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I am trying to become decent at singing, and I have noticed some difficulties in matching pitch, if I try to sing AFTER the note was played.

I try to reproduce that with an example here, of a computer-generated voice singing a note, and me trying to reproduce it:

Matching pitch after the note

If I sing during the note, then it becomes very easy, because it resonates very clearly when I am finally on pitch:

Matching pitch during the note

I have noticed this problem to be worse depending on the timbre. If I try to match the pitch of a female voice singing one octave above mine (I am a man), then often times, I struggle a lot. If I try to match the note on a piano, it is much less acute, though still not easy to me unless I sing during the note.

Is that expected for a beginner singer, or does it point to a specific difficulty that I have? Any suggestion on a good way to solve that problem?

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    You're just guessing, then trying to slide towards the note. Both guesses start out about same amount of 'wrong'… 3 semitones. btw, the generated note is not extraordinary for a male voice by any means. Don't think of it as a 'female' note. It isn't. Perhaps, though, you might do better if you were testing against notes in the same octave you are trying to sing. I honestly don't know what else to suggest for something that far out from pitch, unless perhaps a chord accompaniment rather than a single pitch might help.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 6, 2022 at 11:18
  • Thanks. Yes, with an accompaniment, I can sing in tune. I took the worse example here. I wanted to check if this would be a known problem, or simply something somewhat normal that I just need to work to get rid of.
    – DevShark
    Jun 6, 2022 at 11:24
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    All I can really say is you are not registering the pitch you hear at all to a sung pitch. You're singing something then checking it matches. I really don't know how to fix that. In my defence here, I've never been an educator. I've been able to do this without thinking since I was 6, & I have absolutely no recollection of ever being taught to do it.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 6, 2022 at 11:26
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    You have to really hear it before you can sing it. Try to imagine yourself singing a pitch while you are listening to it, then try to sing the same pitch.
    – user87182
    Jun 6, 2022 at 18:00

4 Answers 4

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What's interesting here is that you are singing the minor third against the target tone. So it's not "out of tune" but rather harmony. A minor triad or chord consists of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in a minor scale. If your traget note was C for example, you were singing E flat but in the octave below. This is known in music theory as a chord inversion.

I would suggest that you practice singing with a piano. Play up and down the 1st 5 notes of a C major scale: C D E F G F E D C and sing along with the piano. Repeat this slowly until you can match each not consistently. Ideally, you would repeat this moving up one semitone starting on C#, the D, D# etc until you reach the top of your range. Then repeat descending a semitone each time. I'm sure you can find an app which can help you with these types of exercises if you don't have access to a keyboard.

The idea is to be able to sing in tune in any key. You can add complexity such as singing major triad arpeggios in a similar way. If you don't understand some of the terminology I'm using, I do suggest that you learn some basic music theory in tandem or before learning how to sing. Playing any musical instrument might also be helpful if you don't already.

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  • It's a minor 3rd. B against G♯
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 7, 2022 at 9:09
  • Don't see the relevance of ' able to sing in any key'.
    – Tim
    Jun 8, 2022 at 11:14
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In the recording I hear a higher pitched reference note followed by a lower pitched note you sing. I can only guess what's going on there. I assume that you are not yet comfortable to sing the higher pitch notes.

  1. Learn what is your voice range. Try to find reference notes which you can match well, and see how far up and down you can go comfortably. As you will practice your range will change (likely: improve), but it helps to know what notes you can sing right now.

  2. For your exercise use notes which are within your range.

A good teacher can find your voice range and suggest proper exercises for you.

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First off, the pitch you're listening to sounds oddly wobbly to my ear, and that can't be helping matters.

Second, from what I heard, you have trouble zeroing in on the note regardless of whether the machine note stops before you try to join in.

So, I suggest you postpone this exercise of matching a given note for a while. As a first step, I think it would be helpful for you to work on your sightsinging, and being able to sing a simple tune that is in tune with itself. That is, when you're practicing sightsinging, it's allowed to sing the exercise in a different key than written, as long as you are consistent within the exercise.

In the early stages of sightsinging, you'll get comfortable with the tonic triad, and with the 5-1 interval. You'll get more comfortable singing, period, and also with singing intervals with YOUR voice. And sightsinging is great for developing the ability to hear a note in one's mind's ear.

Now for some reassurance and motivation. Early in my relationship with my spouse, I noticed that they were not capable of going along with MY key when singing Happy Birthday (or whatever), if I was the one to start off. So I said, "You start, and I'll join you in the key you choose." But they would change key as soon as I came in!

But things are different now. How did this person improve? By singing to our children.

Practice makes perfect.

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    I'd consider sight singing to be several orders of difficulty above 'monkey see, monkey do', play a note, sing a note.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 7, 2022 at 7:18
  • @Tetsujin - You might be right. But natural singing might be the right place to start -- singing a familiar melody. And then the very early lessons in sightsinging would hopefully build on that. Using RELATIVE pitch. Jun 7, 2022 at 20:04
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    Sight singing involves learning another, quite different skill - reading dots. That's doubling the task !
    – Tim
    Jun 8, 2022 at 11:10
  • @Tim - But it ingrains the tonic triad and the 5-1 interval, and it connects the imagined sounds and the produced sounds. Jun 8, 2022 at 18:53
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Previous answers here are great and get to the heart of the matter. The only real way to get used to finding a note with your voice is to practice. The thing about practice is, for one thing, you can easily get caught up in practicing mistakes without realizing you are doing so. This can be an obstacle, but, like everything, can be overcome. So having a tuner at hand to tell you you are singing the right note (different octaves wont be an issue) is a great idea.

Make a schedule, to practice a certain amount of time every day, and try to keep to it. DONT MAKE RACTICE SESSIONS SO LONG THAT YOU LOSE INTEREST. Regular short periods of practice are more effective, but do keep challenging yourself. Start slow and build up speed for a challenge.

So, to clarify.... Use a tuner to check you are not practicing mistakes.. Get plenty of practice (setting up a regime is most effective) And of course, there are plenty of vocal training apps for free that can help you (they very good at making things sink in)

Hope this helps.. eventually your brain will recognize when your voice (the speed of vibrations, the feeling of the note) when it is in sync with the note you are emulating.

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