Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: July 2014

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Monday, July 7, 2014

3-Step Process To Singing In Tune: Listen, Mime, Sing!

 
A basic requirement of the singing voice is the ability to sing in tune.  Otherwise you must be content to make a joyful noise! I have tried several things in my vocal coaching and have settled on a three step process that is amazingly effective, even with people with some ear damage or who have been told they were tone deaf. Focusing on active listening, it trains the processing chain to be 'ear-to-brain-to-vocal cords' instead of just 'ear-to-vocal cords'. It's great for beginners, but also is very effective for experienced singers who want to correct pitch problems and gain an even higher level of 'surgical' pitch accuracy. The third step note series will just need to be more complicated and harder for them.

You need:
  • Some way to play a note. 
This can be an instrument that can play notes in your vocal range (don't use a tuba, girls), someone who will play notes for you, or some computer program or online site you can use such as Virtual Piano.
  • Some way to know if you sing the notes played or not. 
If your ear is good enough, you can assess yourself. If not, you must find someone to work with you. If you sing it wrong, they should also be able to tell you if you are sharp or flat so you know which way to go to get it right. A vocal coach is best for this, because you can simultaneously be trained to use good breath control and open throat techniques vital for truly accurate aim.

Here is my three step process for pitch practice: LISTEN, MIME, SING

1. Play a note. LISTEN... actively listen, and process that sound in the brain.

2. Play the same note again. MIME the note on a syllable you choose... I usually go with 'ya'. Important: Don't make a vocal sound - do everything BUT make a sound. Do it over and over until in your imagination you really are singing the note correctly.

NOTE TO VOCAL COACHES: You should be able to see in your student's mime the syllable formed and a look on their face that says they are 'hearing' that note. If you don't see this evidence, play the note again and have the student mime it again... until they can relax and really sing that note in their imagination. When you think you see them silently and successfully hitting that note, go on to the third step:

3. Play the same note again. SING on the chosen syllable out loud this time.

NOTE TO VOCAL COACHES: If they were not on pitch, patiently GO BACK to the first step and do it all again until they DO hit the pitch. I find it helpful to keep it playful, light, a feeling of experimenting rather than passing a test. The student must relax into processing pitch ear-to-brain-to-vocal-cords.

THEN:
Go on to doing this 3-step process on a short series of notes. Start with a basic third (1-3) or triad (1-3-5). As you become consistent in your accuracy, make the phrases harder. Try some chromatic patterns (half steps), large leaps (1-9-4, etc) and more notes in the series (1-6-4-10-3, etc).

NOTE TO VOCAL COACHES: Beginners will find it difficult to sing a perfect fifth.. so go slow and give the voice success! It may take some patient practice, but absent significant organic damage to the ear, almost anyone can learn to sing in tune.

For more on this subject, read "Tone Deaf? Try Target Practice".
Want to do a vocal lesson with me? Contact me here.

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