One way to quickly improve your ability to sing in tune is to use a digital tuner. These devices let you set a target note, hear that note, and then show whether your own note is above or below it and by how much. They are normally used for tuning an instrument, but can actually be a very helpful tool for learning to sing in tune.
The idea is that you try to sing back the target note, and then watch the tuner to see if you are sharp (too high) or flat (too low). Then gradually adjust the pitch you’re singing until you hit the note.
This trains two things at once:
- Your Voice
When you first begin singing it takes some practice to get real control over the pitches you sing. Working with a tuner helps you build up this control fast.
- Your Ear
The process of honing in on the target note relies on your ear’s ability to accurately judge the pitch of the target note and your own sung note. As you practice with the tuner your ear will become more reliable until you don’t need to watch the tuner at all, you can simply use your ear to know whether to adjust up or down.
How to learn to sing in tune
Here are the steps to use a digital tuner to practice matching pitch and singing in tune:
1. Set the tuner to your target note (e.g. A).
It’s best if you choose the note in a range you’re comfortable singing in, but most tuners will still work if you sing in a different octave than the target note.
2. Listen to the tuner play the note.
It will probably be a very simple ongoing “tone”, like an electronic beep. You might like to try humming along with the sound.
3. Hear the note in your head.
This skill of “audiation” connects hearing music with singing it. You hear, then you imagine hearing, then you sing.
4. Sing the note.
As you sing, keep an eye on the tuner to see if you’re singing too high or low. Gradually adjust your pitch until you hit the target note.
Learn more about this process in “How to train your ear for pitch perfection”.
Other useful tools
Aside from the normal digital tuner which many instrumentalists already own, you can also train with:
- Interactive Apps such as Pitch Graph or Pitch Primer.
- Online Ear Training such as the Vocal Match game from Theta Music.