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My Kids sing off key -- please help

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#1 Mississippi Mama

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:38 PM

I wanted to deny it, but in all honesty my kids sing off tune.

I've always loved music, sang in the church choir, played a few instruments and have always sung to the radio with them and sang them lullabies as babies.

So where did I go wrong and can I get them singing on key? I'm not an expert at all. They like to sing and I notice they sing a few notes right on familiar songs only.

My husband and all his family can't sing either. I'm not being mean, they know it:)

So I'm willing and hopefully able and want to teach them.

Is this possible to correct, even for my 10 and 12 year olds?

How do I start? ( I can't remember learning as a kid, but I was in a gifted music class for 6 years)

I'm clueless on the vocal teaching. Are there any good curriculums?

Is there anything I can do for my baby and 3 year old now to help? I know it's an important time now.

Thanks!!!!!

#2 OrganicAnn

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:51 PM

I believe you can help kids sing better, but I some think is genetic so your kids may have inherited their father's lack of singing ability. I would guess singing simple songs together and using a instrument to help with the key would be the way to go.

#3 TranquilMind

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:51 PM

I wanted to deny it, but in all honesty my kids sing off tune.

I've always loved music, sang in the church choir, played a few instruments and have always sung to the radio with them and sang them lullabies as babies.

So where did I go wrong and can I get them singing on key? I'm not an expert at all. They like to sing and I notice they sing a few notes right on familiar songs only.

My husband and all his family can't sing either. I'm not being mean, they know it:)


No, I do not think it is possible to teach this. You either have it or you don't, and I do believe there is some inheritance issue here.

I sang in the choir and the whole bit, sang in weddings, etc. I have two kids. One can sing and one cannot. Neither were taught. The oldest simply cannot produce the note correctly, I think, although honestly, it HAS improved since childhood. She can sing on key for a little short while now. Progress!

My husband cannot sing on key unless he is following someone. Alone - no way. Go figure.

#4 maddykate

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:52 PM

I am all :bigear: because one of my dc cannot carry a tune in a bucket, poor dear. She tries so hard, but oh my!

#5 Starr

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:53 PM

Our children's choir director says kids can learn to carry a tune.

#6 swellmomma

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:20 PM

Our children's choir director says kids can learn to carry a tune.


Too bad I never learned. I was in a children's church choir too and I still can't sing

#7 Mississippi Mama

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:20 PM

Our children's choir director says kids can learn to carry a tune.


Do you care to ask him some tips and let us know?

I'd appreciate it so much:)

#8 kewb

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:36 PM

This is coming from someone who couldn't carry a tune even if it had a handle, however, I think we are talking genetics. You may be able to improve their singing but I don't know that they will ever sing on key.

#9 Singingmom

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:38 PM

I think pretty much, you are either born with the ability to hear musical pitch or not. It is an inherited trait. Having said that, I think if there is even a smidge of ability to "hear" and reproduce pitch, then, whatever is there can be worked on and developed....but only to a finite extent ;) .

To me, I wouldn't make it a big deal. Instead of placing a lot of focus on an area where there is no or almost no natural ability, I would focus on the areas where the child does shine.

#10 54879525

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:41 PM

I read an article in Scientific American that said that less than 1% of the population is actually tone deaf. That the real culprit might be difficulty controlling vocal muscles. So apparently most people can learn to control them better and sing better.

#11 GingerPoppy

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:42 PM

I would start by playing a lot of "match my note" throughout the day, as often as possible. Simply play a note on the piano or sing a single note and hold it; then have them find that note and match it. You may have to prompt them to go higher or lower until they find it. Be sure to use notes in their range (so, the lower end of your singing range, or around the middle of the piano for boys of that age). They should get better over time.

After they are competent, try to have them echo a two-note phrase each time. Continue to expand what they echo.

Edited by GingerPoppy, 27 June 2012 - 07:06 PM.


#12 4blessingmom

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:54 PM

I have a BSE music; vocal/choral.


It *is* a learned skill. Some people learn it by osmosis and others need a good teacher, but any child who can hear can sing. IOW - you need to train those ears and the voices will follow.


For baby & 3yo, sing up in their register. Sing repetitive nursery tunes. (Lots of sol-mi...or a m3.) I can't stress enough the importance of singing up higher than you probably think is comfortable b/c little kids cannot transpose on the fly. They either mimic exactly what they hear or drone, but I've *never* met a child who couldn't mimic exactly when given a good model.


