27

I absolutely love to sing and do so on a daily basis, usually in the shower or while practicing guitar.

When I sing it sounds fine to me and I don't think I'm off but I have this fear that I'm actually a horrible singer and I just don't know it.

Is it possible to be horrible and just not know it? if I was really bad would I be able to hear it myself?

Edit: So I recorded myself. The first minute is a capella, the second is me with guitar. I'm quite amateur as far as guitar playing goes and my phone isn't the greatest recording device, I think it glitched once or twice. My bro says he thinks it sounds ok. I do get a bit wobbly toward the end of the a capella part.

  • 1
    For quick (and real-time) analysis, try a tuner app for your phone/tablet. If the app/mic are good quality, it will work just fine with vocals. I really like PitchLab – Tim Medora Jul 13 '14 at 23:17
  • Hi - you are not an awful singer ! you have a good sounding voice which is a great start because that's not true for everyone. You're generally in tune, but a bit wobbly here and there as you say, It sounds to me like you're hitting the notes you're aiming at, rather than wandering and going wildly out and ending up out of tune. I think it is possible to sound awful and not know it, but that's mainly because it's subjective; some people like one voice, some dont, or some people don't mind a bit of out-of-tune but others do. You have the basis of a good singing voice. Keep at it! – user2808054 Jul 14 '14 at 11:09
  • I should add- the wobblyness I referred to sounds to me like you just need to sing with more certainty - ie do what you're doing, just don't hold back. Be confident that you've hit the note and sing your heart out :-) – user2808054 Jul 14 '14 at 14:10
20

Simple solution - record yourself and play it back, to yourself and others. Do it a capella after giving yourself a key, and play along to the recording; and while playing guitar,You'll soon find out. It also sorts out good friends from bad!

Playing and singing with others also gives good feedback.

  • 1
    I recorded myself and edited it in. Knowing the internet, I don't know if this decision is brave or stupid. Probably both. – user12539 Jul 13 '14 at 12:44
  • @StaceyAnne - well done! More brave than stupid !There's a nice voice there that needs to be let out. You wandered between A and Bb acapella,(lots of folk can do that), but stayed in pitch when the guitar was played.I hope others will give their verdicts too. You don't need to look for the nearest tree or find a big lorry !! Was that exercise a useful one to you for an answer? – Tim Jul 13 '14 at 13:25
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    It was really useful. I recorded a lot more than what is here and listened to it carefully. This has upped my singing self esteem! I had a couple of bad experiences as a kid that made me feel like I couldn't sing. I also had a discussion with my brother on this (he's a musician). He's heard me sing irl and says my singing has improved and sounds fine. So I'm all around quite happy and feeling quite a lot better! – user12539 Jul 13 '14 at 14:22
18

You can use software to analyze your voice.

There is software that will draw a chart of what you sang (the frequencies you sang), where you can see how close or far you were from each note.

Some options include Melodyne, Waves Tune, Nectar, Canta, GSnap. There are a lot of options out there, from all the price range (some free).

On these charts your voice will be drawn into a piano roll. The closer the line is to the center of the key/note, the closer you are from that note. Depending on how detailed the software is, you can see things like how good you are at keeping a steady pitch, tremolo, and vibrato.

Melodyne

Waves Tune

Auto-Tune

Another tool you can use is the pitch correction amount meter of real-time pitch correction software. You don't have to use the pitch correction, or know how to use it. You can mute that track.

As you sing you can use the correction amount meter as reference of how close or far you are from the note. This approach has the advantage that you don't need to record, you see the results as you sing, allowing you to make corrections on the go.

Logic Pitch Corrector

Auto-Tune pitch change meter

If the pitch corrector changed your voice's pitch +20 cents, it means that you were -20 cents out of tune from that note, making it an "out of tune" meter too. You can also see which note you are singing, it is the highlighted key in the piano keyboard.

A different option is to use a very accurate, reliable, fast tuner. Be very careful here, since some are optimized for specific instruments and can behave chaotic when used with voice.

Tuner

Tuner

This is similar, and maybe better and simpler, to using the change meter in a pitch correction software, but only if you find one that responds accurately and smoothly to your voice.

Pitch correction software is fine tuned to your voice, so it will tend to give you more accurate and smooth results, even if these results are not as explicit as they are in a tuner.

Be very careful when using all these visual aids. Use them as reference but don't rely on them. Don't train yourself to use them as a cue. You don't want to end up needing them to sing on tune!

All these are good at showing your pitch dynamics, but singing is much more than that. We know that what we hear when we sing is not a very accurate representation of what others are listening, so record yourself and hear what's going on. Maybe you want to do corrections and changes to things like your articulation, timbre, accent, etc.

