If you’re looking to teach yourself to sing on key, it’s important to remember that it has as much – if not more – to do with training your ear as it does with training your voice. And since we can’t hear ourselves sing accurately, we need recording equipment or another trusted pair of ears to check our results. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, tools that will help you teach yourself to sing on key are now readily available alongside more traditional methods. Here are five methods you may want to experiment with for yourself:
1) Use Your Piano
For this vocal exercise, sit down at a piano and choose a note in the middle of your range. Listen carefully to the note as you play it, and sing it back. Don’t be afraid to play the note a few times, and spend a second or two listening before you repeat it. Extend this exercise by playing your home note, then sing intervals of a third, then a fifth away from it. Are you accurately returning to your home note? If not, analyze what you are doing wrong – are you singing sharp or flat? Is there something technical that you are doing wrong? This is an exercise that singers of all levels should come back to from time to time just to make sure your ears are working in relation to your tuning!
2) Record Yourself
Whether you’re using a more standard piece of equipment like a mini-disc recorder or you’re using a smartphone or tablet, recording yourself can be an ear-opener. Try recording your practice sessions and lessons, and listen to them afterward. When you’re singing specific exercises, particularly scales and arpeggios, how accurately-tuned are your intervals? If your teacher is accompanying you, are you in tune with the piano? This latter point to note is a natural progression from the first point above, so remember any intervals that may have been slightly weaker when working on your own, and pay particular care to tuning those.
3) Download an App
If you’re a fan of games on your smartphone, you have several options for combining ear training and fun! EarWizard is a great option, although it’s only available for iOS. This game starts with visual clues, then leaves you relying on your ear as you progress through levels, and ends up testing both your musical memory and your ear. It’s suitable for beginner and advanced musicians (there is a range of skill options), and is a superb way to make learning fun.
4) Work With a Voice Teacher
Back to the “trusted pair of ears” advice, there is no substitute, electronic or otherwise, for a good voice teacher who can check your posture and correct any bad habits that might be affecting your tone and your ability to sing in tune. Your singing teacher will help you train your ear alongside your voice, and ensure that your musical skills advance alongside your vocal progress.
Ear training is probably the most important part of your development as a musician, and should be considered an essential step in learning to sing. Even at a fairly basic level, a singer that sings in tune will be pleasant to listen to and get the kind of listener feedback that encourages them to keep going. Anyone can improve their ear, and hopefully a combination of the above options will work for you!
Photo by Javier Ignacio Acuña