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I am a bassist and I try to sing, and I hope to improve my singing.

The thing is, I feel tone deaf when I'm singing live. I always shoot a little sharp or a little flat from what I should. Not enough for a semitone, but enough to be noticed.

My vocals are usually as loud as they can be on the stage monitors, and I almost never notice this on the spot. When I do, I'm always able to reasonably correct the pitch in a short time. When I listen back to my band's live recordings, however, it's pretty bad.

But I've played a fretless 6-string bass for quite some time and my intonation is pretty solid on there, so my ears can't be the main problem here.

Is there a way to improve my pitch recognition for my own voice? Or is it just a matter of improving vocal accuracy?

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    Are you sure it's not a monitoring issue? It can be a combination of many factors, and you should be able to hear yourself clearly during performance. – Von Huffman Nov 28 '19 at 7:03
  • @Lyd - monitoring wise, it's far more important to be able to hear everything else that's important, to pitch from. 'Hearing me' better than everybody else tends to be a crutch that people who aren't sure of what they're doing use. – Tim Nov 28 '19 at 9:12
  • I may be well off the mark here, but it could be that everything is very loud, and that's not helping your pitch accuracy. With volume comes noise, and there's probably a lot of that going on, which makes it difficult for you to sing spot on. Especially in non-gig situations, like rehearsals, turn everything down, so the vox are well on top. Not sure if it's vox solo, or harmonising with others, but turn all instruments (inc. drums!) well down. Your voice shouldn't need to be any louder than anyone elses, and you shouldn't need to force it, which may contribute to the problem. And - practise! – Tim Nov 28 '19 at 13:59
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It's probably that you need practice focusing on voice intonation and accuracy.

Is there a way to improve my pitch recognition for my own voice? Or is it just a matter of improving vocal accuracy?

I think it's both.

I'd try predictive ear training, which is awesome for your voice intonation, improvisation, and general musicality. The idea is to sing an interval, chord, or scale, and then play it in your instrument to hear how well you did. In your specific case, you can focus in the intervals and melodic scenarios that you are most struggling with (recording yourself is great way of figuring this out).

In the first levels you play a random note on your instrument, and sing all the intervals you can with that note as root. After you sing an interval, check your accuracy by playing that same interval in your instrument. With some practice you should be able to sing all intervals.

Then you move on to more interesting stuff. There's an exercise called "compete the chord" where you play the root and 5th on any instrument, and you sing the 3rd to complete a major or minor chord (and as always, check your accuracy after you sing). You can do this omitting any note from a chord, and the chord can be as complex as you like.

For scales, you should be able to sing all modes of the major scale. Again, listen to any random root, and sing a mode (or all modes!) with that note as root. You can make this as hard as you want to adapt to your level. Some people start by playing one note to introduce the root, and sing the Ionian mode both ways, then when you are back to the root go up one semitone and sing the next mode (Dorian) without listening to any outside reference, and continue until you run out of modes. The exercise ends with the root of the last mode (Locrian), you check on your instrument if that last note is what you sung.

You can adapt all these to your level and to any note dynamic you can think of. Play a note, then sing a triad with that note as root, or maybe the note you play on your instrument is the 5th of a chord now, or the 3rd of harmonic minor, or anything you can think of.

Some examples of predictive ear training by Rick Beato:

And a very useful comment from that video:

Opera singer here. Don't try to "hit the notes". Notes don't like to be hit. Instead, try singing notes with a strong dental consonnant onset and then, the vowel has nowhere to go but on the right note. "D" or "T", with feeling your tongue right behind your upper teeth, then the vowel can even be "uh", as in "Duh"! Also, a strong "B" or "P" onset can help. And I promise you won't sound "all opera", unless your body is meant to.

Some examples by Aimee Nolte (don't mind the title, it's actually about predictive ear training, but through a very interesting story about her experience with jazz scales as a teacher):

If you can though, consult experienced vocal coaches and teachers. Those people know what they are doing, and can do wonders for your voice.

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    Para 4 - only don't use a fretless instrument to check your own voice... – Tim Nov 28 '19 at 9:14
  • @Tim Good point! Make sure your only intonation worry is your voice. – Von Huffman Nov 28 '19 at 9:43
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If you can play fretless bass in tune, your ear seems OK.

But as has been commented, if your monitor is all 'more me', perhaps you can't hear what you should be singing in tune WITH!

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    Intonation in a instrument doesn't directly or automatically translate into vocal intonation and accuracy. What we normally abstract as "ear", is a very complex collection of abilities, with different relationships among them. Both start in your mind, but successfully translating your thought into an accurate note in a fretless bass and your voice are different sets of abilities, that need separate attention. – Von Huffman Nov 28 '19 at 13:18

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