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What is Singing Out of Key?

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Singing out of key or off key is singing out of pitch

You’ve decided to become more involved and, as a result, joined the church choir. However, the woman that invariably stands next to you, really, really close to your left ear, sings off-key or out of key and it drives you crazy. It causes you to sing off-key.

When a singer sings off-key or out of key this means that he is singing off-pitch. In other words, the person is singing a note other than what he is intended to sing. The note that is sung is either lower or higher than what you were going for.

If a singer goes too high, this is referred to as going sharp. When a singer goes too low, this is called going flat. Going off-key happens to all singers at one time or another. In fact, there are those who are always off-key because they can’t control their pitch.

When a person has perfect or absolute pitch this means he can immediately identify or sing any musical note without being provided a reference pitch.

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When a singer possesses an active perfect pitch this means he can hum or sing any pitch that is given to him. If the singer is asked to sing in C sharp she can do it without hearing the note.

What is Pitch?

Photo of Woman Singing in Music Studio
Pitch involves tone, which is the sound that occurs when air passes through vocal cords that are vibrating. The frequency of these vibrations is what decides the pitch of the tone.

When you are singing high notes, the cords vibrate even faster, which makes it more difficult to control the pitch.

Reasons that a singer goes off-key include having lazy ears, which means he isn’t listening to the pitches attentively enough. Or it may be due to tension in the vocal cords, which happens when a singer makes a supreme effort to hit a high note. Lack of breath support can result in off-key singing.

When a singer takes a breath that is not properly supported or when a singer takes an uncontrolled breath, this results in problems with pitch. A singer must learn to breathe properly.

How to Correct Pitch

Woman Singing in a Recording Studio
There is a pitch-correcting technique called auditing, which means that the singer is taught to hear the notes so she doesn’t go off-key. The singer realizes immediately when she is off-key and knows how to correct it. Singers learn to actually hear the notes in their heads before they sing them.

When someone is tone-deaf this means they are incapable of distinguishing between musical notes or have a lack of relative pitch. When a person possesses relative pitch he is capable of identifying the intervening distance between various tones. He also has the ability to sing by pitching every note in the melody based on its distance from the previous note.

Tone deafness is also called tin ear, tune deafness, dysmusia, dysmelodia and amusia.

When someone is incapable of producing and hearing relative pitch it may be the result of genetics or it can be the outcome of brain damage. However, an untrained singer who can’t produce pitches because of her inexperience isn’t considered genetically flawed or brain-damaged; she simply hasn’t had enough training.

If you have a tendency to sing off-key here is what you can do: Play each note on a keyboard slowly, up and down, and listen. Listening is very important. When you play every single note, both black and white, this is the chromatic scale or playing half-notes. Start at the low part of your vocal range and then work towards the top.

Now sing each note after you have played it. Listen to yourself.

This will ultimately teach you how to avoid going off-key.6/30/2024


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