I'm A Singer and They Say I'm "Pitchy." What Can I Do?

When someone says you’re pitchy, you need to listen.

Being flat, sharp, north or south of the note etc., is worth looking at.  Being pitchy means you are not centering your pitch on the pitch center, which is one of the non-negotiables in singing.

Everyone has occasional inaccuracies, and even major recording artists often let the recording engineer “fix it in the mix.”  That’s where they look at a graphic of the note and literally “drag” it up or down to fix it. In truth, there are a lot of problems that are fixed “in the mix.”

If you have constant pitch issues, it’s another matter, and you need to take some immediate steps to try and fix the problem.  It could be a simple matter of inexperience.  In rare instances, however, you may not have the natural gift, or ability to know if you are on, or even near the right note.  That’s called tone deafness.

In that case, you have a long road to go, and even then you may, or may not be able to accurately sing the right notes. In the same way that some people will never be good athletes, painters or electrical engineers, some will never be accurate singers. But, as long as you’re not picking up a microphone, and claiming to be a good singer, sing on!  God listens to the heart, and those hearing you sing in the shower love your spirit and heart.

Here are some steps you can take to evaluate what’s going on and get things moving in the right direction:

You need accurate feedback to know what’s happening.  That can be either from another musician who can immediately tell where you are in relationship to the note, a recording of you singing, or, ideally, a combination of the two.

Once you are convinced of the need for fine-tuning your pitch accuracy, you need to look at some foundations of singing and go through the “Singer’s Pre-flight Check List.” All of these areas can have an impact on your pitch:

  • Posture. Check it by lifting your hands over your head and going up on your toes.  This is your most efficient, balanced posture.  It needs to be who you are when standing.  When you’re sitting, stand from the waist up.
  • Breathing. Inefficient breathing can make you inconsistent, and tentative. Good breath management will free up the voice and also helps with pitch.*
  • Diction. If your words are sloppy, with unclear vowels and consonants it can get your throat busy trying to fix things.  The throat can’t fix diction issues, and if it tries it can drive pitch up or down.*
  • Do singing accuracy exercises. Pitch matching exercises are a great way to challenge and fine-tune your pitch accuracy. Start with playing (or having someone else play) single pitches and simply matching them.  Then go to two notes, then three, and finally, a series of four or more. You may need someone else to judge your accuracy and point up or down to help you center your pitch.
  • There are software packages that work on ear training, but I’ve not used those with students and can’t recommend a specific one.

In summary, all those who sing in public need to have good pitch accuracy.  It’s a gift and skill that can be enhanced and refined in most singers, and it’s worth the effort.

Let me know your thoughts and experiences in this area.  Also, let me know if you have ever worked with any of the ear training software programs.

May the Lord bless you as you seek to be the best, most efficient communicator you can be, in singing and speaking.

11 comments

  1. Randall says:

    Thank you for this article.

    I’m trying to figure out how to sing better. I play a variety of instruments, can here when something isn’t the right pitch – I hear the warble sound when tuning guitars, hear disonance, the whole 9 yards.

    When it comes to my voice, I can’t seem to sing on note, I’m usually a half a step above whatever I’m singing.

    It sounds like it’s resonating right in my ears and head, but when I listen to it – it’s off.

    It’s frustrating.

    I don’t think I’m tone deaf, but it sounds like it from your definition. However I can tell when other things are off, and can sometimes hear when I’m off while singing.

    Any direction for how to correct? I don’t think I’m breathing properly. My range seems to be pretty wide, I can hold notes for long lengths of time, can make it go up and down all over the place – but it’s just singing on pitch that is the problem.

    Any ideas?

    I can see the things you said helping, but don’t know if there is a specific way to correct my problem.

    Thank you.

    In Jesus,
    -Randall

    • chrisbeatty says:

      Randall, I think you need some systematic ear training with a skilled music teacher or coach. Pitch accuracy, fundamentally, is not a breathing issue but a brain-larynx-ear issue, and one that can be taught and refined for most people. Especially if you can hear inaccuracies after the fact you can probably develop some accurate pitch-center singing. With I could just recomment some of our products, but this will require some one-on-one. If you can find anyone locally it would be possible for me to do Online sessions with you using something like Skype.

  2. Eunan O'Boyle says:

    Hi there,

    Try Erol Singer’s Studio app for ipad or iphone. I am not affiliated to whoever invented this, in any way, but I would say it’s the best app I’ve ever seen anywhere. It gives you scales, arpeggios etc. to sing and then gives you a percentage for how accurately you sang each note. The notes are represented by the manuscript, but also, blue dots which turn different shades of green depending on how well you hit the note. Incredible. It’s a workhorse, and you can work by yourself (sorry Chris) on the pitching issues.

    You’ll be flying in no time hopefully.

    Regards,
    Eunan

  3. Jared says:

    You mention diction as being a potential problem when it comes to pitch. Does this mean, for instance, that a singer who is attempting to sing in another language that he/she cannot pronounce very well, it can cause slight pitchiness?

  4. T. Monn says:

    Thank you for this wonderful information. I’ll be monitoring myself more closely now, especially my posture and breathing. Should not assume that I’m always on pitch.

    Regards in Christ,
    Terri

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