No Pitch Variation

A common situation for a stuck singer concerns the inability to change pitches with the appropriate registrational adjustments.  

What can make this a bit of a conundrum is that the singer might think they are doing a good job at changing pitch when singing up and down the scale.  Yet, the right muscles are not really working, and the singer is only approximating the pitches.

I remember in one of my early lessons with a master teacher – Dr. Joel Ewing – that I was asked to sing a 5-note scale on one vowel, acapella.  I sang to the top and down. I thought I was doing well. However, when the recording was played back, it was evident that I was near the pitches but never in tune. What’s more is that I was changing pitch by pushing and pressing and forcing the voice to work through excessive volume and breath blasting, rather than what should happen.  

Well, what should happen then? If all is healthy, as one steps up and down the scale there are different pitches being sung which give us feelings of being on top of the step. Or one may think of this as little gear changes (like in a car) on each note with more noticeable shifts as one moves to the extremes of range. All of this healthy activity is done by precise muscular adjustments – the arytenoid closing the cords and the crico-thyroid stretching and thinning the cords.  There is a correct amount of healthy tension and size of vocal cords vibrating for the pitch or pitches being sung. For there is an exact width, depth, and length of vocal cords vibrating to produce any particular pitch.

When the muscles are doing good work, we are always in tune. The pitch is being changed by healthy muscular movement as opposed to us pushing and pressing or dragging the pitch around; forcing the voice to work. Ultimately, if we force the muscles to work without being educated in the right “feel,” we end up not being able to change pitch at all, with a severe reduction in range and out of tune.  

Yet, if our vocal muscles are working right, and we know what healthy pitch change feels like, then we get free. We are not stuck. We easily move around our vocal home!

Allen Rascoe

about the author

Allen Rascoe Allen has been enjoying singing since he was a little kid. He officially studied voice at ECU and USC. However, he ran... Read More