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I'm trying to learn how to sing. I downloaded an app that tells you the frequency of your voice and so far I haven't been able to keep it at one number. For example, I got my voice to switch between 124 and 125 hz. But it wouldn't stay on either. It switched back an forth a few times per second. I've experimented with difference frequencies, and each time it's the same.

So my question is, is it seen as desirable to have the ability to maintain one frequency? Is this something that good singers can to do? Or is the goal simply to match the frequency approximately, with some small fluctuation okay.

And if you think it's problematic, what are some effective ways to work on the problem?

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A pitch meter can show you if you hit a note cleanly or slide into it. Whether you hold the pitch constant or have some vibrato. Or maybe you let the pitch fall at the end of the note. What it CAN'T tell you is whether any of these departures from a 'perfect' note are musically effective.

But when singing technical exercises, I'd class being able to hold a pitch within 1Hz variance as pretty good!

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You'd be better off matching you vocal pitch to an instrument - a musical one rather than a calibration one. By the time you've added a little vibrato into your voice - naturally or on purpose - the note will waver anyway, albeit only slightly. This isn't a problem. On guitar, for example, the warmth of some longer notes is imbued by adding vibrato, which actually fluctuates the pitch. In some guitar stuff by +/- a tone or more!

Most people's voices won't wobble that much, although some opera singers have decided that's the way to go...

In short, the datum point you're using is just too accurate.The parameters need to be widened.

  • This is of course a matter of taste- how much vibrato is good or too much. The added expression to the solo voice of vibrato is taken away from the purity of harmonies. Where the balance point should be put is moot. – Scott Wallace Jun 24 '17 at 10:43
  • @ScottWallace - of course. the point is that some people's vibrato wavers tha pitch. I'm convinced that other singers, though, maintain the same pitch, but vary the tone of the note - possibly tremolo (of a sort) as opposed to vibrato, which is really a variation in pitch, tying in with the question. – Tim Jun 24 '17 at 10:53
  • @Tim- I think there's a certain amount of both pitch and volume variation perceptible in all singer's voices. It's part of our humanity. – Scott Wallace Jun 24 '17 at 11:16
  • @ScottWallace - agreed. What I think is that there is also some tone variance in some people's voices, that retains the note accurately, and, while there may be some volume fluctuation, it's more to do with the tone change than anything else. Some singers only seem to be able to vary the pitch, as that is their take on 'vibrato'. – Tim Jun 24 '17 at 11:20
  • @Tim- yep. The control singers have over pitch, volume, and tone quality change- along with what they can't control- is part of what I miss in most electronic music. Perfection is beautiful- but it's not necessarily the summum bonum. – Scott Wallace Jun 24 '17 at 11:39
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A professional singer must be able to carry a tune to well that they don't miss notes according to the listener's ears, not according to some measuring device. Therefore the question must be, is the human ear more or less discriminating than a Hz meter?

The answer is almost certainly "less". A semitone in the range of the human voice corresponds to 50-100 Hz units (this figure is not constant because of the logarithmic way he hear pitches). Almost nobody can distinguish 50 different nuances within a semitone, let alone 100, so being able to old a note at 124-125 Hz is amply enough.

In fact, if your device only shows integer numbers, your performance might be even more consistent. If you sing at approximately 124.62 Hz, the reading would flip between 124 and 125 even when the actual difference is much smaller than 1 Hz. And since micro-adjustments of pitch are one of the important ways to achieve an expressive performance, I'd assume that professional singers wouldn't register as one constant frequency either, and in fact wouldn't want to (except as a party trick for brag value).

  • Actually I think it is possible to hear differences of only a few Hz providing that the two notes are being heard simultaneously. – JimM Jun 24 '17 at 8:26
  • Not quite sure what you mean by "A semitone in the range of the human voice corresponds to 50-100 Hz units" ? If a bass (singer) sings an E2, then F2 is less than 5 Hz above. The frequency mentioned by the OP is approximately B2; A semitone above that is still onnly 7Hz higher. – topo morto Jun 24 '17 at 8:36
  • From the next sentence, I guess "A semitone corresponds to 50-100 Hz units" is a confused version of "Small pitch differences are measured in cents which are 1/100 of a semitone" but I'm not sure what @Kilian Foth is trying to say here. – user19146 Jun 24 '17 at 8:46
  • @JimM- yes, but it depends upon volume too- usually, a discrepancy of a couple Hz between a singer and a tone in the accompaniment (say) is not going to be noticed in the big picture. If you sing against an electronic sine wave, yes, you will notice a couple Hz difference in pitch. But for most actual musical practices, this amount of slop is negligible. – Scott Wallace Jun 24 '17 at 10:41
  • @ScottWallace - not only negligible, but the premise on which guitar chorus pedals exist. – Tim Jun 24 '17 at 10:55

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