,B0987
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 12:02 AM

I love to sing, but I am terrible at it.   I've never had any coaching.   I particularly like Elvis.   I got some software, and recorded myself singing... again, cringe worthy.   I started monkeying with the software, reverb, key adjustment, speed... and played it back.   I sounded a lot like Elvis, and was pleased with the results, however fake they may be.   My question is this, and it may be a silly one... since this is my voice, although altered... Can I teach myself to do this for real?


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 05:18 AM

"I love to sing, but I am terrible at it."
You're probably well able to sing, but you'd do far better if you tried to sound like yourself rather than a thirty-odd year deceased crooner.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 11:29 AM

Singing in tune is not just a matter of ear-training but of the utility of the vocal apparatus.
Many singers flat or sharp when vocal problems arise.

I am not one to diss thirty-odd year deceased crooners, many such as Crosby, Russ Columbo, Dick Powell and female Jo Stafford or others of that era could sing extraordinarily well.

But Jim's dictum about sounding like yourself is tautological, but correct, since your voice is unique to you and can't sound like anyone else's.

I was in a commercial music business class and brought in recordings by Almeida Riddle and Horton Barker. There were hoots and catcalls telling me not everyone has the same impression of what good voices sound like. To these young kids, the trad singers sounded out of tune. Trad singers will often sing in "the cracks" reflecting early musical traditions from their respective folk cultures but to the untrained ear, sound out of tune.

Both Sinatra and Bennett, as well as Pete Seeger often sound out of tune in their later years but who cares? Their interpretations exceed their vocal technique.

Go for some good vocal training but more important, be wedded to the content of what you are singing sincerely and that will communicate.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 02:51 PM

"But Jim's dictum about sounding like yourself is tautological,"
Not really SS
Most people I know started to sing by imitating a singer whose singing attracted them, however far from their natural voice that singer might be.
One of the finest Irish singers I know based his singing on Paddy Tunney - it wasn't till years later and after much persuasion he eventually began to use his own natural voice.
It sounds as if GUEST,B0987 wants to sound like Elvis.
One of the other factors is that your 'natural' voice is quite often driven out by the environment you spend most of your time in - if you work in a steel foundry you shout to make yourself heard, and that's the voice you take home with you.
When I started to sing I was an apprentice for a ship-repair firm on the Liverpool docks so most of the time I shouted, when in fact my natural voice is quite soft and even.
My mate worked in an office, so he pitched his voice both in volume and tone to suit his working conditions.
When I joined the Critics Group I was given a series of voice exercises to enable me to explore my voice and to find where it was set naturally (physiologically)
It didn't mean that's the way I sang all the time - but it helped me increase my repertoire of pitches, tones, efforts ( a bit difficult to explain without giving examples)... etc, and so helped my handle songs ranging from lullabies to shanties (sort of).
Must go - Foyle's War beckons - but more later if you're up for it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stanron
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 05:12 PM

Seeing that this thread started January 2001 I don't feel too guilty admitting I've not read it all but apologies if the following has already been said.

It is possible to teach yourself to sing. If you play guitar you probably have a guitar tuner. If it is an automatic digital tuner with a microphone it will identify any note and indicate how in tune it is. With such you could do this exercise.

WARNING

This is only for the brave!

Play a note on the guitar and see where the needle goes.
Sing the same note and see where the needle goes.

Try this with all the notes in your range and with different vowel sounds. A practice routine which incorporates this and singing various intervals can train not only your voice but also your ability to hear pitch. The following may also help.

We hear our own voice in two different ways. One is the normal variations in air pressure called, obviously, sound and the other way is internally through the structure of our bodies. This internal hearing 'filters' elements of sound and it is possible that what one person hears when singing is not the same as what others hear. I have a simple home recording set up and can use this to take sound from a microphone and play it back through headphones at sufficient volume to drown out internal hearing. Recordings show me to be more in tune this way.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 06:50 PM

Trying to use a tuner on your voice is a recipe for tears.

If you're *really* starting from scratch, you need to learn to match single notes. You can do this against an instrument but a better starting point is to find a willing victim, ideally of the same sex, and ask them to suffer it for your sake.

Once you've done that you can sit with a guitar or keyboard and try to match scales or arpeggios but that initial learning to recognise and key into a reference note is, well, key.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stanron
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 09:25 PM

I suppose, bearing in mind the prefix to my last post, that I shouldn't really complain about someone not reading mine, but I will.

Rev Bayes.

