Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pitch Problems: Tips To Fix Them

Pitch problems can be frustrating... especially subtle ones that are not quite a half-step off. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

I often find pitch issues to be directly related to physical tension. This unnecessary tension can act like someone tugging on the arm of a person playing a fretless instrument. There would be no way to hit the notes perfectly in tune with that kind of outside interference. I've had a lot of fun double-teaming a few of my students with Ethan Kind, who guest-posted on the Alexander Technique previously on this blog.

Another source of inaccurate pitch is physical tightness in your throat channel when you sing. Your throat should open in three directions... up (soft palate and nasal membrane), down (jaw and tongue positions) and back (head balanced, tension-free, on tailbone instead of in front).

Problem-causing physical tension can originate from what I like to call "tense thinking"... psychological anxiety, causing physical guarding, collapsing the "scaffolding" from which the voice works most accurately. Here's where my post on the vocal magic of intention and expectation could help you.

Pitch problems can also stem from wrong vocal technique habits, such as powering your voice from too high in the body. Move your feeling of where power comes from lower... at the pelvic floor... (squeeze your butt for power, not your neck, chest or shoulders) and get taller, lengthening your spine when you sing instead of compressing it and make sure your head is not forward.

An action that can help get pitch right is to make sure you've warmed your voice up throughout your whole range. When the muscles controlling your head and chest voice are equally strong, aiming at pitch becomes much easier. Important: don't just do vocal exercises... find out how to do them CORRECTLY!

Another positive action is to focus your listening to an acoustic instrument in the track or band, instead of swimmy things or low instruments whose overtones tend not to be accurate and will throw off your pitch.

To summarize, here are 6 big tips to help increase your pitch accuracy:
  1. POSTURE... stand or sit tall and confidently, head balanced on tailbone.
  2. WARM UP... your voice correctly throughout your whole range, mixing it.
  3. LISTEN ...to the music, especially acoustic instruments such as piano and guitar.
  4. DON'T LISTEN... to swimmy instruments or bass to get your pitch center.
  5. AIM ...at the pitch... intend to hit a specific note.
  6. CONFIDENCE... expect to hit it!
  7. PRACTICE PERFECTLY... don't allow yourself to be content with pitchiness. Practice hitting the note you're aiming for, instead of allowing yourself to sing "pitchy". You'll train your ear to be much more accurate when you practice accuracy.
Let me know this works for you... and anything else you'd like to add!
To book a pitch fixing lesson in person or by phone, contact me here.

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  • At June 5, 2009 at 6:09 PM , Anonymous Kim Rushing said...

    Judy this is great!

    I would add my 2 cents:
    Singers learning "jazz" standards should be sure to learn the melody as written and be able to sing it, before they change the melody to make it more "jazzy". I hear many young singers make the mistake of changing the melody, but it doesn't equal or improve the original melody...

    I recommend singers sing the actual melody (i'm ok with change the rhythms,-- this is good, ya want it to swing) the 1st time thru, then sing the melody again w/ their own melodic
    ideas--sometimes this is much better than "scatting" before they are ready to "scat"

    I hear singers rushing ahead into trying concepts that they are technically not ready for. I'd rather hear something SIMPLE and PURE-- 1st, it's like a house
    w/o a foundation otherwise...

    Of course, in jazz, it;s important to stretch and take risks, but balance is always muy importante!

  • At June 5, 2009 at 6:11 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Oh my Kim you are SOOO right!! What a concept... sing the melody! It's not about the licks!! Then when the emotion calls for an embellishment (a scat), it's in the flow... and also more usually in tune:)

    Your comments are much appreciated. Coming from your experience, this is advice well taken!

  • At June 19, 2009 at 5:38 PM , Blogger Ashley said...

    Good advice.

    I found that I had a lot of body tension. I can hit the notes no problem. But when I get nervous, or the *orignal broadway singer* goes away I can't hit the notes anymore. I listen to a lot of Broadway musicals. Like you said I can train my ear, with much more practice I can do this. Kind of hard when I don't have a piano! But we will see!


  • At June 19, 2009 at 7:05 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hey there trying to sing... if you don't have a piano use a pitch pipe, guitar, anything that you can try to match pitch with.

  • At May 9, 2012 at 12:24 AM , Anonymous Charlie said...

    Thanks, Judy Rodman for this article. I've been struggling with this singing problem for quite a while now, holding me back from giving the listener/ audience what they expect and more (in a great amazing way). This article gives good advice on how to stay on pitch, thank you again, Judy! Best of luck on all your future endeavors!

  • At May 9, 2012 at 4:12 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Charlie... so glad this helped you... and thx much for the well-wishes! Good luck to you... please keep in touch!

  • At February 23, 2015 at 1:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm an aspiring singer whose pitch problems tend to stem from physical tension and lack of confidence, this article has some really great tips! Thank you Judy Rodman!

  • At February 23, 2015 at 2:16 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    You are most welcome! Glad to help

  • At April 25, 2016 at 10:59 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    hi judi,
    well here we r, nearly 7 years after u posted this article, and it still comes up top (at least it did for me) on a google search for "pitch training". and im glad it did: very simple, clear, helpful -- in particular, for me, the paragraph starting w "Another positive action is to focus your listening to an acoustic instrument...," where u mention that bass overtones tend te be inaccurate. iv been around lots of musicians all my life, yet no one's ever articulated that! tho i'v deeefinitely noticed it :D

    speaking of that paragraph: a typo has endured on it for nearly 7 years: "will through your pitch off," rather than "throw your pitch off" (or, better yet, not splitting the verb-phrase 'throw off', and instead using "throw off your pitch" ;) )

  • At April 26, 2016 at 8:00 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Russell... wow, thanks for watching my back! Sorry the mistake hung out there for all to see for 7 years... will fix now! Thanks for hanging out here with me again; hope you enjoy the new posts and the new podcast that goes along with the recent ones. Take care and call me out on any more mistakes you see! xo


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