How To Sing On Key: It’s Not Your Ear

Posted on 18. Oct, 2008 by in Singing

Do you ever sing off key?  Do you know how easy it can be to sing better on key (aka “on pitch”)? Do you know that you can learn this for FREE?

Let’s face it; being able to sing on key is crucial. Being able to match notes is in essence what makes singing different from speaking. Singing "off key", aka "off pitch", is frankly not very pleasant for the listener.

However, even pros sing off key once in a while. And if you ever watch American Idol or its international counterparts, you hear complaints about the singer being "pitchy" all the time.

In short: If you want to be a singer that people actually want to listen to, there’s just no way around it: You have to be able to sing on pitch.

Now the question is: How do you develop this skill…

Or maybe it isn’t a skill. Maybe it is something we are born with?

If you’ve read “The New Era of Singing Training”, you know what I think about the “born with” belief.

Yes, of course this skill can be developed. The question is how, and what is the most effective way to do it.

What I find so interesting is that most people – yes, even singing teachers – think that in order to learn to sing notes, you have to practice singing notes.

Now, I know I seem like a fool for believing differently. After all, it seems perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?  Of course you have to practice singing notes in order to be able to sing notes, right? Of course you have to practice catching the ball in order to catch a ball….

But wait a minute, isn’t that what I wrote in The New Era of Singing Training, when I gave the example of the child learning to catch a ball?

I wrote: "Catching the ball is insignificant in the process of learning to catch a ball". Hitting notes is insignificant in the process of learning to hit notes.”

My friend, my statement is this: Singing off key is far less an ear issue than most people think. It is not the person’s inability to hear notes that makes them sing off key

Being able to release free vibration – i.e. a free voice – is far more a muscle issue than an ear issue.

Having said that, ear training is incredibly important. Ear training is crucial. With ear training your musicality and singing ability will be enhanced even more dramatically.

However, developing a free voice, and developing your ear are two separate processes. To get maximum results, we want to separate the processes until they organically intertwine.

However, in traditional singing training they are always baked together in the same process. You try to sing scales – i.e. you try to hit the notes – without ever being given permission to REALLY EXPLORE what a free sound might FEEL like. You are conditioned to always go for the result – i.e. trying to hit the notes accurately.

Five years later, you have a singer who sings with far less freedom than he could, and has just developed his ear moderately.

With the Bristow Voice Method we treat these as two separate processes initially, and the results are always astounding.  I have had people who believed they were tone deaf who learn how to sing on key within 40 minutes. Can you imagine how many detrimental limiting beliefs we live with that are just plain false?

Now, I have created a powerful ear–training program that takes a student from learning to distinguish between frequencies to learning to recognize notes, intervals, chords, complex musical patterns, and more.

When this is used in conjunction with the vocal training, it goes without saying that this, not only improves the student’s singing ability, but also makes him/her a greater musician. We simply get to appreciate music even more.

If you are wondering where I sell this program, I don’t. I don’t sell it. I give it away for free. Yes, it is free for all members of the Sing With Freedom/The Singing Zone home study program and is not available anywhere else. 

If you want to experience for yourself what happens to your voice, you are welcome to go to and try it out at no risk on your part.

The bottom line is that being able to sing on key is like everything else – a developed skill, although it certainly may come easier for some. If you’re not used to singing on key, you can learn quickly if you become less result-oriented and more process-oriented. To really develop rapidly, we move away from the standard approach of singing scales – i.e. matching notes – and instead separate vocal freedom training and ear training. Ultimately, we make singing feeeeeeel gooood.

Please add a comment:

7 Responses to “How To Sing On Key: It’s Not Your Ear”

  1. David Canga

    13. Dec, 2008

  2. Ditas

    02. Dec, 2008

    Hi Per! I’m probably a perfect example of what you’ve been saying about vocal freedom. I’ve been singing since i was a child, but have always felt shy because my voice wasn’t what people who heard it thought was beautiful, even if i was actually singing on pitch. It was voice teachers who liked my voice, and that appreciation set me free. I still have some inhibitions, but i’m learning to appreciate my voice instead of comparing it with my idea of a good voice.

    I did study music, although thankfully, my teachers made me sing songs more than vocalize, and were always getting me to relax, enjoy the singing, and think about what i’m saying. I’m doing my best to pass it on to the people I train now.

    Your book and your statement that our physical voice is inseparable from our inner voice has put into words the problem i’ve encountered with myself and with my students. And it explains why my approach of encouragement and freedom to make mistakes has been helping them. Now i know why, thanks to you.

    I just need to always remember it for myself.^_^

    Thank you, Per. I’ll be saving up for the lessons. I echo Boogie’s request for making Paypal a payment option. We’re doing our best to avoid “plastic temptations.”


  3. audrey

    18. Nov, 2008

    why is it easier for me to sing without the music?

  4. Chia

    14. Nov, 2008

    Dear Per

    I have followed your advice on not imitating how others sing but to sing to my own style and it has helped me a lot because i dont go off tune so much for now. However I still have problems as to my facial expressions while singing. I still think my face contorts while singing and I dont know how to deal with it. Hope you can help.

    Yours Sincerely

  5. Boogie

    29. Oct, 2008

    Hi Per,

    another beautifull article, thanks for your great work.
    On another note, would it be possible for you to add paypal as a payment-option, i finally got the money for the course and come to realize, i don’t have a credit-card (and neither do any of my friends, we don’t do plastic, only organics, lol)
    anyway, keep it up!

  6. Pia

    18. Oct, 2008

    Per, what can I do if I sing in a choir and cannot hold my melody (soprano 2), because i’m irritated by the soprano 1?

  7. Jon Jacoby

    18. Oct, 2008

    What do you call the sonic equivalent of visualization? Aural imagination? Any way with my own ear training I learned to do scales, intervals and chord arpeggios silently. Each time your brain generates a pitch it sends a signal to the muscles that will ultimately create that pitch. You are practicing singing in pitch by thinking of pitches. You also learn note and tonal relationships better. Then you can listen to music and identify the notes, intervals and chords without having to hunt and peck around on an instrument. You format a section of you brain to think music. We all have gotten a song stuck in our heads. It’s the same thing except you practice it and develop it as a skill.

    As Per said experiencing a free voice is what voice training is for. In all the years that I’ve struggled I have learned that forcing and straining the voice will make you sing off pitch. Yawning exercises may actually make it worse if you are forcing things. When the vocal cords can vibrate freely and the brain has a clear picture of what it wants to do the result is an expressive performance.

Leave a Reply