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Pitch-- how accurate do you need to be to the correct frequency?


I'm working on pitch and was just wondering, how accurate do singers need to be to the correct frequency of the note in order to not sound off-pitch? For example, if singing an A4, how far from 440 Hz can the vocal note be until it starts sounding off-pitch? I have a tuner app called Pitchlab on my phone that I am using to see how well I am matching the pitch of notes played on my keyboard, and see that I am often flat. It's a chromatic tuner and I can hit the right note (according to the tuner), but the needle is often a bit to the left of center. I'm not sure what units the tuner scale is divided into (it goes from -50 to +50) but I think it's the same as a standard guitar tuner. So I was wondering how precise I need to be...



  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 14,464Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    Pitch programs and tuners can drive you a little bit crazy. What sounds good to the ear may not sound good to a tuner. In fact, you will find that your pitch varies all the time, no matter how much you try to hold it perfectly on a pitch.

    We're human.

    Perhaps the question is, how much can you vary it before it starts to sound flat or sharp to YOU?

    I have pretty good pitch discernment, yet when I'm using a program or a tuner, I usually have to adjust my pitch to what sounds WRONG to my ear, in order to satisfy a machine. It's really hard to keep the green light on and never let the flat or sharp red lights come on.

    If it's any consolation, I can play an A 440 on my piano (electronic) and it also can drift towards sharp, and sometimes flat. But I have to say that the Green Light (right on the money) stays on more consistently with an electronic instrument than it does with my voice.

    At gigs, if I'm about to sing a song, and I hear a guitarist that's got a slightly out-of-tune guitar, I won't start the song until they tune up with a tuner. They'll say "it sounds OK to me, let's go" and I say, please check it. Almost invariably, it will be the B string or the G that's a little flat or sharp, according to the tuner. I just hate to try to sing on-key with out-of-tune instruments being played. My bandmates always wonder why a drummer can hear what they can't hear.

    I can play a note on my keyboard and watch a graphing program hold a pretty straight line on a note. My voice has ever-present movement in it, yet it sounds good to my critical ear. So take a tuner or software program as scientifically correct, yet more stringent than a critical ear.

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