Singing is like flying.  To leave the ground, one has to overcome the gravity that weighs everything down.  And that takes effort, effort and air.  Want to get your singers to sing more tunefully?  Let’s go soaring.

  1. Passive singers will likely sing consistently flat.  Passive singers who are also tired will sing even flatter!  If your choir sings under the pitch a lot, don’t complain about the tuning.   Instead, wake them up! Get them burning fuel. Get them to experience the physicality of singing.  Work on your own enthusiasm.  Generate more energy in the rehearsal.  Use humour.  Demonstrate grandly.  Give them a picture of the confidence you hope to instil.  And reward them when they lift the musical line with supported air that improves the overall pitch!

Oh, and did I mention breathing?

  1. Singers will sometimes sing a particular note out of tune.  This issue has to do with intervals and supporting the musical line.  If you spot an errant note, don’t complain about the tuning.  Instead, isolate the problem.  Draw their attention to the interval.  Name it.  Sing it to them.  Sing it in tune.  Sing it out of tune.  As you demonstrate, show them with your thumb and forefinger the difference.  Let them hear the piano do it.  Let them sing it back.  Sing it in context of the phrase.  And the next time you sing it through, watch them at the offending spot and look expectant as if to say I’m still listening . . . are YOU?

Oh, and did I mention breathing?

  1. Untunefulness is also related to the piano accompaniment.  For starters, if the instrument is out of tune you are simply reinforcing poor tuning in the singing by not giving them a fair reference.  And if the pianist is timid, that’s even worse.  The markings on the page are relative.  The piano has to play firmly enough to support the choir, not simply obey dynamics on the page.  Singers cannot sing in tune if they can’t hear the piano.

An elegant bird makes flying look easy.  Soaring and wheeling on the air currents is beauty and grace in motion.  Singing involves a similar relationship with art and effort.  The music demands an artful contour of phrase, which is only possible when there is enough air to support the flight.

Did I mention not complaining about tuning?  Fix it!