Singing out of tune is a recurring problem that we hear from performers. An important element of the barbershop “lock and ring” sound is in-tune singing. We need to sing quality musical tones that are specifically in pitch to the anticipated melodic line. To make this happen, we must sing in tune both horizontally and vertically.
Do we sing out of tune because we can not hear the pitch we are trying to sing, or because we just can not support the pitch in good quality in which we are trying to sing?
The answer is support. Chest breathing or shallow breathing causes the pitch to sag at the middle or end of every phrase. A freely produced, well supported, resonant quality tone with a good head voice will solve many tuning issues. Poor posture, mental and/or physical fatigue can also have significant influence on horizontal and vertical tuning. Spend time on good diaphragmatic breathing exercises every day to help develop better support and, therefore, better tuning.
Singing with a heavy vocal production throughout your range can also cause flatting, especially as you carry the weight of your chest voice up into your head voice. Learn to keep your head voice in your voice throughout your range. Furthermore, the use of warm air to support every pitch of every phrase will open up all the spaces needed for quality singing.
Some other more obvious reasons: singing wrong intervals, or taking too small of a step in an ascending line, or too large of a step in a descending line. Spend time singing major, minor and chromatic scales, both ascending and descending, with accuracy. Relaxing support when you’re singing descending lines can also allow you to flat. Reaching for high note without lightening up and using your head voice can also cause flatting..
Scooping is another cause of tuning problems for your quartet, especially for the lead. Spend rehearsal time duetting in your quartet practice. It will make a difference in the overall sound and tuning of your quartet. Lastly, it is important to pick songs appropriate for your quartet’s vocal range and to sing them in the right key for your group. Avoid songs written too low for the quartet to sing comfortably. Be warned that if the melody has too many thirds or sevenths, there is a good chance the quartet will go flat.
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