I wrote;

"
Play a note on the guitar and see where the needle goes.
Sing the same note and see where the needle goes.
"

If this is not

"
match single notes
"

or

"
recognise and key into a reference note
"

what on earth is?

The possibility of tears is not denied and is in fact the reason for the warning. It scared the hell out of me when I first tried it but I eventually improved. Others may wish to try.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stanron
Date: 31 Mar 13 - 09:58 PM

A footnote could be that I am aware of the relevance of temperament to this issue but as the guitar is an equal temperament instrument and the tuner measures equal temperament notes it kind of cancels itself out as an issue.

Unaccompanied voices can attain just temperament harmonies and sound ever so sweet but that requires a voice which sings in tune. Isn't that where this circle began?


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 02:47 AM

In the end it boils down to whether you want to 'sing' or whether you want to be 'a singer'.
I believe the vast majority of people can 'sing' if they put their mind to it and become aware of the mechanics of producing and controling their voice.
To use the voice to a fuller extent in order to handle all types of song with any degree of control and skill requires thoughtful practice.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 07:26 AM

Stanron, my point is that if you're needing to do this exercise, a tuner is no use to you. You play a G and sing out a D on the tuner....that's meaningless to someone with no control over their vocal chords.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stanron
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 08:30 AM

Are we on the same planet?
Play a D. Try to sing a D. The tuner indicates your accuracy.

This can work when your inaccuracy is within a semi tone. If you are a fourth or fifth out of tune that is a whole different issue and suggests something more serious than lazy listening.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 10:37 AM

Jim, for the sake of discussion, your comment reinforces the idea that one must sing with one's own natural voice and to do otherwise brings in another element, you could do harm to your vocal mechanism if you didn't. A good voice teacher's chief job is to bring out the student's own natural vocal apparatus and a lot of time could be wasted attempting to emulate another singer.

Regarding pitch, when one is singing correctly, ie: with the proper use of their own vocal apparatus, pitch in improved considerably. Any straining for vocal effect used improperly will result in poor pitch.

Shouting unnecessarily can injure the voice without good breath support.

But I think from what you mentioned, you understand this already.

An analogy would be trying to make an oboe sound like a clarinet. It's futile.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 04:25 PM

I'm trying to imagine what kind of unsinger can consistently hit within a semitone but can't tune in to a reference pitch. Have you ever actually worked with someone like this?

When you sing into a tuner, the needle goes all over the place. You literally have no control over what it does. It's a complete waste of time. I'll bet there are very few people on this forum, no matter how skilled, who can hit a note and then consistently move their pitch up or down a few cents by watching the needle.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Stanron
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 06:49 PM

Ah, is it becoming personal? I wonder if you have already guessed that the 'unsinger', as you rather cruelly describe it, is myself.

I have some problem with my hearing. Without using earphones, a note that sounds in tune when I sing it proves to be out of tune when I listen to a recording of it.

There's a bit in my first post that suggests why. (31 Mar 05:12PM)

The needle bit is, I admit, misleading. It's been years and years since I had a tuner with a needle. They always broke. My preferred tuner has a wide arc of leds. Red to the left, red to the right and a single green spot in the center (a bit like politics in Manchester). This is much more stable than the old analogue tuners. I have seen an application for a mobile phone which looks like the old analogue tuners but has the modern, digital stability.

Once the problem was identified I roped in the tuner as an independent witness. With practice it got better. Not perfect but better. Hearing something I have done for many years, and not without success, described as impossible is just a bit irritating.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: ripov
Date: 01 Apr 13 - 07:26 PM

Having read nearly all of this thread I thought " no-one's mentioned temperament yet". But I was pipped at the post by Stanron.

This is something that interests me as a fiddler, because I know that in some keys "properly" tuned strings sound way out of tune (which is why "classical" fiddlers use 4th finger instead - and which may account for the "folky" sound of open strings ). Fiddles are normally tuned in perfect fifths, like melodeons, so are intrinsically out of tune with guitars, keyboards of all sorts, and tuners that only show equal temperament; maybe one of the reasons that early musicians didn't like different sorts of instrument playing together (and orchestral string players find accompanying parts to piano concertos unpleasant).

I think that what we normally do if accompanied is to play in "just" temperament, but pitched from an equally tempered bass note, and I suspect singers do much the same.
What do you think? And does it matter after several pints?

Interesting that tuners are mentioned. Surely (except in amplified bands) they are only necessary for people who can't hear if they are in tune or not (and possibly players new to the instrument). And they don't provide the experience of "being in tune" because they (mostly) don't play a note which must be matched.

