I'm singing in a church for fun (I've only had a few lessons). I can sing great when i'm singing along to someone else who is on key and sounds great such as listening to like Beyonce or Sam Smith on the radio, but if I turn the music off I can't tell if I'm on key or not.

Also if someone sings with me it throws me off because for some reason I can't sing by myself I have to match the person, it's almost subconscious. Like all four of us are singing. The key of the song is too low and I am awkwardly going between singing it low but (I can't sing low and loud) and singing the key high to match everyone.

I am slowly getting somewhat better about this but harmonizing is still difficult. I can't listen to someone sing and just harmonize right off of them like other people can, because like I said, I have to sing along to them. Also, they can't harmonize to me because if I am singing low, and they start singing a higher key I naturally move up in the same key as them. I can't stop it either. I can alleviate it by covering my ears but it isn't sustainable. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • 1
    By low and high, do you mean jumping up and down an octave? By harmonizing, do you mean like what the Andrews Sisters did? (Just making sure that we understand exactly what you're asking.) Aug 7, 2019 at 2:44

4 Answers 4


For starters, apart from the ubiquitous 'get yourself a teacher', sing along with tracks that are within your range, and gradually, over a number of sessions, keep turning the sound down, until it's barely audible. Then some more, but only for short periods - maybe start with a couple of lines, then increase, so when the music comes back, you'll tell if you're still in pitch. It may take several weeks or months, but it's worth a go. It'll also check your timing - but for now, tap a foot, sway, or whatever you like to keep in time.

It sounds like your range needs a little work, too, so keep singing those low and high notes more and more. Being an octave out isn't a problem, and as long as you're aware of it, it's a good sign.

Can't tell from the phrasing of your question whether you had lessons previously, or you've just started, so only had a few, but your teacher will be able to help with this. Also, trying to play an instrument will help differentiate pitches.Say, on piano/guitar, you play C-E-G-A, and sing it back, with or without playing again, then increase the notes, and try again. Try to record all that you do, as a reference to improvement, as well as listening to what you're doing. Quality of reproduction isn't foremost, yet, so any old recorder will do. Chances are your phone will do a fair job.


One thing to clarify, the concept of harmonizing (to a melody), i.e. singing a different melody line, lower or higher than a given main melody, but still able to “fit well” with that given melody, is NOT the same as singing in a different key, whether higher or lower. It means both the main melody and and that different melody line you are singing (the harmony) are both in the same key, but are in intervals apart (usually diatonic), instead of unison or an octave apart.

If you’d like to work on being able to sing a harmony to any given melody, my suggestion is to really work on audiation, first be really familiar with the scale degrees of ALL major keys, eg. in the key of G how do you pitch the 5th of it (which is the D). Next is work on diatonic intervals. For all my students who want to start on harmonization, my advise is to start on diatonic thirds above the melody. For e.g. in C major, the diatonic 3rds above will be “E F G A B C D E”. Try playing the C major scale and sing these notes above, train your ears (and your voice) to be comfortable and familiar with the sounds of these diatonic intervals. You can then skip the notes around and try on arpeggios or any short phrases, e.g. you’ve a phrase “C G F D E C”, you sing “E B A F G E”. That should help build your foundation to sing in harmony. Cheers!! :)


I think you should practice ear training and establishing a key in your mind. Practicing some scales and arpeggios will go a long way to helping you establish a sense of key. Practice them using solfege or letter names or numbers. Play a note and then practice going up and down and returning to the same note you played. Once you have scales try arpeggios. The Do Re Mi song from Sound of Music is a great example of solfege. Try singing each part while thinking the starting note in your head.


It appears to me that you are taking your pitch cue from whoever you are singing with. Try instead learning to read your choir parts from the written page. When you have learned to read the parts, then you can practice them in solitude or with others and become well enough versed in the part that it becomes more natural to sing. In addition, if you can play the part on an instrument, hearing it can reinforce your confidence that you are on pitch and in key. Another approach might be to listen to harmonized vocals like acapella choirs and try to work out each part separately. I learned by tearing apart the Everly Brothers vocal parts and learning them separately.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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