Unless you want to join one of the ‘worst contestants’ compilations of popular singing competitions, training your vocal pitch is important! Unlike piano, guitar or any other instrument that may physically need tuning, you control your pitch through your body.
Many students who embark on singing lessons for adults don’t necessarily have a bad pitch, but rather are not used to using the muscles and mechanisms they need to control it. So, let’s talk about this all-important aspect of music that is so crucial for a truly great performance. Keep on reading, as we also discuss useful exercises to improve your vocal pitch that you can try today!
What Does It Mean to Sing in Tune?
In Western music, songs are written within a 12-note chromatic scale. From here, we can build major, minor and more complex scales. Many of our scales consist of tones and semitones, which are intervals also known as whole steps and half steps, respectively. A tone is a distance between two notes with one note in between. For example, C and D would be a tone. E and F# would also be classed as a tone. Semitones, on the other hand are formed of two notes right next to each other. This would be C and C# or E and F, and so on.
Typically, when we refer to someone singing ‘out of tune’, they will sing somewhere between two notes. For example, if you’re singing a pitch that sits between E and Eb, you will likely sound out of tune to your audience. There are intervals smaller than a semitone, which are referred to as ‘microtones’. They are sometimes used in lofi hip hop as well as non-western music. We can access them on an instrument like a guitar, for example, when guitarists bend the pitch. Generally, though, they are less favourable in singing. So, if you want to sing in tune, you need to hit the exact note you’re aiming for.
Loosen Your Voice
Just like it’s important to activate your muscles before a workout, we need to activate the muscles in our throat that help us control pitch. Start by taking a deep breath in and letting out a melodic sigh. This may seem weird at first but try to make that sigh as vocalised as possible. You’re likely creating a descending pitch, which is very loose and doesn’t sound as intentional so far. But that’s okay! We’ll work on that next…
Sweep Through Your Range
Now that you’ve warmed up, let’s take a look at adding a bit more control. Pitch sweeps are great exercises to improve your tuning. Choose a note that you’re comfortable with and, very slowly, slide up or down from it. It can be really helpful to choose an end point, for example, a fifth above or below. A fifth is an interval that consists of 3 tones and a semitone, and your music teacher can help you with finding them. This is where a piano or a keyboard really comes in handy for your practice sessions.
When you’re practicing your pitch sweeps, concentrate on slowly sweeping through your range and forming a scale, rather than simply sliding. You don’t need to rush, take it slow and really focus on your pitch.
Scales are not just for instrumentalists! They are fantastic exercises to improve your vocal pitch, too. Many students who take singing lessons for adults don’t always enjoy them, but there are so many ways you can make scales fun.
Start off with major and minor scales, as they will be useful for a variety of songs. Then, you can also try singing only semitones or whole tones to give your voice a bit of a challenge. There are so many more scales to explore, too. You can try singing the blues scale, pentatonic scale, different modes – these will all help in your training, and you’ll notice how many melodies are based on them. Scales are also a great way to understand your range and expand it. Learn to love them by adding different rhythms, coming up with lyrics or singing scales in varying tempos.
We mention the importance of breath in almost every blog and that’s because it is the foundation of your voice – including your pitch! Your breath can influence whether you’re singing flat or sharp. Singing flat means slightly lower than the pitch you’re aiming for and sharp means slightly higher than intended. If you find you are a little ‘flat’, you will likely need better support with your breathing. Pay attention to using your face and mouth to project the sound, too. If you’re a little sharp, you will need help on properly distributing the air and energy in order to regulate pitch. Your vocal coach will be able to identify these issues in your singing lessons for adults and ensure your breath supports your tuning.
Other Exercises to Improve Your Vocal Pitch…
Training your ears is a great way to improve your pitch, making it much easier for you to sing in tune! How do you do that? A great place to start is by finding a reference pitch on the keyboard. Keep singing that note, listen to it, come back to it regularly, until you can sing it without hearing it first. Once you have found your first reference pitch, you can add another and then another.
Trying to match your pitch when you listen to a song and listening to different chords and intervals, identifying the individual notes can be amazing for your ear training! There are so many great pitch exercises available, and our teachers can adapt them to suit you.
Learning at London Singing Institute
There is so much great information out there and it’s true that most of your progress is achieved in between the lessons. Our vocal coaches are here to guide you, so you can understand your own voice, tailor the exercises to your needs and achieve your goals quicker, with more confidence. We will ensure you sing well from the start, using top vocal techniques and healthy vocal maintenance. Our expert teachers are experienced in both live and studio settings across popular genres, including classical, musical theatre, rock, pop, jazz and blues. We will help you tap into your unique and powerful singing voice, identify its best qualities and support you in becoming the singer you’ve always wanted to be.
We specialise in singing lessons for adults and we teach in a non-judgmental, friendly and professional environment, no matter your level. Get in touch with us today – we teach in our beautiful Central London premises or online, wherever you are!
Find out more about our adult singing courses, taught in London and remotely.
Tags: Singing advice
, Singing Tips