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Why can't I sing in tune?

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paula t 02 Nov 11 - 03:07 PM
foggers 02 Nov 11 - 04:54 PM
paula t 02 Nov 11 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,B0987 31 Mar 13 - 12:02 AM
Jim Carroll 31 Mar 13 - 05:18 AM
Stringsinger 31 Mar 13 - 11:29 AM
Jim Carroll 31 Mar 13 - 02:51 PM
Stanron 31 Mar 13 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 31 Mar 13 - 06:50 PM
Stanron 31 Mar 13 - 09:25 PM
Stanron 31 Mar 13 - 09:58 PM
Jim Carroll 01 Apr 13 - 02:47 AM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 01 Apr 13 - 07:26 AM
Stanron 01 Apr 13 - 08:30 AM
Stringsinger 01 Apr 13 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 01 Apr 13 - 04:25 PM
Stanron 01 Apr 13 - 06:49 PM
ripov 01 Apr 13 - 07:26 PM
Jim Carroll 02 Apr 13 - 04:07 AM
Sanjay Sircar 02 Apr 13 - 05:08 AM
Sanjay Sircar 02 Apr 13 - 05:16 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Apr 13 - 09:19 AM
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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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