How to Train Yourself to Sing on Key Using the Piano
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
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?
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.