Singing out of tune: What to do about it?

Several techniques and tricks to finally assume your voice!

You've probably heard a loved one sing "Happy Birthday" in the most horrible way, but it's not a hopeless case! 90% of the population sings in tune, many people simply lack technique. Tight vocal chords, bad breathing, bad posture, the reasons are multiple. There is room for improvement, unless you are one of the 3% for whom it is impossible to identify the pitch of notes. This lack of musical ear is called "amusia".

what is singing out of tune?

Singing out of tune is actually an accumulation of several factors. From a musical point of view, it could mean not being able to sing a note in unison, in other words, not being able to reproduce the same note sung by several people simultaneously. Melodically speaking, singing out of tune is also the inability to reproduce a given melody identically, either in rehearsal or from memory. From a technical point of view, singing out of tune is also the inability to hold a note for a certain period of time, related to a bad posture, muscular tension or even a thoracic rather than abdominal breathing. In summary, singing out of tune is the addition of inaccuracies in both note accuracy and rhythm, related to an under-training of the musical ear and lack of technique. 


Amusia is a musical deafness that affects about 3% of people. For them, it is impossible to perceive tonal, chordal or harmonic differences. Here are some examples:

tonal amusia:

Inability to recognize the pitch of notes. The individual will not be able to perceive the difference in pitch between two different notes, played on a piano for example. And this, even with a lot of practice. 

rhythmic amusia:

Inability to reproduce and understand even a basic rhythm. In a "normal" person, rhythm is the brain's anticipation of future beats. A person with rhythmic amusia does not have this ability. Brain damage can also be the cause. 

melodic amusia:

Inability to recognize a melody. This is not very practical for blind test nights! Fortunately, amusia has nothing to do with the individual's primary hearing ability. It is just a pathological lack of musical ear, for which hard work will unfortunately not change anything.   

Ear training

It is true that the environment in which we grow up has an impact on the quality of the musical ear we develop. If you grow up in an environment where music is omnipresent, even before you are born, you are more likely to have a keen sense of listening. Fortunately, there are several exercises you can do to work on your musical ear. Start by becoming aware of your "audiophonic loop". This is a process of brain control between voice and hearing. The ear acts as a tuner of the sound emitted by the mouth, so singing right is above all learning to listen to yourself. To learn how to "connect" your ear and your voice, play a note on a piano and try to reach it while singing with particular attention to the pitch of the note.

place your voice

Once you begin to feel comfortable with the exercise of imitating pitches, it's time to look at technique. The vocal cords are a muscle that requires daily work to progress. There are several types of voices: Head voice, which resonates in the skull, chest voice, which resonates throughout the body, middle voice, which serves as a transition from the first two voice types. You can then practice vocalizations or scales, to learn to "switch" between these different types of voices and thus target your tessitura. In the absence of the ambitus, which is the set of notes that can be sung by an individual from the lowest to the highest pitch, the tessitura is a panel of notes within which a singer feels at ease. Don't hesitate to call on a vocal coach who will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, in order to have adapted exercises and follow-up!

Apolline offers singing lessons in Lausanne as well as guitar lessons, drum lessons and piano lessons to help you perfect your musical skills. 

Did you like this article? Here are some others that might interest you:

  • singing in tune thanks to singing lessons

  • how to work on your voice

  • How to sing higher?

  • How do I register for The Voice?

  • How do you get to know your voice?