This is a great question. When someone says you are singing flat it means that you are vibrating (singing) slightly below the pitch.
For example, let’s say that you were singing a sustained D in one of your songs in choir. If that note sounds flat it means you sound closer to a Db (C#). You are not singing in the center of the pitch and you are vibrating below where it should be.
Conversely, if you were singing that same D and someone said it sounded sharp, that would mean you are vibrating (singing) slightly above the pitch, closer to a D# (Eb). Either way it’s “pitchy,” and Ashley, we always want to sing in the center of the pitch.
What does pitch mean? Well, the dictionary defines it as: the quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibrations producing it. -but here’s an easier way to think about it.
Chroma. The word “chroma” comes from the Greek word “khroma” which means…any guesses? COLOR.
So when we sing we are really producing different colors. Cool, right?
Now, how do you fix your intonation (accuracy of pitch)?
Well there are many variables; it could be tension/nerves, lack of diaphragmatic support, vocal strength, etc. —but most likely it is… your EARS.
Yes, not your voice, but rather your ears! See half of singing is singing, building your voice with daily exercises like my online course, Sing Like You’ve Always Imagined, for example. That’s the vocal conditioning; the raspberries, lip rolls, humming, scales, Ooo’s and Eee’s, etc.
But the other half of singing is…Listening, and that means building your ears too.
There are 2 ways to do this and you need both. One, is relative pitch. This is understanding and identifying intervallic relationships, such as a Major 3rd, Perfect 5th, chord qualities, etc. How the notes relate to one another.
The other, which is our focus today is known as: absolute pitch, or an easier way to think about it: labeling chroma.
In other words, being able to hear and simultaneously identify (separate) the color or frequency of pitch.
Can you hear the difference between a D and C#?
Can you hear and immediately identify a C, F#, Bb, E?
What about a D major chord? Bb minor chord, etc.?
Having an awareness of chroma labeling will not only make you a better singer, it will make you a better musician.
The good new is there is an excellent Free app, a revolutionary music pitch training system that will help you learn exactly how to do this.
And like my vocal training it is not hard, but simply requires the discipline of daily practice.
It’s called: Clear Pitch.
It was created/designed by Blake Kearney and you can download it in the iTunes AppStore here.
Once you have the app, make sure to first watch the video to learn about tonal memory encoding, storage and retrieval techniques. Then play the game consistently for a week, at least 20 minutes every day, then watch the video again.
Ashley, building your ears as well as your voice is the key to unlocking your full potential as a singer.