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How to Train Yourself to Sing on Key Using the Piano

Updated on September 1, 2018
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Respected vocal coach and professional singer, Audrey Hunt lays it on the line when it comes to the responsibility of singing.

Sing more - live more ~
Sing more - live more ~ | Source

About Perfect Pitch

The act of producing an exact musical pitch using just the singing voice is quite an accomplishment for most musicians. For others, it is not an accomplishment at all because these lucky people are born with the ability to produce any pitch perfectly and exact and they haven't a clue as to how they do it.

This is referred to as "perfect pitch." Learning how to match a musical tone, pitch or sound is not reserved for a special few but is available to anyone with a strong desire to learn.

You've waited long enough to be able to sing-on-key. So let's learn something about pitch and how you can succeed in sounding better than ever before.

How to Build a Scale On a Piano

What is a Musical Pitch And How Do I Duplicate A Particular Sound?

To keep it simple, a pitch is the highness or lowness of a tone. Some sounds are high and some are low in varying degrees. It all depends on its frequency. The pitch of a pure tone can also be influenced by changing its intensity (loud/soft.)

A tone is any sound with reference to its quality and pitch. So it goes something like this:

  • Sing an "ah" - any "ah." You are now singing a pitch. It can be high or it can be low or the pitch can be anything in between. So you can sing lots of different pitches (sounds.)
  • Now beginning with a low pitch, you will designate a number to each individual pitch. This is the way melodies are constructed. The melody uses a series of notes (called a scale) that starts on a specific pitch and ends on a higher version of that same pitch. example: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8(or 1)

How to Find Middle C on the Piano

Locate the 2 black keys.  Middle C is the very first white key to the left.  Middle C is the same as 1. Continuing up (to the right) is D followed by E etc. The musical alphabet is A B C D E F G.  After G, begin the alphabet again.
Locate the 2 black keys. Middle C is the very first white key to the left. Middle C is the same as 1. Continuing up (to the right) is D followed by E etc. The musical alphabet is A B C D E F G. After G, begin the alphabet again. | Source

Finding Middle C on the Piano

If you have the use of a piano, find middle C. Here's how to locate this key.

  • Find the center of the keyboard, usually beneath the piano makers name such as Yamaha, Steinway & Sons or Baldwin.
  • Directly below the maker's name look for the group of black keys. They are right in the middle of the piano keyboard. Notice that there are 2 black keys followed by 3 black keys.
  • In the black 2 key group, look for the white key directly to the left and you have found the key middle C. (or 1). The very next white key going up is D ( or 2 ) followed by E ( or 3 )
  • When you continue going up the scale in this pattern you will reach the higher C ( or 1 or 8.)
  • Sing each scale key using the number system. Even though you might know the names of these keys, sing them by the number. (This is the beginning of learning intervals which will be covered in another hub.)

A fun example of Singing Solfeggio

Introducing The Solfeggio Method

Anyone who has seen the Sound of Music either on stage or the film can never forget the delightful song that begins with "Do, a deer, a female deer." This song uses solfeggio to sing different pitches. Example:

1 is the same pitch as Do

2 is the same pitch as Re

3 is the same pitch as Mi

4 is the same pitch as FA

5 is the same pitch as So and to continue the scale 6 is La 7 is the same as Ti and 8 or1 is the same pitch as Do (only sung higher).

Now, sing Frerra Jacques using the Solfeggio method.

  • Do Re Mi Do
  • Do Re Mi Do
  • Mi Fa So
  • Mi Fa So

Solfeggio is a great way to develop your sight singing skills

Ear Training and Recording Your voice

What all of this amounts to is training your ear to hear each note of the musical scale. Recording your voice as you set out to duplicate the sound you hear on the piano is a great and efficient way to train yourself to sing on key.

  • Play a key somewhere in the center of the piano.
  • Listen carefully to the tone.
  • Play it again.
  • Now sing using any syllable the sound you think you hear. Be sure to record this. Playback the recording and listen to see if you match the sound on the piano.
  • Continue this practice repeatedly and often every day.
  • In the beginning, you may be off-key but eventually, your brain will memorize the correct sound and you will sing on key.

Once you have spent several months with some good ear training exercises you will find yourself singing the right musical pitch using your voice.

There are all types of ear training and sight singing software available on the internet as well as youtube videos.

She Was Born Blind But With Perfect Pitch

Her name is Tawny and she was brought to me at age 5 to begin piano lessons. Nothing unusual about this as many children study piano at the age of five. However, this small, brown-haired little lady was completely blind.