Do your 10/12 yo's play tag-type games? Encourage the "na-na-na-na-boo-boo" sing-songy stuff. (That is the m3/sol-mi that is in so many nursery songs.) Get out there and start some chasing yourself, if you must... Search out those old childhood games played to a song. (Miss Mary Mack, etc...) Sing them a bit higher...you get the trend. Until puberty, all kids sing best and in tune in their (high) head voices. Most kids have trouble staying in tune in their (low) chest voices.


That is just a start, but at 10/12 yo they will have to want to learn so it completely depends upon their desire. kwim. Piano is a good backdoor to singing. Make them sing what they play. (Sing the fingerings when learning a new piece, especially on the tricky spots. It works double-duty that way.)

As far as I know, there is not a decent curric out there that teaches singing. It shouldn't be drudge work and it shouldn't be performance based. It must focus on ear-training first...and should be engaging for the child. That's why I suggest starting with games, making sure that you are providing a good vocal model.

#13 4blessingmom

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:56 PM

I would start by playing a lot of "match my note" throughout the day, as often as possible. Simply play a note on the piano or sing a single note and hold it; then have them find that note and match it. You may have to prompt them to go higher or lower until they find it. Be sure to use notes in their range (so, the lower end of your singing range, or around the middle of the piano). They should get better over time.

After they are competent, try to have them echo a two-note phrase each time. Continue to expand what they echo.




These are good to do if the child is interested.


Learning bird calls might also sharpen those ears. Again...we are looking for ways to train the ear that your 10/12yo's will not balk at.

#14 Horton

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:59 PM

I would start by playing a lot of "match my note" throughout the day, as often as possible. Simply play a note on the piano or sing a single note and hold it; then have them find that note and match it. You may have to prompt them to go higher or lower until they find it. Be sure to use notes in their range (so, the lower end of your singing range, or around the middle of the piano). They should get better over time.

After they are competent, try to have them echo a two-note phrase each time. Continue to expand what they echo.


Dh has taught both dds by doing the above. He started with humming and then moved to the piano. I can't carry a tune and just thought they were going to be like me, but he has them singing and playing several instruments now.

#15 merry gardens

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 07:15 PM

One of mine received some singing lessons as a birthday gift. He loved to sing but couldn't carry a tune until his friend's mom gave him a few singing lessons. Within about a half dozen lessons, he could sing in tune! They worked at the piano a lot with her teaching him how to adjust his voice, but I don't really know exactly how she did it. She was amazing!

She moved away, otherwise I'd hire her for some of my others too. I've tried to duplicate what she did and my others have made some progress, but it's not easy--and she made it seem easy!

#16 Anne in CA

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 07:26 PM

I learned to sing as a young adult under a fab choir teacher and my dd learned to sing with a very good piano teacher. The piano teacher had her do many listening exercises each week and she went from constantly out of tune to holding a tune very well. She had to have her ear trained.

Singing is not genetic, but it can't happen by accident. If you do not hear pitch, you must be trained to do it.

#17 Mississippi Mama

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 07:40 PM

I have hope:)

Getting good tips!

Thanks y'all!

#18 Minniewannabe

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 07:42 PM

Here's to some vocal magic for your kiddos :)

Edited by Minniewannabe, 28 June 2012 - 10:05 AM.


#19 JVA

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:04 PM

I think it IS correctable. I sing, play the piano, my dh plays the piano and trumpet....all five have had piano lessons and play other intstruments.....#4 child could not carry a tune or sustain a note for more than 2beats. He majored in Music Ed in college and I thought, 'oh dear- how is vocal technique class going to go?' Well, it was TOUGH. He needed private lessons to pass that class and the prof was a gem....our son needed voice strengthening exercises (LOTS!), tons of ear training and tone matching.....it sure helped because now, he can carry a tune- not a long one but it does the job. He's an orchestra teacher and needs to be able to hit notes and demonstrate intervals. It takes work but it can improve.

#20 PeacefulChaos

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:37 PM

I believe you can help kids sing better, but I some think is genetic so your kids may have inherited their father's lack of singing ability. I would guess singing simple songs together and using a instrument to help with the key would be the way to go.


This may be possible.
It depends on how off key they are. Some people are waaayyyy tone deaf (coughMILcough) and there is just no saving them. ;) But people who are off just a little I think are more likely to be able to tune themselves up a bit. They will probably have to always be mindful of trying to be on pitch, and they won't be soloists or anything most likely :D . But it could help just for singing enjoyment.

