Why do people sing out of pitch? To answer this question we need to understand how singing on-pitch (or in tune) works.
The diagram below shows the process happening in our bodies when we sing. I will explain it to you in simple terms.
⚙️ This is what happens when we sing
- We choose a note to sing and command the muscles in our body to make a sound
- We listen to ourselves, compare what we hear with what we want to hear, and send the body command to adjust
- This cycle repeats until we are satisfied with what we hear or until we need to change to the next note in the melody
We can see that singing in tune requires a couple of separate abilities. Namely the abilities to:
- Compare notes – called a musical ear
- Remember notes – called a musical memory
- Move your body muscles to make necessary sounds – called singing technique
If you struggle to sing in tune you can easily check which one you are missing.
✔️ Quick checklist – why you might be out of pitch
- 👂 After hearing 2 random notes, can you say which one is higher? – If not, you have to train your musical ear
- 🧠 After hearing a short melody, can you “replay” it in your head? – If not, you have to train your musical memory
- 🤹 If you sing a note, can you immediately hear that you are out of tune? – If not, you have to exercise your muscles and practice singing technique
👽 Can anyone learn to sing in tune?
Almost anyone can do it. There are rare exceptions, but those have to do with serious health issues like damaged hearing or lungs. What’s different from person to person though is how long it might take.
Mostly it depends on the amount of time you’ve spent singing before. Another common problem is our confidence. Unfortunately, we often get criticized and receive negative feedback. Especially it hurts when our close relatives and friends do it.
I can relate to this myself. When I was a kid my parents used to tell me that I do not have a musical ear. That was quite discouraging and kept me away from singing in public.
Only years later when I grew up and started living on my own I’ve managed to overcome my fright and started practicing vocals. I’m still not perfect, but my ability to hit the pitch improved dramatically.
🏋️ We designed Pitch Training to help with this
I’ve built Singing Carrots to help people like me find their way to singing. Pitch Training, in particular, is built around the principles I explained above.
It’s not a magic pill, but it can help you improve if you put in enough time. Pretty much like a gym subscription. You can start with it by trying our interactive Pitch Accuracy Test.
Or read more about it in this review.
If you want to learn more details about the mechanics of singing in tune read this research paper.