Episode 9 – Pitchy much?
In this episode we dig into what ‘tone deafness’ really means and why someone might have told you that in the first place.
We also dig into:
• simple pitch matching
• techniques for building pitch confidence
• when ‘pitch sliding’ is a good thing
• what is ‘the spooky’ interval
and ask the questions:
1. Are you ready to let go of the pitchy story?
2. Do you have 1-3 minutes a day to build your pitching confidence?
I also released the details for my BRAND NEW LIVE course – Begin to Sing! 6 weeks to singing – and you can find all the details and early sign up discounts here ➡️ www.yourfreevoice.com/begintosing
Hello. Hello. Before we jump into this week’s episode, I just wanted to share a quick and very exciting announcement with you. From September 7th to October 12th, I’m going to be running a brand new live course called begin to sing. This course is gonna be over zoom and it’s for anyone who wishes they were singing, but feels held back by old stories about their voice.
This could be, I can’t sing in tune my voice. Isn’t strong enough. I can’t be heard. No one would wanna listen to me anyway. I dunno where to start. I always run out of breath. I’m too old, et cetera. You know, the ones, if that sounds like you, and you are ready to release all of that and begin to free your voice, then this course might be just perfect for you.
So click in the link in the show notes, or just go to your free voice.com/begin to sing. You’ll find all the information pricing and the special bonuses and early sign up discounts there. That’s it. I’d love to get to work with you live. And now back to our regular programming. Hello and welcome to episode nine.
In the next few episodes, we are going to dig a little bit deeper into some of the stories that might be holding you back from singing. And one of the main ones that comes up very often is one about pitching. Fear of singing out of key, uh, sliding off pitch, or even worse, having been told that you were tone deaf by somebody in your childhood or youth and you believed them, oh, let me tell you something.
It’s not true. It’s not true. Uh, tone deafness is incredibly rare.
. I think only about 5% of people have it. It’s called congenital amusia, which I think is delightful name for a rotten affliction. Um, and it is defined as being unable to differentiate between pitches. So, uh, if I were to sing two notes, you wouldn’t be able to tell me if one was higher or lower.
So if I go LA LA, right. If I sing those two notes, LA LA was that second note, higher or lower than the first note LA LA. If you could hear that, the second note was lower. Chances are, you’re not tone deaf, right?
Um, so unless you are a tone, deaf unicorn out there, in which case you have my sympathy, um, all the rest of you need to look at that story, find where it came, decide, whether the person who told you that has the authority to stop you from singing in your adult life and then let it go.
Right. um, it could be that it was an over busy choir teacher who just felt like they didn’t have the time to help fix your pitch issues. And the easiest thing was to say, uh, your tone, deaf don’t sing just mime the words. It could be that somebody was trying to, uh, stop you from ’embarrassing yourself’ in some kind of venue situation.
And they didn’t want you to, uh, so, so even though it was an awful thing to say, there was some part of them that was maybe trying to save you from embarrassment also terrible. You can let go of that story. Um, whatever it was, whatever the reason was because we don’t know. Why really somebody says, says a thing like that, but take it from me.
Uh, your ‘not tone deafness’ fairy. You’re not tone deaf. Okay. And the funny thing is it’s not just in my experience as a voice coach, I’ve been a singing teacher for 25 years here. Right? So that’s a long time. I have never met somebody who came to me and said they were tone deaf and there have been many who was actually tone deaf.
And when I talk to any of my colleagues at conferences or workshops, or what have you. They have the same experience. They’ve never met somebody that they couldn’t help with their pitching, right. It’s fixable. It’s totally fixable. So that means that tone deafness or pitching issues are nearly, always a mind issue, not a physical issue.
There definitely needs to be an adjustment in terms of what you allow to run rampant in your brain about your pitching. And you probably need to learn to open your ears more, to allow the sound to come in. And you definitely need to hear the sound in your head before you attempt to sing it. And it might be that when you go to hear the sound, um, it’s in an area of your voice, that’s on your register break or something like that, which becomes difficult to match the pitch.
But all of these things are fixable and the very, very, very first place we’re gonna start is to listen to a pitch in your comfortable range and hear it in your head first. Right? So let’s say even if you’re not a piano player, find yourself, um, a keyboard app. If you don’t have a keyboard in your house and find the note that says, uh, C4 right in the middle.
If you are a bloke, oh, sorry. if you are a bloke or, uh, you have a lower voice, um, then, um, Go lower than C4, maybe down to the F three.
Right? So these notes should feel comfortable for your voice.
Okay. Up to the C4. And what you’re gonna do is you are going to, I’m gonna play the note. I want you to hear it in your head and then sing it back.
Hear it in your head first
and then try singing it back. LA uh, Uh,
yeah. Good. Okay. So let’s try one for the higher pitched voices. Let’s try, uh, D four sounds like this. Listen to the note, let it come into your ears. Imagine your ears kind of stretching out, like play dough and the note going, we are all straight into your ear. Here we go.
For the higher voices. Listen, hear it in your head.
right. Do you hear that LA? So the very first thing you’re gonna do is just get a keyboard app, get somewhere in the middle, find ranges that feel like they’re in your comfortable part of your voice and just for. And one to three minutes a day, one to three minutes a day. Cause I want you to really take the time to listen.