#21 Kirch

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:20 PM

This may be possible.
It depends on how off key they are. Some people are waaayyyy tone deaf (coughMILcough) and there is just no saving them. ;) But people who are off just a little I think are more likely to be able to tune themselves up a bit. They will probably have to always be mindful of trying to be on pitch, and they won't be soloists or anything most likely :D . But it could help just for singing enjoyment.


Well, just like so many other things, by the time you're an adult, it may be too late, especially since most adults will be very self conscious about it and probably won't want to put the time and effort into learning. It's not something that you're going to "get" simply by trying harder (as an adult).

Some people are blessed with the natural ability to match pitch and carry a tune, but I agree with 3blessingsmom--it can be a learned skill for kids who don't have it naturally (barring hearing problems or physical issues with the vocal tract).

Start with helping them to identify and produce high sounds and low sounds. Make a game of it (esp. for the little ones)--stretch up high while singing/saying high sounds, crouch low for making low sounds.

From there, try to get them to echo two or three note patterns (especially the sol-mi interval that you hear in "A tisket, a tasket" or "Rain, Rain, Go Away" or like someone else said, "na-na-na -na-boo-boo") with you vocally. It's usually much easier at first for kids to match pitch with a voice (child or female) than with a piano or other instrument. You'll want to sing in a higher voice (think e above middle c up to about c above middle c), and when you move to singing simple songs, choose songs with a limited range. Something else I find helpful is to have kids do "roller coasters"--have them start on a middle/low pitch on "ah" and then slide their voice up high (like going up a hill) and then slide back down. I usually have kids use their hand or finger to show this along with their voices. This helps kids find and get more comfortable using their high voices and begin to figure out how to modulate pitch and eventually be able to match pitches.

The other thing to do is to listen to lots of good singing--not pop music. Kids voices singing in appropriate ranges (meaning not too low) is what to look for. There's stuff out there, but it can be hard to find stuff that isn't babyish.

#22 mom2abcd

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 11:49 PM

You might want to try this book and cd:
Set Your Voice Free: How To Get The Singing Or Speaking Voice You Want by Roger Love and Donna Frazier
http://www.amazon.co...ils_o03_s00_i00

It may need to be adapted for children, though. I haven't used it so don't know.

#23 WishboneDawn

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 05:21 AM

Some people are blessed with the natural ability to match pitch and carry a tune, but I agree with 3blessingsmom--it can be a learned skill for kids who don't have it naturally (barring hearing problems or physical issues with the vocal tract).


I really question this line of thinking.

I'm one of those people who are "blessed". I've got a nice voice and a great ear. But the thing is when I remember my childhood I remember LOTS of singing, of trying to sing the songs I heard on records or the radio, even matching the pitch of the vacuum cleaner. It's the same with my other abilities that people like to call natural abilities. Hours upon hours upon hours of play and practice.

These skills really don't appear out of nowhere by virtue of genetics. Some of us might have an easier time but the skill we eventually have is, I'm betting, generally the result of a lot of work. It's just that to most people, it may not look like real work so it either gets discounted or not noticed.

#24 Kirch

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 02:03 PM

I really question this line of thinking.

I'm one of those people who are "blessed". I've got a nice voice and a great ear. But the thing is when I remember my childhood I remember LOTS of singing, of trying to sing the songs I heard on records or the radio, even matching the pitch of the vacuum cleaner. It's the same with my other abilities that people like to call natural abilities. Hours upon hours upon hours of play and practice.

These skills really don't appear out of nowhere by virtue of genetics. Some of us might have an easier time but the skill we eventually have is, I'm betting, generally the result of a lot of work. It's just that to most people, it may not look like real work so it either gets discounted or not noticed.


I disagree. I think there may be a continuum, and certainly it's a skill that can be honed with even unintentional practice, but some people are born with perfect pitch--the ability to recognize and identify (and match) exact pitches. That's not something that can be developed, although someone with a naturally good ear can work on developing excellent relative pitch. I think it's similar to athletic ability. Some people's bodies are just "made" for athletic activity, and physical things come easily to them. Other people may not be built so perfectly for it and may never be able to achieve similar results, but barring physical handicaps, virtually everyone can improve with hard work and practice.

Even in your example, a natural, innate ability must have been present, or you wouldn't have been able to tell that you *were* matching pitch with the radio or the vacuum cleaner (or even be able to hear the vacuum noise as a pitch vs. just noise in the first place), kwim? Some people can't hear that very well on their own, although most can be taught. So unless someone was teaching you and helping you to hear those things and match the pitches, it was a natural ability to hear pitch and vocally match it that allowed you to even begin in the first place. And then of course all the singing and vacuum pitch-matching and vocal exploration honed, refined, and improved that ability.



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