Improving Your Pitch (Part 1)
By Fabio Ramesha Nani
Everyone agrees that when it comes to singing, pitch is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, it is fairly common to hear good singers sing slightly off pitch, sometimes consistently for a whole song. I’m not talking about people who are tone-deaf (or so they’ve been told), but experienced singers who are more than able to carry a tune, who even have beautiful voices, but tend to sing always “a little bit off”.
Why does this happen?
There can be a number of reasons, but the most common are:
- Lack of proper placement, with consequent tension
- Lack of proper ear training: the singer can’t hear that he/she is slightly off tune
- A combination of both
Luckily, there are solutions! This month’s newsletter focuses on how Proper Placement can improve pitch; next month we’ll cover Ear Training.
Developing good placement is the conscious or unconscious goal of every aspiring singer—although many singers don’t know that’s what they need! Placing your voice correctly means using your vocal cords and shaping the muscles involved in the phonation process in such a way that the sound is as clear, full, and resonant as it possibly can be, without tension or strain.
Every note you sing has a specific “spot” in your throat, depending on its frequency. When you train your voice you become more and more familiar with each “spot”; it’s almost like drawing a mental map of your throat. It’s not unlike an accomplished pianist who, after years of training, is able to play with his eyes closed.
With vocal training comes also the ability to use your upper register (head voice) on higher notes and to smoothly transition back and forth between upper and lower registers. When you don’t know how to access your upper register, however, you tend to push your chest voice far beyond its limit. As a consequence, your whole throat becomes tense and almost inevitably you sing flat (or slightly under the correct pitch).
I’ve noticed that when my students learn to use their upper register they often sing sharp (or slightly above the correct pitch), perhaps as the result of finally being able to sing without tension.
To be continued…
Feel free to contact me about any singing-related issue or doubt that you might have. I will do my best to help you find a solution for it.