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Singing in tune is an essential skill for singers (autotune aside). 

If you struggle with pitch, you may think you are tone deaf (don’t worry, it’s very rare), but you may be a bit tone-shy.

In this episode, John discusses the following:

  • effective ways to build your ear 
  • the ability to match pitch 
  • how to sing in tune

Are You Tone Deaf?

Some of you out there are secretly worried you might be tone deaf if you’ve struggled to sing in tune, and I’m here to tell you you’re not.

True tone deafness is extremely rare. It is also called amusia. 

People with tone deafness cannot perceive musical tones, and they cannot sing in tune. They may also have difficulty discriminating between different pitches (tones). 

So if you can differentiate pitch, if your speaking voice has pitch in it, you’re not tone deaf. Now you may be a little tone shy. 

People who are tone-shy just have trouble hearing pitch, but they are still able to sing in tune. So, if you can carry a tune, then you are tone-shy, not tone deaf. 

But here’s the deal, it’s a mental thing. It is your mind. Your mind must create pitch intensely and send it to your larynx or vocal folds.

Your vocal folds are muscles that need precise control in order to produce sound. The movement of the vocal folds is controlled by the coordination of many different muscles, all working together. The brain plays a critical role in this process, as it sends signals to the muscles that control the vocal cords. This mental information is essential for producing sound, as it tells the muscles when to contract and relax. Without these signals, the vocal cords could not produce sound. 

Therefore, it is safe to say that the mental information that you send to the vocal folds is everything when it comes to producing sound.


How to Create the Pitch You Have in Mind

When it comes to singing, pitch is everything. The pitch of your singing voice is what determines the notes you are able to sing. It is one of the main aspects that listeners will notice about your voice. 

If you’re struggling with pitch accuracy, you likely have not developed this ability to create the correct pitch accurately in your mind. And it’s not that hard to do. It just takes a little bit of time. 

Here’s how:

  1. Get a piano or a guitar, any fixed instrument
  2. Play random notes that are within your comfortable vocal range or those that you don’t struggle to sing. For instance, if you know where your Middle C is, pick notes below that middle C. That way, hitting notes would be a lot easier.  
  3. Listen to it and then create your voice singing in your mind before you sing it. If you’re struggling, maybe go a little lower and spend a little more time hearing it. And don’t attack the note
  4. Pick another note and create it. 

If you can do this, you’re well on your way. Do this for two minutes in the morning and another two minutes in the evening. Don’t do it for a long time because you want to be mentally sharp when you do this. 

Within a week or so, you’re going to find yourself getting there faster and faster. Then what you can do is take a really simple song, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Give yourself a starting pitch. If you can play it on the piano, great.

If you are still getting pitchy in songs, there may be some technical issues, vocal health concerns, registration issues, etc., in your vocal technique that’s causing problems. 

You can check yourself on the piano. But if you can’t play the piano, that’s fine. 

To check yourself: 

  1. Go ahead and create a pitch in your mind and see if what you hear mentally is able to come out of your own voice right away. 
  2. Play a pitch. Hold it. 
  3. And sing above the note. Let yourself go sharp. And then come down and back to the pitch. Hear yourself tuning the pitch in. 

Remember, you’re not always going to nail the right note every time. What you should do is if you’re sharp, you gotta bring it down. If you sing flat, you have to bring it up. 

But don’t go too far. Instead, go between the half steps. These little micro pitches are called cents, and there are 100 cents between each half step. Go in slightly higher – about 5 cents, 10 cents, and just a little bit. 

Tips for Singing in Tune

Give yourself a starting pitch and sing a song out loud. And then, when it’s done, see if you’ve drifted. 

First, start off with small segments of the song, just sing a line, and then check and see if you’re still in tune. 

Then two lines, and then maybe a whole verse, and then a whole chorus. Choruses are going to be tricky because choruses generally sit higher than verses. 

If you find yourself struggling, back off on the intensity of the note. Sing everything lighter

Important Note: If we hit a note with too much intensity, we employ too much vocal fold muscle. And then, we will go to an over-wide vowel. When this happens, you’re throwing a switch in your nervous system that’s telling your nervous system that you’re yelling.

So what you should do is to lighten up the voice and stay on more closed, rounded vowels. If you have vowels that work well in your singing voice, see if you can stay in tune on a vowel that works for you. 

Don’t start jamming up, and get that connection between your mind and your vocal folds. You want that pathway dialed in. That way, as you start singing in, you can really feel when it’s out of tune. 

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is you’re not tone deaf. And you can sing in tune. It just takes awareness and the ability to really listen if you sound good and focus on matching pitch. 

Moreover, start practicing being able to narrow your listening awareness, hear detail, hear pitch, listen to other singers, against the music, and listen if you hear them go out of tune a little bit. 

Bring those listening skills to your own singing voice. Record yourself because this is the best way to start self-diagnosing and understanding your own voice. You can’t fix this until you confront it or until you’re really aware of it. Listen, are you going sharp, or are you singing flat? 

If you develop your musical ear and muscle memory, that awareness, that connection between your mind and your voice, you will sing in tune naturally. To further improve your singing skills or ensure you sing perfectly, work with a singing voice specialist or vocal coach today. 

If you want to know more about how to sing in tune, please check out my website, And if you’re interested in becoming a voice teacher, my Contemporary VoiceTeacher Academy is open. Check out my site and just click on teacher training up at the top menu.