Italian Song
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Question About Pitchiness in a Foreign Language

I received this insightful question from Jared in a comment on my post about being pitchy, and I thought is was definitely worth sharing with the group.

Your Question

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?

italian song photoPhoto by Internet Archive Book Images

My Answer

Good question! I hadn’t thought of that scenario, but YES. Whether struggling with a native tongue or a new language the issue is the same. Namely, if the articulators (lips, tongue, teeth) don’t absolutely know what they must be doing it can lead to pitch struggle.

The exercise I find most helpful is to learn to sing each note on the perfect vowel sound for that note. No consonants; just vowel sound. For example: “Oh, how I love you,” becomes “Oh, ah-oo ah-ee uh oo.” I have my students learn to sing the full song on the inherent sounds and it cleans up all kinds of things. In a group or choir setting the results are amazing as it gets everyone, no matter what their speech patterns, “on the same page.” Hope this helps. Our Complete Diction and Complete Blend CD’s are really strong in helping with these areas.

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    1. Here are several thoughts:
      1. Most singers use twice the air needed to sing a phrase. Learning to let vocal quality and acoustics do the work rather than just pushing air is key.
      2. By spending a few weeks working on the exercises below it will change the way you sing.
      3. Consider downloading our most popular CD ever called COMPLETE BREATHING. It’s a life-changer and available at the store.

      Hope this helps,
      Chris Beatty

      Ten Steps to Better Breathing for Singers

      A Free Resource by Christopher Beatty from

      If there’s a child near you, you have the perfect mentor for good posture and
      breathing. There’s no better model. Notice the posture: head up; shoulders relaxed and level;
      an alignment of ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles; efficient breathing with a still chest,
      relaxed shoulders and easy movement in the abdomen. All perfectly natural. We adults, on
      the other hand, offer a less pretty picture of good posture and efficient breathing. We are
      victims of poor role models, laziness, weariness, and all-too-human vanities like tummyawareness
      and sometimes overly tight clothing. As a result, our posture and breathing—and
      our singing and speaking—suffer. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Loosen your waistband,
      relax, and take the following ten easy steps to correct breathing:

      1. Start with good posture. Stand with your weight forward on your feet.
      To guarantee good posture, occasionally lift up on your toes, then back
      down. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Lift your hands straight up over
      your head. With your chin level (parallel to the floor, not tilted up or
      down), allow your head to balance naturally over your shoulders. Let
      your arms fall to your sides and imagine a “posture string” is lifting
      you up from the top, back of your head. The feeling should be one of a
      long back of neck and short front of neck. Your ears, shoulders, hips,
      knees, and ankles should be in perfect alignment. Practice in front of a
      mirror or video camera to be sure you are teaching the muscles to
      memorize the right position because muscles have memory. The
      balance, or lack of balance should be obvious.

      2. Keeping your chest and ribs stable and still, gradually extend your arms
      out to your sides until they’re parallel with the floor. You will be making
      a “T” with your body. Continue to feel aligned and balanced with the
      aid of the “posture string.”

      3. Now, clasp your hands behind your head. Without moving your chest and
      ribs, gently inhale. Allow (don’t make) your lower abdomen to expand
      and drop away to receive the breath. You should also feel it in the sides
      and back, at waist level. Next, exhale in small breaths, keeping your
      chest and ribs comfortably still and expanded. Notice how naturally the
      waist and lower abdominal areas are the center of the work.

      4. Now for the crucial focus areas that will stabilize your singing and let
      you be the manager of your breathing. Keep the sides (below ribs, at
      waist level) in a constantly expanding state. Not fixed or tight, or
      collapsed…always expanding outward. By first checking your posture
      with arms lifted up, then placing your fingers in your sides, you will feel
      the initial expansion when you inhale. Now, keep that area expanding
      during the exhalation. As you work to develop this constantly
      expanding status in the sides, you will begin to experience amazing
      freedom in the throat.

      5. The other area that expands on the inhale, and continues to stay gently
      expanding on the exhale is the back of the waist area. All you have to
      do is yawn to feel how natural this is for good, full breathing. As you
      work both the sides and lower back, your singing will get more relaxed
      by the day. You will become as efficient as a toddler! And, though it

      6. Lie down on the floor, on your back. Get comfortable. Clasp your hands
      and let them rest on your abdomen around your belly. (Feel free to use
      a small pillow or book under your head.) To ease any tension in your
      back, bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Now, fully
      relaxing, with a still chest, feel the activity in your abdomen as you
      inhale and exhale. The more you keep the sides and back expanding,
      the more the frontal, abdominal muscles will be able to do their work.
      By now you should be very aware of a healthy expansion of the
      abdominal area all the way from the sternum (the base of the
      breastbone) to the pelvic bone. You should also notice increasing
      activity in the sides and lower and middle back. This is something you
      are allowing, not making. It’s natural.

      7. Still on the floor on your back, continue to breathe, placing one hand on
      your abdomen and the other on your collarbone, at the top of the chest.
      Your abdomen should be moving up for the inhale; down for the exhale.
      The collarbone and ribs should remain quite still, but not rigid. Let this
      coordinated pattern become part of you while you continually strive for
      the expanding sides and back. With daily practice you will soon own this
      efficient breathing. It’s how you were born to manage your breath.

      8. Place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows on the floor.
      Keeping your chest still, begin rhythmically taking in short breaths to
      the count of 1, 2, 3, 4 and blowing out short breaths to the count of 1,
      2, 3, 4. Then expand that to 8 counts in and 8 counts our. Finally, when
      ready, advance to 16 in and out and even 32 counts in and out. But,
      don’t sacrifice control for reaching numbers. Only Proper Preparation
      Prevents Poor Performance and muscles have memory.

      9. Now take a seat on the front edge of a firm chair and lean forward,
      resting your elbows on your knees. Even though you’re tilted forward
      from the waist, you should be able to draw a straight line through the
      ears, shoulders, and hips. Now, inhale by sipping through an
      imaginary straw, in one slow, noisy breath through your mouth. Allow
      your waist (front, sides, and back) to fully expand. Instead, you should
      feel your abdominal, back, and side muscles getting involved. Exhale
      with a gentle hiss (ssssss), letting those abdominal muscles do most of
      the work while keeping other areas still.

      10. Still sitting, let your “posture string” lift you to a standing position with
      only a slight tilt forward. Practice staying aligned while moving back
      and forth between sitting and standing. Putting one foot slightly
      forward will make this easier, but you will be feeling your core muscles
      (abs/back) and quadriceps (legs) doing the work. As you alternate
      between these exercises your posture and breathing will continue to
      become more efficient for singing, speaking and . . . life. Remember:
      Muscles have memory and practice makes permanent, no matter
      what you’re practicing.
      A Free Resource by Christopher Beatty from

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