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Having Trouble Singing On-Key? How the Piano Can Help.

Audrey Hunt, author, and international vocal expert trains musicians to sing on key. She shows us how to teach ourselves using a piano.

How to use a piano/keyboard to help to sing on key.

How to use a piano/keyboard to help to sing on key.

EarTraining Exercise

You've heard it said that "repetition is the mother of learning." Never is this more true than learning to sing on key.

The brain memorizes various degrees of musical pitch. Ear training demands consistently repeating the same sound.

For a simple but effective ear-training exercise, try this:

  • Play a key located in the middle section of the piano. Listen to the pitch carefully. Repeat this three times in succession. Don't sing, just listen.
  • Play the same key just once. Sing the same note. (recording this exercise helps to determine if you are singing on key.
  • Repeat this exercise by playing other keys. Stay within your vocal range.

Recording Your Voice

Training your ear to hear each note of the musical scale will improve your ability to sing on key. Recording your voice as you set out to duplicate each note on the piano is a great and efficient way to sing on key.

  1. Play a key somewhere in the center of the piano.
  2. Listen carefully to the tone.
  3. Play it again.
  4. Sing any syllable and record your voice.
  5. Playback the recording to see if you match the sound on the piano.
  6. Continue this practice repeatedly and often every day.

In the beginning, you may be off-key, but eventually, your brain will memorize the correct sound and sing on key.

Once you have spent several months with some good ear training exercises, you will find yourself singing the right musical pitch using your voice.

All types of ear training and sight singing software are available on the internet and on YouTube videos.

What Is a Musical Pitch and How Do I Duplicate a Particular Sound?

To keep it simple, a pitch is the highness or lowness of a tone. Some sounds are high, and some are low in varying degrees. It all depends on its frequency. The pitch of a pure tone can also be influenced by changing its intensity (loud/soft).

A tone is any sound with reference to its quality and pitch. So it goes something like this:

  • Sing an "ah" in an easy tone. It can be high or low, or the pitch can be between. So you can sing lots of different pitches (sounds).
  • Beginning with a low pitch, you will designate a number for each note. This is the way melodies are constructed. The melody uses a series of notes (called a scale) that starts on a specific pitch and ends on a higher version of that same pitch. example: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (or 1).

A Fun Example of Singing Solfeggio

Introducing the Solfeggio Method

Anyone who has seen the Sound of Music either on stage or film can never forget the delightful song that begins with "Do, a deer, a female deer." This song uses solfeggio to sing different pitches. Example:

1 is the same pitch as Do

2 is the same pitch as Re

3 is the same pitch as Mi

4 is the same pitch as FA

5 is the same pitch as So and to continue the scale 6 is La 7 is the same as Ti and 8 or1 is the same pitch as Do (only sung higher).

Now, sing Frerra Jacques using the Solfeggio method.

  • Do Re Mi Do
  • Do Re Mi Do
  • Mi Fa So
  • Mi Fa So

Solfeggio is a great way to develop your sight-singing skills.

About Perfect Pitch

The act of producing an exact musical pitch using just the singing voice is quite an accomplishment for most musicians. For others, it is not an accomplishment at all because these lucky people are born with the ability to produce any pitch perfectly and exactly, and they haven't a clue as to how they do it.

This is referred to as "perfect pitch." Learning how to match a musical tone, pitch, or sound is not reserved for a special few. It is available to anyone with a strong desire to learn.

You've waited long enough to be able to sing on key. So let's learn something about pitch and how you can succeed in sounding better than ever before.

She Was Born Blind But With Perfect Pitch

Her name is Tawny, and she was brought to me at age five to begin piano lessons. Nothing unusual about this as many children study piano at the age of five. However, this petite, brown-haired little lady was utterly blind.

Her father led her into my piano studio, sat her down in an oversized chair, and then seated himself near her. As I "interviewed" Tawny, I quickly recognized how smart and confident she was for her age. Her parents were determined to raise her so that her handicap would not hold her back from anything she wanted to do.

I took her hand in mine and guided her to the piano so that I could "test" her. I was stunned at her ability to name any key on the piano. This is the gift of perfect pitch.

Halfway through the testing, I asked Tawny if she would like to touch the strings that produce the piano sound. She was thrilled to feel the excellent vibrations with the tips of her little fingers.

Final Thoughts

You've been told that you are "tone deaf" so often that you believe it. Well, I have some good news for you. You are not tone deaf and can carry a tune in a bucket, in a choir, in the shower, or on stage.

Being able to hear a pitch in your head (matching a sound) and then singing it is a skill you can acquire. When I hear anyone tell me they can't carry a tune, I tell them, "yes; you can—you just need to work at it."

Applying the exercises in this article will improve your ability to match pitch and "sing in tune" (sing on key). Your confidence will increase, and you'll sound better.

Good luck to you, and do not give up.

© 2013 Audrey Hunt


Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on November 13, 2014:

Hi PegCole17

Tawny was indeed an amazing little girl with an incredible talent. I was blessed to work with her. Thank you Peg for being here and I wish you a nice day. Audrey

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on November 13, 2014:

I loved the story of Tawny. What an amazing child. Your encouragement to those who do not have the gift of perfect pitch is wonderful. Thanks so much.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on May 05, 2013:

Kasman - Hubpages is filled with so many perks. Where else could we connect with precious folks like you? I am blessed!

