When I am auditioning new singers, one of the main things I listen for is their ability to sing in-tune. There are few things that ruin singing more than being out-of-tune. If you are a singer or working with singers, here are 7 keys to help improve musical pitch.
1. Warm Up The Voice
One of the main challenges of singing in church is that it is usually on a Sunday morning. Mornings are not always kind to singers. Over the years I have developed the habit of softly singing in the car ride on my way to church. I play songs on my car stereo from the worship set and softly sing along. Sometimes I sing an octave down, sometimes I sing at pitch but at a soft volume. Warming up your voice is so important to improving your pitch.
Part of warming up your voice is to also make sure it is well hydrated. Drink plenty of room temperature water at least an hour before you sing and keep a good supply with you as you sing.
Here’s an idea of what Celine Dion does to warm-up her voice
2. Improve Your Breath Support
Strong singers have great breathing habits. They fill up their lungs all the way to the bottom and use their diaphragm muscle to control the flow of air. Learning to support your singing with strong breathing is one of the most important skills that strong singers master.
Here is the link to an extensive article on ‘Correct breathing and support for singing‘.
Getting nervous and uptight on stage or in an audition is fairly common. But, the resulting tension can wreak havoc with pitch control. Learn to calm yourself by slow deep breathing. Take 4 or 5 deep breaths and consciously slow your racing heart and mind. Learning to control your emotions and nerves comes with experience and confidence.
4. Match Your Pitch While Playing Piano
Take time to play your notes and parts on a piano and sing-a-long and match the pitch. Learning to listen and match pitches will drastically improve your singing pitch.
5. Record Yourself Singing
Most people can hear pitch problems in other people but sometimes they miss it in their own singing. Recording yourself allows you to have a different perspective on hearing your own voice. Be warned: Most people don’t like the sound of their own voice at first. Don’t let that discourage you. Record yourself and learn to really listen to your pitch.
6. Hire A Teacher
Having a professional help guide you and give you advice is invaluable. They will hear and see things that you might miss. They will give you consistent guidance and insight over a longer period of time and spot any bad habits that you might have developed. If you are serious about singing, a good vocal coach is well worth the money.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice; Sing, Sing, Sing
Confidence comes with repetition. Great singing doesn’t happen by accident. Great singers practice over and over. They are constantly singing and improving. The reason they can sing with confidence is that they have developed their skills in private. Many, many hours are spent in personal practice to develop the skills that make it look effortless on stage.
Singing is like most things in life.. the more you do it, the better you get.
Bonus advice for live performances: Make sure you hear the main accompaniment instrument (piano, guitar, strings, bass, etc.) well in your monitor mix. It’s hard to match your pitch if you’re not hearing properly.
Mark Cole is writer, consultant, arranger & worship pastor. The founding arranger at PraiseCharts, he is currently serving as interim Worship Pastor at Centre Street Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.