Inaccurate Singing


Inaccurate singing is a problem that some children and adults have.  In other words, they don’t match pitches accurately (sing the notes that they should).  “Inaccurate singing” is a much better term than “monotone”.  In fact “monotone” is an improper term.  I’ve never heard anyone talk on a droning one pitch.  Everyone speaks with at least a bit of inflection in their voice so they are not  “monotone”.  So to all who say they “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” they can really sing.  They’re just inaccurate singers.

All of us start as infants as inaccurate singers and for many, it is just a natural and normal development that gets us to match pitches properly.  We hear it and we sing it.   But for some, inaccurate singing can persist late into childhood and for many into adulthood.   The good news is that it can be corrected


How a child’s inaccurate singing is handled can make a big difference.  It can affect their whole musical life.  Many adults who’s inaccurate singing has been handled poorly, have very little confidence in what they can do musically and some avoid music altogether.  They may end up only listening to certain types of music at the most.  Never will they try to make music themselves.  Quite unfortunate!


People often think that musical ability is a matter of talent.  “You either have it or you don’t.”  Obviously some people have more affinity to music than others. That attraction may be the only proper use of the term “talent”.  To determine how much of that talent is based on innate abilities and how much is based on experience, development and encouragement is debatable.  But I have some evidence (See Pg.2) that all people can learn to sing acceptably if they are dealt with properly and will apply themselves to work at it.  This application aspect may be an important issue with adults who are used to controlling their time and have other things to do.  For them, lack of determination and effort may scuttle their idealistic desires.  But it can be done!

So how should inaccurate singers be handled?  Certainly not the way some adults handle it.  When the child tries to sing, some adult might say, “Wow, you sound just like your father!” - meaning, “Your father can’t sing and neither can you.”  Since children tend to believe things others tell them with no internal evaluation, they figure music is not for them and don’t try again.  How sad!  They lose out on a very satisfying part of life.

Most people including many music teachers don’t know how to handle inaccurate singing.  Some accept the “talent” argument and others either don’t know how to handle it or don’t feel that they can afford classroom time to achieve success.  First we need to understand that the road to accurate singing may be quite a gradual one and does require some effort.


Probably the major ingredient is a willingness to try.  Maturity can enter in. Some require a good deal of determination.  But once these are in place, here are the steps that will make the person successful.


  1. 1. Step 1: Encourage the person whether a child or adult to experiment with making sounds.  Approach it all as casual fun.  Using the story of “The Three Bears” with the Papa Bear, the Mamma Bear and the Baby Bear voices, is an example to encourages this voice flexibility.  Then try to get him to understand what he did, particularly awareness of high and low. Make such sounds as “Beep beep”, “Wheeee”, “Meow”, “Squeak squeak”, “Eeek”, “Toot toot”, “Quack Quack”, “Grrrr”. etc.  Anything to develop a bit of flexibility in the voice and to show that the voice can do all sorts of things other than talk, laugh and cry.  Emphasize those sounds that go into the extreme high range of the voice.  In men we call this “Falsetto” but even children and women have registers that are different and often with a distinct break.  Often the person who has gone on “singing” inaccurately for a while, will never use this high register except in squealing.  Some may never have squealed for years if ever.

  2. 2. Step 2” Since most inaccurate singers sing too low, start low and have him slide up in a siren manner.  To make a solid pitch difference will take some physical effort.  Thus we have found that saying a strong “Whoops” works the best.  The idea is to make as extreme a difference in pitch as possible and especially to get into the “falsetto” register.   If he has already developed a negative attitude, it is especially important to make it fun so he will lose his inhibitions.

  3. 3. For step 3, slide up with a strong “Whoops” and hold on to the high pitch.  Work at this until it is easily done.

  4. 4. Step 4: Now do the previous step but after holding the note up high, warble up and down a bit up high.  Gradually work at this being as extreme in pitch variation as possible.

  5. 5. Step 5: Now work it down into the lower register recognizing that there will probably be a strong break between registers called the “passaggio”. That’s normal.

  6. 6. Step 6: At this point you will probably want to work with songs and develop from there.

  7. 7. Step 7: A final goal is to smooth out the “passaggio” or the “break” in registers.  See another of my topics called “Singing Better Thru Register Understanding”.  If there is a definite break, this can take years to smooth out.  That’s often what vocal training is about.

A key element in all of this is to develop an understanding of the difference between “high/low” and “loud/soft” which is confusing to many beginners.

This whole process may take a while, but it can all be fun and very satisfying .  And it can open up a whole new world of possibilities “to those who are exercised thereby”.

It’s a sad thing to hear people say that they “can’t sing” as many feel this is their fate.  Of course, for an adult to develop this skill will take some serious effort as they change their old way of controlling their voice to a more satisfying use.  Many will testify that it’s worth it!


Singing accurately takes two componentsHearing and control of the voice.  I am convinced that almost always the key ingredient is the “control of the voice”.   A proof of this is the fact that people who are inaccurate singers can distinguish different people’s voice on the phone.  You see, tone quality is a function acoustically of pitch - high and low partial strength.  So work on the “control of the voice” and the hearing will follow.


Here is a link to Nikki Berry’s websites.  She’s a friend from the other side of the world - New Zeland.  Her Home page is  but you might be especially interested in

Happy Singing!

Ted Norton


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