Kas from Bartlett, Tennessee on May 05, 2013:

Absolutely Vocalcoach! I'm definitely planning on paying more visits and expanding my abilities. I am thankful for a person like you here on hubpages that is lending her gifts to the rest of us. Like the Bible says, paraphrasing, "putting the talents the Master gave you to good use."

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on May 05, 2013:

Kasman - I enjoyed reading your comments very much. A great way to end my day. You are filled with talent! You have been given an extra-ordinary " ear for music." How marvelous!

And to be a "dramatic tenor" is yet one more gift that few men possess. I encourage you to expand on these gifts and go as far as you can. "Let your light shine." Share your voice with others to lift them up and bring joy.

Tawny was so special and inspired so many, including me. You are kind to give me such high ratings and to share my hub with others. I really look forward to seeing you again and a sincere thanks.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 29, 2013:

Kasman - I'm so glad you found this hub. I love your comments. You are fortunate to have been blessed with such a fine ear for pitch. Glad you liked the story of Tawny and thanks for your generous votes and sharing. Take care.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 29, 2013:

Kasman - I'm so glad you found this hub. I love your comments. You are fortunate to have been blessed with such a fine ear for pitch. Glad you liked the story of Tawny and thanks for your generous votes and sharing. Take care.

Kas from Bartlett, Tennessee on April 29, 2013:

I loved this hub, it brings me back to the time when I was younger and learning piano with my teacher. She said I was someone who learned by ear or an auditory learner. My own opera teacher told me that I was a dramatic tenor and that I could learn by listening. I've always wanted to enhance my voice further and I believe reading your hubs will definitely help with that! Thanks for writing this, the story of tawny was touching and surprising all at the same time. Voting this up, sharing across the board.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 28, 2013:

one2get2no -

Hi there! Well, your singing teacher lacked a few important skills. A 5 note range can excel to a 10 note range in no time at all (sometimes in the first lesson.) Not a big deal. I love that you read this hub and would encourage you to not give up. I also love your name - very clever!

Philip Cooper from Olney on April 25, 2013:

Excellent hub....however I went to a singing teacher to learn how to sing and she told me after 2 lessons that I should give up and that I could never learn to sing. She said my range was only 5 notes somewhere below middles C.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 06, 2013:

mckbirdbks - Hahahaha!!! You are magnificent. Maybe you should start your own choir with our tail-wagging friends with yourself as the lead singer :) Have an awesome day Mike.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 06, 2013:

teaches12345 - Thank you for your wonderful comments my friend. How I wish that everyone would realize that they can learn to sing on key. Too many people refuse to sing for just this reason alone. Have a marvelous day!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 06, 2013:

Eiddwen - Hello my friend from Wales. It's just wonderful to see you here. I also wish you the very best possible in this New Year. You are a treasure!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on January 07, 2013:

I did it again, all the dogs in the neighborhood are howling at the noise that I made. What a voice. You are certainly the expert. Nice to know an expert.

Dianna Mendez on January 05, 2013:

You have reminded me of my choir and piano lessons with the practice notes here. I agree that with a little knowledge and practice, even tone deaf people can learn to carry a tune. Wonderfully written, dear lady.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on January 05, 2013:

Hello Genna ~ Wow, your mother had a great gift! I consider hers more significant and admirable than being born with perfect pitch because she worked so hard to develop her ear-training. And now, look at you - being able to identify "middle C on the piano. You most definitely trained your own ear to be able to hear this tone. Love your comments Genna and glad you liked the photo at the end.

May the New Year bring you the desires of your heart. Thank you.

Eiddwen from Wales on January 05, 2013:

I have never forgotten my piano playing lessons from days gone by ;and I also loved singing and this one was most enjoyable plus educational also. Here's to great days ahead in this brand New Year Audrey.


Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on January 03, 2013:

As usual, Audrey, you have penned a hub that is well written, informative and fascinating. My mother had perfect pitch; although hers was acquired after years of studying and playing music. I can ‘hear’ the middle C on the piano whenever it’s played, but that’s as far as I go. 

“You've been told that you are "tone deaf" so many times that you actually believe it. Well I have some good news for you. You are not tone deaf and you can carry a tune in a bucket, in a choir or in the shower.” This is so true.

Wonderful hub and I love the “sing” photo at the end of the article.

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on January 03, 2013:

Yes - It is probably even colder! My Dad always wanted to make it to Nashville. Such a lovely part of the globe. Glad to know the torture of poor innocent dogs and cats brought a laugh! Have a great night and stay warm.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on January 03, 2013:

Bill - Thank you kindly for your support and remarks. How could I not have a beautiful New Year with a friend such as you! Hugs Audrey

Will - OMG - (Laughing out loud with a bladder about to burst.) You are soooo predictable:)

shiningirisheyes - My poor face aches from laughing so hard! Maybe the dogs and cats aren't really dead - simply very relaxed at the sound of your luscious voice :) Thanks because I sure needed some humor today. Is it as cold Upstate as it is here in Nashville?

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on January 03, 2013:

At the risk of offending someone with the unending talent in this type of field, I must ask a question.....Does the fact that dogs and cats roll over and die every time I sing mean anything??

Just inflecting some humor to a great hub. You did a very good job and I found this quite interesting.


WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on January 03, 2013:

Book marked for a time when I am home alone with only the dog and cats!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 02, 2013:

You are so knowledgeable in this field. If I didn't know how to sing I would call you daily with questions.

I hope you had a nice holiday season my friend; let's hope 2013 is a wonderful year for us all.

blessings and hugs,