A lot of folks believe that if they sing out of tune it can never be corrected – they they either “have it” or they don’t. This is simply not true. What is true, is that the brain is a muscle, and if someone has not put much thought into matching pitches over their lives, the part of their brain that controls pitch accuracy is just weak – it needs to be strengthened.
But vocalists who want to improve their “ear” to make sure they don’t sing off pitch (as in flat or sharp) can’t really make corrections on their own, they need someone else there to correct them. They often can only work on it while in the room with their teacher, when they can get personal feedback about whether their pitch is correct or not. Tunable, an app for phones and computers, can be a great substitute teacher in between voice lessons.
This app is technically designated to be used by instruments, but vocalists can use it in the same way. One function that works well, is where a note is played for you to try to match with your voice. The app then has a vertical line that moves to the left if you are flat, and to the right if you are sharp, with the ultimate goal being to get the line to stay right smack in the middle while you sing. Please note that if you are using vibrato, the line will be wavy, but if you sing in a straight tone, the line will be straight and give you the most accurate reading. This is a wonderful exercise for singers. Being able to receive immediate feedback on if you are singing flat, sharp, or right on, is a huge asset.
What should eventually happen is that, as the singer starts to make vocal adjustments to achieve having the gauge to lay right in the sweet spot, they should start to understand what they should or should not do to stay in tune. Also, the hope is that through continual exercises of listening to a note and trying to match it, the singer should be able to hear their accuracies or inaccuracies more and more. They should then eventually be able to start correcting themselves on their own, without needing to be prompted by an outside resource.
The Tunable app can be a great tool to add to a student’s practice sessions. Then in their lessons, their voice teacher should also be assigning vocal exercises that help with pitch accuracy – such as solfedge (“do, re, mi”) work – as well as helping the student make corrections in their repertoire.
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