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    Developing Good Pitch

    Everyone has good pitch. Everyone’s brain and ear is capable of hearing and matching pitches.  So if this is the case why do we sing out of tune at times or a lot of the time? There are a few reasons why this occurs and being able to sing on pitch is not elusive to you as so many people think. The term Tone Deaf is thrown about very casually, but it is actually pretty rare for someone to actually be diagnosed with Amusia the medical term for tone deafness. In the majority of cases, singing “off pitch” at times is merely from a lack of vocal coordination.

    Let’s define what one might describe as “good” pitch?  First, your ear and brain interpret a pitch that is being played by a musical instrument then the vocal cords match the pitch. In order to sing a note on pitch the vocal cords simply need to maintain their connection on the note that is being asked for. Your vocal cords are two folds of mucous tissue that extend horizontally across the larynx. When you are silent, the vocal cords rest in an open position. When you begin to speak or sing they come together or connect and begin to vibrate. The main reason for pitching problems is lack of vocal flexibility. Two factors that greatly affect vocal flexibility are air pressure and muscle tension.

     

    Air Pressure

    We sing or speak on our exhalation. Sound is created when air passes through your vibrating vocal cords. Different vowels cause the body to exhale different amounts of air. A narrower vowel such as “e” or “oo” creates less air pressure. A broader vowel such as “uh” or “aw” creates greater air-pressure. Likewise, if you sing loudly you increase the air-pressure and if you sing softly you decrease the air-pressure. The more air-pressure the vocal cords have to handle, the more challenging it can be for them to maintain their connection on a given pitch. When there is more air-pressure than the cords can handle they either separate completely, that would be the dreaded “crack” in the voice, or the cords start to peel open or adjust backwards. This results in a slightly under-pitched sound. Likewise, the cords can adjust to far forward thus creating a slightly sharp sound. To help manage your air flow practice singing your songs on one word such as “koo” or humming it on “m”. We sing on our breath so the smoother the inhalation and exhalation the smoother your singing will be. Also, practice singing your songs at the volume you would speak at, supported but not pushed or breathy. Once you build consistent muscle memory you can begin to increase the air pressure to add more dynamics to your voice.

     

    Muscle Tension

    Muscle tension is a big culprit of pitching difficulties. Muscle tension occurs when the neck, tongue, and jaw muscles start to squeeze the larynx as a singer ascends in pitch and begins to “reach” for notes. Once these larger muscles engage they begin to pull the larynx up making it very difficult for proper vocal cord connection. In order for the vocal cords to adjust easily to pitches these larger muscles should remain relaxed allowing the larynx to remain in the same easy position it sits in when you are speaking. Remember the key to staying on pitch is maintaining the right vocal cord connection. Be sure your neck, tongue, and jaw muscles are relaxed as you sing through your songs. I suggest watching yourself in the mirror, this way you can see what kind of tension you may be exerting. Also, practice speaking the lyrics of your song. Then try singing your songs as easily as you speak them. Minimizing muscle tension will allow the vocal cords to easily connect on each pitch.

    Your ability to sing with “good” pitch has to do with how you are affecting your vocal instrument. If you can, seek out professional training and start training your voice. Also, you can begin to apply the tips provided above. Believe it or not, we were all born awesome singers. It will just take some time, practice and patience, but success is inevitable. Focus on your vocal development and you will make all the right moves. Vocal flexibility is our goal, go slow, practice properly and build your skills gradually. And most of all have fun exploring your instrument!

    Author: Tammy Frederick

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