Singing out of tune is not that uncommon if you’re a beginner, but if you’re still singing out of tune once you have some experience under your belt, don’t panic because there is always a reason for it. Many musicians who have this problem assume that they’re tone deaf, but that is rarely the case. In fact, true tone deafness is extremely rare so it is very unlikely that this is the problem. Instead, there can be several reasons why you’re singing out of tune, and most of them are easy to fix.
What Does Singing Out of Tune Mean?
It’s easy to understand what singing out of tune means. Singing out of tune means that you’re either singing a particular note a little high or a little low. If the note is a little too high, you’re singing a little sharp. If the note is being sung a little too low, you’re singing flat.
There are also increments of sharpness and flatness. Think of a half step on the piano, which means a particular note and the note closest to it. If you divide this into 100 increments, usually called cents, you can understand how someone could be singing just a tiny bit sharp or flat. In other words, there are variations of singing out of tune.
Nevertheless, singing out of tune can wreak havoc on your performance. People in the audience listening to you will notice that the notes don’t sound right, even if they aren’t musicians themselves. Indeed, it doesn’t take an experienced musician to realize when another musician is singing out of tune. This is why you’ll want to do something about the problem as soon as possible, which is much easier if you know why these out-of-tune notes are coming out of your mouth in the first place.
Five Common Reasons Why People Sing Out of Tune
There are numerous reasons why people sing out of tune, including lack of experience and inexperience when it comes to technique. That being said, below are five very common reasons why people sing out of tune.
1. Not Adjusting Your Vocal Cords
You’ve probably never heard of pre-phonatory tuning, but don’t let the term scare you. It is really just a fancy way of saying that before you sing a note, you have to mentally create each pitch and adjust your voice to the pitch or music you’re singing. Singing the right notes takes both physical and mental work, and while you may not even realize you’re doing this, it has to be done in order to sing notes that are perfectly in tune. Part of this process is adjusting your vocal cords so that the right notes come out.
In other words, you have to think about the notes before you sing them. If you’d like to practice making this easier, simply play a note on the piano then try to sing it. You’ll notice that you’re carefully listening to this note so that when you sing it, it comes out right. You have to think about every note you sing and adjust your vocal cords accordingly.
2. The Wrong Amount of Airflow
The air flowing through your vocal cords always affects the pitch of each note that you sing. If you aren’t using enough air, the vocal cords can become a bit too thick and you’ll sing flat. If the air is flowing too quickly, you’ll go above the right pitch and sound sharp. If you’re singing higher notes, being out of tune will be less noticeable, but it can still be a terrible sound to the listeners. The remedy is simply learning the correct amount of airflow rate to your vocal cords to make the notes sound good.
3. The Wrong Vocal Placement
Incorrect placement is a common cause of singing off pitch, but placement is a very basic aspect of a great singing voice. Placement involves frequencies and resonance, but it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. While you cannot literally “place” (move) your voice, you can sing with more efficient frequencies that allow you to sing in tune.
This is because when you sing, you’re not judging pitch from the sound hitting your ears after the fact, which wouldn’t work anyway, but you’re judging it from resonance and vibration. If you’re taking singing lessons and singing out of tune, ask your vocal coach to suggest exercises for better vocal placement.
4. Using the Wrong Vowels
Your voice has an upper and a lower register, which musicians call the head and chest voice. Simply put, if you sing a high note, which requires singing in your head voice, in your chest voice instead, the result can be singing out of tune. This is because in this case, you’ll be widening and yelling the vowel, which stresses out your vocal cords and usually makes your voice flat. If you pull your chest voice too high, i.e., you’re yelling the vowel, you can go flat.
To remedy this, learn to balance resonance with your vowels and to blend your chest and head registers. If you make the correct vowel adjustments, the transition from one voice to the other gives you greater control over your vocal range and you can sing with less strain, which means fewer out-of-tune notes.
5. The Wrong Foundation
Singers are like athletes, meaning they need to learn the basics of singing before they can improve their singing skills. A runner cannot win any of their races unless they have learned the fundamentals of how to run and how to improve their speed.
If you taught yourself how to sing, this is a common problem, and if you’re already taking lessons, it doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. You should, however, make sure that your vocal coach is teaching you the basic fundamentals of singing.
Among many other things, the fundamentals include how to breathe properly and how to warm up properly, not to mention how to stand and how to pronounce each note that you sing. If you’re being taught all of the fundamentals of singing and you’re still singing out of tune, just give yourself some time and practice everything taught in your lessons so that you improve over time.