HOW TO MAINTAIN VOCAL PITCH WHILE SINGING HARMONY

Most singers have no trouble singing on pitch when they are singing solo.  Maintaining accurate vocal pitch may become more difficult when accompaniment is added, but generally accompaniment supports the solo and with a little practice singing on pitch with accompaniment is not too difficult.  However, singing on pitch can becomes much harder when singing a harmonic line, or singing in an ensemble with several part harmony.  Some may believe that they simply do not have an ear to be able to maintain singing pitch in such a setting, but by practicing properly you can become an expert, and you will like find singing in an ensemble very satisfying.

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To begin perfecting your harmonic voice pitch skills, first make sure that your own vocal pitch is accurate in your part.  Play a section of your line on the piano, without singing, and listen closely to the pitches.  When you finish playing, slowly play back the line in your head, making sure that you know every note exactly.  You may have to play it a few times on the piano to solidify certain awkward intervals in your mind.  Once you know the line, sing it slowly with the piano, listening to match each vocal pitch.  Then sing the line a capella.  You may want to try this exercise even with vocalise and warm-ups to make sure that your voice pitch is always accurate before you start trying to sing, whether harmonic or not.

 

As another warm-up exercise, practice singing various harmonies against the piano.  Play a harmonic interval; then play just the note you will sing.  Then hold down the second note while you sing the first against it.  Note what it feels like.  Check your  singing pitch exercise, try it with simple consonant intervals: third, fifth, and sixth.  Then add the major second, fourth, and sevenths.  Once you have mastered diatonic periodically to make sure you are holding the correct interval against the piano.  When you first try this voice pitch intervals, add in chromatic singing pitches as well.  You may also want to try moving voice pitch exercises in this way–scales of parallel thirds, for example.  Eventually, you will also want to practice singing different parts of the major, minor, diminished, and augmented triads; practice singing against two other notes instead of just one.  Also practice finding your notes by playing just the other note first, without giving yourself a hint.

 

Another way to develop your accurate vocal pitch harmonic skills is to listen to harmonic music–hymns or other a capella vocal music, or even string quartets–and try to pick out all the individual parts.  The top line vocal pitches will probably be very easy to hear, and the bass singing pitches will not be too difficult either.  Finding the tenor voice pitches and alto lines will take more work.  Once four part harmony becomes easy to decipher, work with six or eight or twelve parts!  Listen to different styles of music that have different kinds of harmony (contrapuntal vs. clean classical vs. jazz); you may want to practice improvising harmonic lines along as you listen.

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If your vocal pitch is correct and you are comfortable singing on pitch with the various harmonies, you are ready to try it in a song.  As you are learning your line in a harmonic piece, look at the other line(s) to see how they fit with your line.  Some prefer the approach of “just sing loud enough so you can’t hear the other guys,” but this is not conducive to blend and in the end it will be easier for you if you understand how you are functioning as part of a whole, and you will be able to lend more finesse to your performance.

Singing harmony is different, but it is a skill that can be practiced and provide an enjoyable outlet to be able to sing with others.

Categories: voice pitch.

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