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Let me start by assuring you that you are NOT tone deaf just because you currently cannot sing in tune. Tone deafness is actually very rare. The most common problems which are
mistaken for tone deafness are:
1.) Being unfamiliar with how your voice works
2.) Undeveloped intonation
If you can play a melody or tune in your head just like you hear the song being played on the radio, and you are aware of the rise and fall in pitches, difference in tone quality, etc then you are not tone deaf. You just simply cannot produce the same sounds in the same manner in which you are trying to. This brings us to the two problems listed above. If you are not familiar with how your voice works in relation to singing, then you should not expect yourself to be able to sing in tune just like the song you hear playing. You must understand and become familiar with the vocal cord coordinations used for singing and gain that complete control over your voice. Once you do this, I promise that you will be singing in tune and making sounds you never thought you would ever be able to make. Anybody can learn how to sing in key.
Now for the second part. Another reason why many beginning singers struggle with pitch and trying to sing in tune is due to intonation. Intonation is the sense of creating tone. If I ask you to make a certain sound or to imitate a certain individual's voice, then you might not get it perfect the first time so you will try again and maybe even a couple more times before you get it right. That is because you are unfamiliar with making the sound since you've never done it before. You have to try a couple times to get it right. If you are a beginning singer then bad intonation may just be a result of being unfamiliar with your voice as described above. After you learn correct vocal technique (which comes with a lot of practice using proven vocal exercises) and become familiar with how your voice works and the coordinations used to create certain sounds then you will be well on your way to singing along to the radio with a voice you never knew you had. We all have vocal cords made up of the same parts, and all of us can learn how to sing in tune with a radio-friendly voice.
One very useful exercise to help you learn to sing in tune is to practice vocalizing to piano scales. This will help acquaint you with steps (the distance from one note to the next) and give you a general foundation of pitch knowledge. Sit at a piano if you have one and just practice one note at a time. Repeat it while singing that note and with time you will develop a better understanding of pitch and how to sing in tune.
Hard work and determination will pay off, especially since you should know by now that it really is possible for you to achieve these goals. Good luck, and keep singing!
Here is my story:
I went to Nashville, TN and while I was there I thought, "why not see what Brett can do with my voice..." At this point, I had never ever sang infront of ANYBODY. I was really nervous and that wasn't much help since I already had zero confidence in my voice! So Brett and I sat down and went through a couple of exercises before coming to the conclusion that I was the most "from scratch" singer he has worked with in 10 years; I was BAD (or should I say, inexperienced). He made a recording of me singing acapella and anybody who listens to it will think I am tone deaf and don't know how to sing in tune. So then he did some pitch evaluation exercises and we discovered I am not tone deaf at all; I just didn't know how to sing! So it made me think... what if I could sing??? I had to find out...
So here I am.
After vocalizing with Brett, I realized I only had a puny 1 octave range, and my vocal cords were very, very weak. They were not used to the stretching for high notes and I also had horrible intonation. Intonation is the sense of creating tone. I had such bad intonation because my brain had never sent those signals to my cords before. It was a new experience for everybody! That is why I couldn't sing in tune.
At the end of the day, Brett tried to boost my confidence by telling me the potential I had, but I was still very upset with myself; I was so embarrassed with my voice. When I got home, I started working with his at-home vocal training program: Singing Success. Then I thought to myself, "this could be a great opportunity for Brett to prove to everybody what he can do with the average untrained, inexperienced rookie." He works with singers that have been singing for years and he "polishes up" their voices. Well what can he do from complete scratch?
You are about to find out.....