Her father led her into my piano studio, sat her down in an over-sized chair and then seated himself near her. As I "interviewed" Tawny I quickly recognized how smart and confident she was for her age. Her parents were obviously determined to raise her in such a way that her handicap would not hold her back from anything she wanted to do.

I took her hand in mine and guided her to the piano so that I could "test" her. I was stunned at her ability to name any key on the piano. This is the gift of perfect pitch.

Halfway through the testing, I asked Tawny if she would like to touch the strings that produce the sound of the piano. She was thrilled to feel the cool vibrations with the tips of her little fingers.

After testing this brilliant little 5 year old and introducing her to the piano, I agreed to accept Tawny as a student. She studied with me for roughly 2 years. Then with one phone call, my life changed forever

"That's Incredible" Television Show

After a full day of teaching piano classes to a group of college students, I was eager to make my way home and relax before starting my private teaching. As I unlocked the front door I heard the screaming of the telephone. Just as I said "hello" the party hung up. ( In those days, there was no caller I.D. )

A few minutes later I heard the phone ringing again and this time I heard a voice. " This is the producer of the Television Show " That's Incredible." I was asked if their crew could come to my home and tape Tawny and I during a lesson. We were to be featured on one of the show's segments. Oh, and could I please contact Moorpark College and set up a time to tape one of my piano classes.

It all went very smoothly and Tawny was magnificent. I would play any key on the piano and she could name it immediately. She also played some Bach, Mozart and her own compositions.

After the airing of what was then one of the most popular shows on television, I couldn't begin to take on the requests for lessons. And Tawny went on to play a piano duet with the late actor and pianist Dudley Moore.

Yes, Tawny was gifted with perfect pitch. She was born with this talent. But what about the rest of us? Is there any hope for people who want to find a musical pitch using only the voice?

Ear-Training Exercise

You've heard it said that "repetition is the mother of learning." Never is this truer than when learning ear-training. The mind can actually "memorize" various degrees of musical pitch. When studying ear-training, consistently repeating the same sound, key or note over and over again is crucial to teach the brain to do this.

Whether you are a singer, a musician of any kind or not involved in music at all, these exercises are good for your brain. And seniors, you can keep your brain young and healthy by getting involved and participating.

For a simple but effective ear-training exercise, try this:

  • Play a key on the piano, or a note on the guitar. Listen to the pitch carefully. Do this 3 times in succession. Don't sing, just listen.
  • This time play the same key or note just once. Now sing the same sound you hear. If you record this exercise you will be able to determine whether or not you are singing on key. (Reproducing the correct pitch.)

Final Thoughts of Encouragement

You've been told that you are "tone deaf" so many times that you actually believe it. Well, I have some good news for you. You are not tone deaf and you can carry a tune in a bucket, in a choir,

in the shower, or on stage.

Being able to hear a pitch in your head (matching a sound) and then singing it is a skill you can acquire. When I hear anyone tell me they can't carry a tune, I tell them "yes you can - you just need to work at it."

By applying the exercises in this article you will improve your ability to match pitch and "sing in tune" (sing on key.) Your confidence will increase and - you'll sound better.

Good luck to you and do not give up.

                   Sing!
Sing! | Source

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    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi PegCole17

      Tawny was indeed an amazing little girl with an incredible talent. I was blessed to work with her. Thank you Peg for being here and I wish you a nice day. Audrey

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I loved the story of Tawny. What an amazing child. Your encouragement to those who do not have the gift of perfect pitch is wonderful. Thanks so much.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Kasman - Hubpages is filled with so many perks. Where else could we connect with precious folks like you? I am blessed!

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 

      5 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Absolutely Vocalcoach! I'm definitely planning on paying more visits and expanding my abilities. I am thankful for a person like you here on hubpages that is lending her gifts to the rest of us. Like the Bible says, paraphrasing, "putting the talents the Master gave you to good use."

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Kasman - I enjoyed reading your comments very much. A great way to end my day. You are filled with talent! You have been given an extra-ordinary " ear for music." How marvelous!

      And to be a "dramatic tenor" is yet one more gift that few men possess. I encourage you to expand on these gifts and go as far as you can. "Let your light shine." Share your voice with others to lift them up and bring joy.

