Singing is not just about the mechanics of the voice. Without great listening skills singers can’t translate what’s in their head to the outside world with ease and enjoyment. Also, what's in their heads, might not be quite right.
Musical building blocks are the scales, intervals and arpeggios that a guitarist or pianist would learn. As singers, we could do with learning them too. Why? Because most popular melodies that we sing, are built around certain scales which contain specific notes. When you train your ears to learn the sound of particular scales, you’re more likely to know if you’re singing the right or wrong note within a song. If you sing a note that is not within that particular scale (also known as the key of a song), you are likely to be singing a note that doesn’t fit (unless of course, it’s mean’t to be there)! The process of developing your ears is called Ear Training and the reason why singers find it challenging is because you need to spend time LISTENING not SINGING to get it.
1. PITCH MATCHING [VOICE TO INSTRUMENT]
If you don’t play an instrument find a virtual piano on google. If you do, go to your piano or guitar. Hit a note and try to match it with your voice. Are you singing it at the same pitch as they keyboard? Try to work this out by hearing if your voice and the piano are doing the same thing. If you don't think so, move your voice around until you hear or feel the vibrations lock together. Do this for 5 minutes or so to wake up your auditory neurons. Like this.
2. PITCH MATCHING [INSTRUMENT TO VOICE]
If you really can't manage pitch matching, just slide around in your range and land on one note, keep singing that note and then try to find that note on the keyboard. Like this.
3. INTERVAL TRAINING
Forget having perfect pitch (where you know the names of the notes you're singing). Relative pitch is still quite useful. Relative pitch is being give a note, then being asked to sing a specific interval above or below it. (Intervals are the distances between two notes - see below.) The distances between notes may be close together or far apart. When pitches and intervals are abstract they seem to just float around in the head however, if you can relate these intervals to a song you already know and something linear (like a scale), they are much more easily remembered. The smaller the number the closer they are together and the bigger the number the further they are apart. If you don't understand scales, just think of them as steps.
Learn intervals by relating them to songs you already know.
Minor 2nd = Jaws
Major 2nd = Happy Birthday.
Minor 3rd = Greensleeves
Major 3rd = Oh When The Saints
Perfect 4th = Amazing Grace
Diminished 5th = The Simpsons
Perfect 5th - Superman
Minor 6th = Love Story
Major 6th = My Way
Minor 7th = Th Winner Takes It All
Major 7th = Superman
Perfect Octave = Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Listen here to hear what I mean.
4. TEST TEST TEST!
Now test yourself. Try and name the intervals I play (all in the key of C) by trying to match what you you hear to the songs that relate the the intervals above. If you want me to mark you, send me your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
5. REGINA SPEKTOR (OR WHOEVER) IS MY TEACHER!
Take a song that you like and try to match a section of it EXACTLY. This will require critical listening. Here's what I mean. It takes patience, concentration and commitment! But it's worth it. I learned 40 songs in one weekend this way.