Helping someone who doesn't match pitch
  • Hello Catholic liturgical musicians! Perhaps you could help me with your vocal expertise. We have a young woman interested in our community who has issues with pitch. It seems that she can carry a tune, but I could hear that while singing with us from the outer chapel, she was singing significantly lower than we were (our reciting tone is A or Bb). She also seems unaware of this problem, from a story she told me. If she is oblivious to dissonance, I don't know how she could be helped.

    Do you have any advice for online resources I could point out to her, or other advice I could give her? Unfortunately, our small choir cannot handle the addition of someone who would be a burden rather than an asset to singing the liturgy day in and day out, so this is a terminal issue for vocational suitability for us.

    Thank you for any advice you can give.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,611
    If you have access to a smartphone there is an Android app called "Nail the Pitch" which shows the pitch you are singing at (no doubt other apps are available). That could help to persuade her there is a problem. It might help to show her how to raise pitch. Once you achieve consonnance she may appreciate what that sounds like, if not there is probably no cure.
    Unfortunately it shows me how wobbly my voice has become as I advance into my eighties.
    Thanked by 3Don9of11 MarkB Carol
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,046
    Have the singer close one ear with their finger. They can then 'hear' the pitch they're singing (vs.) the pitch from the organ or the others singing their part. Sometimes they actually fix themselves after a few months; that happened with one of mine.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,327
    This would probably be easy to fix in a voice lesson and sounds like someone early in the process of becoming acquainted with how their voice works. With 'droners' there's usually a narrow comfort zone of pitches that can be matched, and the work is just to expand it. A while ago when a visitor in the pews I smiled to hear a perfect organum at the tritone. When I started singing a perfect 4th below they instantly tuned to me; nothing wrong with those ears.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,463
    I had a person who wanted to join my choir and she could not match pitch. I told her I would work with her each week until she could and then she could join the choir..... she gave up.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Corpus Christi Watershed had an interesting series of blog posts about this. Here's one:

    https://www.ccwatershed.org/2020/10/06/the-real-reason-why-some-people-dont-match-pitch/
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 7,979
    It may be worthwhile to give her voice lessons with a vocal coach skilled in vocal paedagogy. If this doesn't work then she is most likely never to fit in. Have you spoken to her about this condition?
  • TCJ
    Posts: 765
    Have you tried working with her in her own range so she can hear what it sounds like when she actually blends in?

    I had a person who wanted to join my choir and she could not match pitch. I told her I would work with her each week until she could and then she could join the choir..... she gave up.


    I have told that to a number of people. Most people will say "okay" and then not bother to show up for the appointment. They also never bother to communicate with me afterward, even to apologize for missing the appointment. I did have one person put in the effort to go through individual sessions until he could match pitch well enough to have a go with the choir and he's still with the choir today.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,345
    Rant: Sometimes schoolchildren are taught to sing badly.

    End of rant.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,659
    Rant: And sometimes schoolchildren aren't taught to sing at all.

    End of rant.
  • Thank you for your responses! I am just now able to get back here to check.

    A.F.Hawkins, thank you for the tip about the app. That sounds like it might be helpful for her to get some objective feedback just on her own.

    M. Jackson Osborne, after a number of years here in the monastery trying to get qualified people to come and help us, I have identified the "skilled in vocal paedagogy" as the most important qualification. The challenge is, where or how do I (or the young lady) find someone like this? We are both in somewhat or very rural areas in different states.

    Anna_Bendiksen, that article looks informative, thank you.

    To TJC and others at large, the young lady doesn't live near us; on her first visit, I noticed this issue. I asked her about her singing ability, and had her sing something for me (she sang the tune fine), but unfortunately, I have very little confidence in doing things that all of you musicians and singers here would consider extremely basic, like leading vocal exercises for choir practice. I greatly wish I had more experience and confidence in this field of singing/helping people sing; I am chantress because of demographics, not expertise. My hope is to be able to give the young lady some resources so she can work on this on her own (or if she could find someone local to help, all the better) before her second visit this autumn, when we'll have to decide if we will encourage her to keep discerning with us or not.

    I am thinking of making some recordings of some parts of the Office that we sing, or some of the solo parts that we inflict on postulants, and send them to her, so she could practice with those and see if she would be able to do it. If she becomes aware that she is not singing on pitch, and learns what it sounds/feels like to match pitch (here Dad29's tip might be helpful), then trying to sing along with us on a recording might be a helpful tool. It seems like finding a real-life person to help her may be very important though.

    Thank you again. I am open to more helpful advice!