I’ve just received a choir piece that contains some (rare) quarter tones on long held notes. For example, a B which slides into a Bᴓ (that's a half flat).

I’ve tried singing the part where it happens. Not for very long, I’ll admit, but with little success. It seems that my brain tends to put the pitch into a category it knows well: either I’m hearing a (low) B, or a (high) B♭. I’m never sure I’m singing the "right"1 note.

How can I ensure that I’m actually singing this "right" note? Do any of you know of some tools out there that could help me train my ear?

  1. I do realise that "right" here can actually have different meanings. Let's say 24-TET. Quite frankly, if I manage to consistently sing something that is not quite a B, nor quite a B♭, I’ll be satisfied anyway.
  • 3
    You could down load an app that is a tuner. InsTuner is a good one as it will show you how close you are to the note. – b3ko Jul 12 '20 at 11:44
  • Be interesting to see what your choirmaster has to say about it. – Tim Jul 12 '20 at 12:05
  • Out of curiosity, what piece is it? – awe lotta Jul 12 '20 at 14:46
  • 1
    @chaslyfromUK It doesn't slide through the half tone. It's a portamento from a B to a B (half flat) that is then held for a few mesures. – Édouard Jul 12 '20 at 23:01
  • 1
    Probably indeed there are two technical difficulties: 1. slide, 2. quarter tones. Practice them independently. Concerning quarter tones, a practice technique I know is to play B and Bb on an instrument (e.g. piano, or generate them on a computer), sing one, sing another, then try to sing the note in the middle, and repeat. After a while half tone starts to feel like a huge interval. – user1079505 Jul 16 '20 at 23:53

Start by using two regular keyboards which can be tuned, assuming you are a keyboardist. I would recommend two of these two get started


These were designed for use in music education in India; which in short means they can be tune freely up or down 100 cents (100 division of a half step).

Try regular tuning & 50 cents sharp for 1/4 tones first. Try singing quarter tones and half steps so you don't temporarily forget what half-steps 'sound like'. When I first started I was singing quarter tones so much I put them in place of half steps.

Here are two example files to get you started. Here is 4 octaves of quarter-tones.


Here is something I have been calling 1/3 tone major. Basically 1/3 tones are 1/3 of a whole step so 3 equal 2 half steps. So this one goes: C, C-1/3#, D-1/3b, D, D 1/3#, E, F, F-1/3#, G-1/3b, G, G-1/3#, A-1/3b, A, A-1/3# B-1/3b, B, & C. Basically a major scale where you replace whole-steps with third-steps but keep the half-steps.


These links might break... not sure if changing use name does that... will update in comment if so.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.