Open your ears, reproduce the sound in your head first, and then sing the note back. You’ll start getting some confidence with your pitching. Okay. The next thing to do is to start to experiment with really simple songs. And usually the first one, all little kids learn actually is things like twinkle, twinkle little star, right?
Because it’s such a simple song. Um,
This is not, this is not, there’s no Liberace going on here. I’m playing you a twinkle twinkle little star. We gonna go
for those of you on an app on your phone with numbered notes, I’m going C4 twice. G four, twice a twice. G four once. And then each note coming down, each white note coming down, uh, twice F four E four, D four, C four, once that’s way more than you needed to know, but basically that’s how you play twinkel twinkle little star, a piano starting from C4, going up to G4 and then a four, and then coming all the way down.
Right now, if you can start to, uh, sing a song like that, um, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, how I wonder what you are, and really match those notes now, if your, if your voice is lower, just start on the C3, do the same thing, starting on C3. Okay. Um, try that. And again, tiny amounts of time. Don’t do more than three minutes a day, right. And you’ll start to not only build your confidence around. Uh, singing on pitch, but you’ll release that old story about you being tone deaf, and you’ll, you’ll start to actually build in muscle memory for intervals as well, which is a, a little bit more complicated.
And I could identify some classics in here, but for right now, it’s all about you letting go of that old story and starting to build some confidence about pitches. If that feels comfortable, you can go onto the next bit, which is really wobbling around a pitch. I did some, uh, substitute teaching at a school in London, uh, the city literary Institute, where they had a jazz musicianship class and all kinds of other, uh, jazz classes.
And one of the things I was trying to teach was improvisation. Probably way too young and inexperienced to be teaching that. But I did anyway, cause I was standing in, um, and one of the things I used to try to impress upon my students then was when you are improvising and you hit a wrong note, because you didn’t get the scale right, or something. And you hear it’s a bum note, right? Don’t jump to another note. Cuz when you jump, you are way more likely to hit another wrong note and then you start panicking and this whole cascade of wrong notes happens. What you wanna do is just slide. Just slide the tiniest bit to adjust because you’re nearly, always half step away from somewhere. Good. Right. It could be a whole step, but mostly it’s a half step away from somewhere that works. Okay. So hang on. So if I’m here, I want, I’m just gonna slide around these notes. So here’s B3 and I’ll sing it first. I hear it in my head. And then I’ll sing it LA and then I’m gonna wobble around it.
oh, actually, I quite like that. Because I quite like to sing the weird
right. and then come back to where it’s supposed to be. LA uh, So have a little bit of fun with that in our Western, uh, traditional music scales, our smallest interval is a half step or a semitone. Ooh, which are, I’ve always called the spooky interval. Right. Cause it has that haunted house kind of thing.
Ooh. Ooh, but in other traditions like Indian classical singing, there, there are a whole bunch more notes in between, which is obvious, cuz it seems like a huge step to me too. LA LA seems big anyway. So there’s a whole bunch of wiggle room in the middle there. If you want to just get playful. But what it’s gonna do is it’s going to really sharpen your ear.
For the tiny fluctuations in pitch. And for when you are really matching a pitch, that’s being played a pitch that’s being desired. Right. So that’s a great, that’s a great thing for you to do. when you start to, uh, get really confident in your comfortable range and you move into songs that have a bit more range and you get around your register break, um, or higher parts of your voice.
You might find that you get pitching issues again, and that’s gonna be much more likely because your instrument, your vocal instrument, doesn’t quite know how to set itself right in order to produce the sound. Um, there could be many things going on with that. It could be, maybe your chin is lifted too high or mouth is too wide creating real, uh, uh, wide vowel sounds.
Um, maybe you don’t know how to find mixed voice or resonance there in the front of the face. Uh, maybe you’re too loud or maybe you’re too breathy. I’ve seen breathiness really take away people’s ability to produce sounds. So any of those could be an issue. Um, and that takes a bit more focused work. But for right now, I really just wanted to completely dispel this idea that you might be tone deaf, right?
You’re not. You just wanna practice a little bit. If you do one to three minutes a day. As I was suggesting with a little keyboard app or at the keyboard or piano on your house, if you’re lucky enough to have one or with any other instrument that you can play guitar, what have you probably, it’s a bit harder with a wind instrument, obviously, cuz it’s in your mouth, but you know, anything that you can pluck or what have you, uh, do that and, and start to heal this wound about pitching.
Honestly, I feel like it’s. It’s the easiest insult to throw a singer. And it’s the one that stings the most. Right. Even those of us that are professional and have been doing this for years, if you have a bad, uh, setup, and you can’t hear your voice through the monitors, or I know singers that will lose their in ear monitors through the performance, because they’re being so active and then they can’t hear themselves.
And then it’s actually really hard to stay on key and then, somebody says “you’re pitchy” and it’s like, oh, it’s the worst. It’s totally the worst. So wherever you are at, that’s why I say at the beginning of this podcast, doesn’t matter where you are at in your journey. We are all facing the same demons around our vocal expression, just at different levels.
So take charge of this one, pitching, let go of the old stories, embrace the fact that for like two or three minutes a day, you could actually be starting to make that better. Okay. Brilliant.