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This might sound weird, but here goes:

I have started singing lessons. I was terrible. I still am, but have made tremendous progress in a short period of time (2 months). I used to think that I was completely tone deaf, but I actually realized I could sing in tune when focusing hard on "hearing" notes in my head, and then trying to reproduce the sound.

So I got very excited, and thought that it probably means I can end up singing well, if I work hard enough ("well" being defined as it's pleasant to hear for an average person).

Now I find myself at a stage where if I repeat many times 3 notes on the piano, I can actually "remember" the 3 notes in my head, and sing them in tune.

However, if it goes beyond 3 notes, I start to sing out of tune. I have the impression this is because beyond 3 notes, I am not able to "remember" accurately the notes in my head.

So I wonder if this is normal, or if I have a working memory problem, when it comes to hearing.

I would be grateful for any feedback on that subject. Some specific questions:

  1. Is what I am experiencing normal?
  2. Is it the right path to focus on trying to increase the number of notes I can "remember" accurately in my head?
  3. If yes, what is the most efficient way to go about increasing it?
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    My advise is to give yourself more time before you begin to be concerned about how many notes you can remember. Two months is barely even the starting point. Keep practicing three notes, and if after a year of consistent study you're still at three, then you might plausibly ask if that's your limit.
    – Aaron
    Mar 29, 2022 at 15:13
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    Have you asked your singing teacher? What did they say? Nearly all the singers I work with play an instrument - not necessarily well, but can find their way round. It's going to be a bonus for you to do likewise. Also, can you only remember 3 notes of songs you already know?
    – Tim
    Mar 29, 2022 at 15:23
  • Hey Tim. Yes, I play the piano. I've asked my teacher, they say that I've made great progress. But I like to have different perspective, hence why I ask here as well. Just to be clear, when I say I can only remember 3 notes, I mean remember them well enough to sing them. I can remember in an approximate manner way more than that.
    – DevShark
    Mar 29, 2022 at 15:32
  • Direct memory of notes is certainly very practical, but there is also generating the note mentally by way of interval imagination. Being able to imagine a note of a certain interval from a given note.
    – Ootagu
    Mar 30, 2022 at 16:53

2 Answers 2

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I actually think the answer to this one is straight forward.

Yes what you're experiencing is normal. It's hard hear some random set of notes and sing them back.

No, I'd say it's not the right path.

The reason it's not the right path is because it's limited. It's a good strategy, but it should just be one of the many tools in your arsenal. Some other ways of learning to sing accurately:

  • Feeling in your larynx the notes. If I sing a random note, I can find it on piano in 1 or 2 guesses based on the feel in my throat of the note, and my memory of where those notes land.
  • Singing relative to a key. Often we sing to backing tracks (or while we play piano). Being able to sing the notes relative to the key of the track is super important. It means that you can intuitively "lock in to" the melody, regardless of key.

It's great that you're analysing yourself and figuring out what works and what doesn't. When I started, I tried learning songs as sequences of intervals. But in the end I found it way more useful to establish a key in my mind's ear (whether I had a backing track or not) and sing relative to that.

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Seems it might be which notes you play then try to sing.

If they're all diatonic, and the key chord has been listened to, you may well have more success. Let's face it, most songs will contain diatonic notes - that's what, to a degree, gives the key for the song. So, make sure that the notes you're trying to remember are actually from the particular key. Merely playing three (or more) notes randomly won't help much - that's not how music works.

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  • Thank you, that’s a very interesting point.
    – DevShark
    Mar 30, 2022 at 8:04

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