      Tawny was so special and inspired so many, including me. You are kind to give me such high ratings and to share my hub with others. I really look forward to seeing you again and a sincere thanks.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Kasman - I'm so glad you found this hub. I love your comments. You are fortunate to have been blessed with such a fine ear for pitch. Glad you liked the story of Tawny and thanks for your generous votes and sharing. Take care.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Kasman - I'm so glad you found this hub. I love your comments. You are fortunate to have been blessed with such a fine ear for pitch. Glad you liked the story of Tawny and thanks for your generous votes and sharing. Take care.

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 

      5 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      I loved this hub, it brings me back to the time when I was younger and learning piano with my teacher. She said I was someone who learned by ear or an auditory learner. My own opera teacher told me that I was a dramatic tenor and that I could learn by listening. I've always wanted to enhance my voice further and I believe reading your hubs will definitely help with that! Thanks for writing this, the story of tawny was touching and surprising all at the same time. Voting this up, sharing across the board.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      one2get2no -

      Hi there! Well, your singing teacher lacked a few important skills. A 5 note range can excel to a 10 note range in no time at all (sometimes in the first lesson.) Not a big deal. I love that you read this hub and would encourage you to not give up. I also love your name - very clever!

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 

      5 years ago from Olney

      Excellent hub....however I went to a singing teacher to learn how to sing and she told me after 2 lessons that I should give up and that I could never learn to sing. She said my range was only 5 notes somewhere below middles C.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      mckbirdbks - Hahahaha!!! You are magnificent. Maybe you should start your own choir with our tail-wagging friends with yourself as the lead singer :) Have an awesome day Mike.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      teaches12345 - Thank you for your wonderful comments my friend. How I wish that everyone would realize that they can learn to sing on key. Too many people refuse to sing for just this reason alone. Have a marvelous day!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Eiddwen - Hello my friend from Wales. It's just wonderful to see you here. I also wish you the very best possible in this New Year. You are a treasure!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      I did it again, all the dogs in the neighborhood are howling at the noise that I made. What a voice. You are certainly the expert. Nice to know an expert.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      You have reminded me of my choir and piano lessons with the practice notes here. I agree that with a little knowledge and practice, even tone deaf people can learn to carry a tune. Wonderfully written, dear lady.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hello Genna ~ Wow, your mother had a great gift! I consider hers more significant and admirable than being born with perfect pitch because she worked so hard to develop her ear-training. And now, look at you - being able to identify "middle C on the piano. You most definitely trained your own ear to be able to hear this tone. Love your comments Genna and glad you liked the photo at the end.

      May the New Year bring you the desires of your heart. Thank you.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      5 years ago from Wales

      I have never forgotten my piano playing lessons from days gone by ;and I also loved singing and this one was most enjoyable plus educational also. Here's to great days ahead in this brand New Year Audrey.

      Eddy.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      As usual, Audrey, you have penned a hub that is well written, informative and fascinating. My mother had perfect pitch; although hers was acquired after years of studying and playing music. I can ‘hear’ the middle C on the piano whenever it’s played, but that’s as far as I go. 

      “You've been told that you are "tone deaf" so many times that you actually believe it. Well I have some good news for you. You are not tone deaf and you can carry a tune in a bucket, in a choir or in the shower.” This is so true.

      Wonderful hub and I love the “sing” photo at the end of the article.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Yes - It is probably even colder! My Dad always wanted to make it to Nashville. Such a lovely part of the globe. Glad to know the torture of poor innocent dogs and cats brought a laugh! Have a great night and stay warm.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Bill - Thank you kindly for your support and remarks. How could I not have a beautiful New Year with a friend such as you! Hugs Audrey

      Will - OMG - (Laughing out loud with a bladder about to burst.) You are soooo predictable:)

      shiningirisheyes - My poor face aches from laughing so hard! Maybe the dogs and cats aren't really dead - simply very relaxed at the sound of your luscious voice :) Thanks because I sure needed some humor today. Is it as cold Upstate as it is here in Nashville?

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      At the risk of offending someone with the unending talent in this type of field, I must ask a question.....Does the fact that dogs and cats roll over and die every time I sing mean anything??

      Just inflecting some humor to a great hub. You did a very good job and I found this quite interesting.

      Regards

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Book marked for a time when I am home alone with only the dog and cats!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are so knowledgeable in this field. If I didn't know how to sing I would call you daily with questions.

      I hope you had a nice holiday season my friend; let's hope 2013 is a wonderful year for us all.

      blessings and hugs,

      bill

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