7

It's been a couple of years since I asked this question, and over that time I've learned quite a bit. Here's what I learned:

  • With time and practice, it becomes much easier to tell when you're singing in key. I practice regularly and no longer am concerned about being out without knowing it.

  • Accompaniment with another instrument, like a guitar and piano, make it much easier to remain in key. The average untrained voice is going to have difficulty staying in key with no accompaniment at all.

  • It is possible to have a weak singing voice and be able to (with lots of practice) sing one or two songs well just by focusing on those songs. It is very difficult for an untrained person to sing a song right the first time. Every song needs its own practice.

  • Some songs are easier than others.Getting to know your range and which keys are comfortable really helps. Start with practicing the songs that are really comfortable. This can be as simple as just singing songs that "feel" easy. No need to go figuring out keys.

  • Church hymns and Christmas carols are great for practicing because they're written in keys designed for most people to sing.

  • Communal singing, in church or a community choir, can really help improve your singing because (1) lots of other voices and accompaniment and (2) your voice isn't singled out, so no pressure!

  • With time and practice and the tools mentioned in other answers here, it's possible to develop an ear for knowing what's in key.

(Yesterday, I thought I'd tuned my guitar correctly, but when I played an 'A' chord it sounded very off. I figured out it was the B string out by ear and re-tuned it. So proud of myself! )

5

Fun alternative: you can try a karaoke game like Singstar or Ultrastar, the latter being open source. They allow you to play a song and sing along, and will give you a score depending on how well you "hit" the notes.

I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I had a lot of fun playing with friends.

  • And I thought my 29 SE accounts was a lot! you have 42. Perhaps you've found the the answer to life, the universe and everything. – user12539 Jul 14 '14 at 8:12
4

I like using software that charts your voice frequency over time.

Example of output of such software you can see on the following graphic. Space of screen where chart is drawn is devided into the fields that represent notes. You simply sing your part and try have your chart in the middle of each field, then you sing on pitch. When you are exactly in the middle between two notes you sing off-pitch, your note can't be considered neither as first or a second of those two notes.

With this kind of tool you can easily learn how important is breathing. Every teacher will tell you that, but there aren't many teachers that are capable of telling you why breathing is important (based on my experience). Here you can see that when you breathe more correctly lines on the chart are closer to straight lines and it is easier to maintaint them on certain level.

enter image description here

I'm not telling you to be completely dependant on machine, I'm simply saying that this let's you see for yourself how controlling your voice works and over time you learn to simply hear it. For me it's a start solution, later you start to simply hear that.

An example of such software would be Canta which is free but also very basic solution.

3

Singstar is very forgiving, wouldn't use it for deciding whether you can hit a note to within 10 cents.

Melodyne etc would be good to test not just whether you can hit the notes, but also whether you hit them easily, or take some time to settle to pitch.

Singing to a tuner is painful, the more you watch the indicator, the more nervous you'll get.

Singing to a reference pitch/chord sequence is always easier; unless you have perfect pitch, most people will drift over time without. I even know people with perfect pitch whose tolerance for small drifts is a lot higher than mine, & I don't have perfect pitch, only good relative pitch.

1

Practice with a tuner that can output flat tones. I use two. One outputs a tone to my earbud while I measure my intonation with the other. You can start to "feel" when your in tune since it will sound brighter.

Using a vibrato is also important since it will make that process not so "exact".

  • Honestly, I don't think it's a good idea to rely on a tuner for practising intonation, certainly not for vocals. Not only is the feedback mic->processor->display->eyes much slower than the immediate hearing you need when actually doing music, it also trains a cue you can't use when playing with others. (Also, it's not really accurate if you want proper just intonation.) – leftaroundabout Jul 13 '14 at 17:24
  • To be honest, I think using a tuner works well. I do this when practicing the ocarina, which is an instrument where it can be quite difficult to pitch correctly. – Lee White Jul 13 '14 at 17:46
  • There exist tuners designed for singers that can display frequency of up to three simultainous voices and are very fast and accurate, unfortunately also expensive. In my opinion tuner is good if we want to learn just to hit a certain note, but if we want to practice singing in tune on a particular music part, for me it becomes useless, unless it charts the frequency over time. – Marek Jul 13 '14 at 21:05
  • I agree with all these comments. Using a tuner is just one of the many excersizes any musician should be doing while practicing. I think it goes without saying the most important activity to improve your ear is singing/playing with other people or a recording. Do that every day! – user1636615 Jul 14 '14 at 19:05
  • @LeeWhite The occarina has a more simple frequency pattern, which makes sense to use a tuner. The human voice has a more complex frequency pattern, which will more easily confuse the tuner without necessarily being off pitch. – awe Jul 16 '14 at 6:18

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