If singers consistently sing flat, the problem is most likely related to a lack of breath support. Just like Mama Bear’s porridge, which was too cold and needed to be warmed up, flat singers need to heat up their air support to sing in tune. A quick fix would be to get them simply to sing louder, because to sing louder they will automatically breathe more deeply, support more vigorously, and sing more tunefully.
If singers are singing sharp, the problem is most likely related to an excess of breath support and way too much adrenalin! Just like Papa Bear’s porridge which was too hot, sharp singers need to cool down their air. A quick fix would be to get them to relax and listen, because in doing this they will automatically breathe more naturally, support with less tension, and sing more tunefully.
Sound too simplistic? Well, for me, most tuning problems are cleared up almost instantly by either adding more sound . . . or simply learning to relax and listen. There is also systematic work that can be done to train the ear, gain breath control, and develop instincts for the support required for every phrase of music. But that is definitely a long-term process involving repetition and habituation. The Three Bears strategy is only the first couple of spoonfuls at the bottom of the bowl. Watch for ‘Tuning on the Run’, and ‘Resuscitation 101’ which will continue this discussion in future TIPS.
In my experience, it is rare for individuals to have a purely physiological issue related to poor tuning. Most mortals can fix the pitch by simply breathing/supporting properly. So, if you want to correct tuning issues, the Three Bears’ strategy is the quickest route to improvement. Not only will your porridge be just the right temperature, but your tuning will be neither too sharp nor too flat, but just right . . . in the middle!