As many have said here, careful listening along with practice is essential. In the olden days (as my kids say) a tutor would hear a student tune his instrument (probably to a piano), take it from him, put it out of tune, then return it to be tuned again, several times, during the earliest lessons, because hearing "in tune" is basic to musicianship, but requires training.


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 04:07 AM

"must sing with one's own natural voice"
No, no, no! There is no "must" about it.
The most grossly unfair accusation aimed at MacColl and the Critics Group was that there was ever any "must" about what we did.
The logic was simple - to use the voice fully you needed to explore it in order to understand its limitations and its abilities - to understand is to control.
If you don't agree with anything I claim in the above (31 Mar 13 - 02:51 PM) - fine, let's discuss it, but it's a red herring to say that you "must" do anything.
To find your basic 'natural' sound is a starting point in learning how your individual voice is produced; once you have that you can experiment in pushing out the barriers.
An example: one of the greatest problems I believe to have haunted the folk scene (for me at least) is the tendency of some women singers to sing entirely in "head voice", the air-filled 'little girl' voice that is favoured by so many.
Whatever I may or may not think about it aesthetically is not the point; personally I find it either limits the singer to one type of song or levels all songs to a sometimes inappropriate delivery that simply doesn't fit the emotions of some.
But the main problems with it are technical ones; the main one being that fact that this sound takes up twice the amount of air to produce, thus limiting the length of line the singer can handle - not so long ago I heard a head voice singer performing Barbara Allen and being forced to take a breath after every four words, thus making nonsense of the narrative.
If that is the desired sound a singer wants to produce she must learn to cope with the breathing in other ways - I know a few singers who have.
One of the most skilful singers in the Group once experimented with that spectacular 'Throat Singing' - producing the sound from the throat and through the nose at the same time. I don't think he ever mastered it but he is still the most skilful singer I know and can still take my breath away with his singing.
Working on a song falls into two parts, technique and interpretation through understanding and feeling - a balance of the two makes for good, emotional singing as far as I'm concerned.
For me, the voice is a toolbox full of a number of delicate and intricate tools which need to be kept clean, sharp and in good shape. If you want to use them to hang pictures - fine, but if you want use them to paint pictures, that requires a little more work.
Sorry if this has become a bit complicated - never really tried to express it in print before - anyway, the musicians here talking about pitching technicalities lost me way back.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Sanjay Sircar
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 05:08 AM

RE: Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Greyeyes - PM
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 05:43 PM
There is also the element of hearing the tune as you sing it, not just recognising the tune you are trying to sing (if you see what I mean). This is why so many unacompanied folkies sing with a finger in the ear. Even though everyone thinks it looks risible, it helps you hear the sound that you are actually producing, and thus makes it more likely that you will hit the right note.

31 Jul 04 - 11:41 AM
An ear plug or two. Seriously, try plugging one ear with a finger while you're singing and see how well you can hear your own voice. If the band's loud enough, you ought to be able to hear them through the plug(s).

AND re: 02 Aug 04 - 12:47 AM

My husband could not sing in tune, but could tell when an instrument or another voice was out of tune. We eventually worked out that when he tryed to sing he mostly listened to himself, not through the air, but through the bones of his head, and they were "out of tune".
By doing the classic folkie, cupping his hand round his ear, he created a stronged passage for sound through air and could hear himself properly, and so learned to sing in tune, but it always felt to him, as if he were singing flat.

--- It is standard practice in South Asian classical music pubilc recitals that the singer cups their ear or places the hand flat over it. I has no "folkie" or gauche connottion there at all.

Sanjay Sircar


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Sanjay Sircar
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 05:16 AM

Somewhat off-topic, but I could not fina more relevant thread. Thee is a music-hall song, "I'm Tone Deaf" in which a diva confesses that she cannot sing a note much less carry a tune, that she is entirely carried by the accompanist, and in which she ends by identifying notes all wrong "A B H", or similar.

I saw it done on a UK TV program, imitation music hall, which used to start and end with "Down bythe Old Bull and Bush", in the 1980s. I suppose the challenge for the singer is to "get it wrong" consistently. The words and music of the song would be good to have. Doesanybody here know it?

Sanjay Sircar


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Subject: RE: Why can't I sing in tune?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 09:19 AM

"It is standard practice in South Asian classical music public recitals that the singer cups their ear or places the hand flat over it. I has no "folkie" or gauche connotation there at all."
Thank you Sanjay - this needs to be said as often as possible.
Jim Carroll


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