Rich, here - from Brisbania - My Story and questions

rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
Hello fantastic people.

I've ended up with a novel, thanks so much if you do read.  Many apologies if you do not wish to read it.   I bet some of you can certainly empathise :-)

I've been with a teacher for a couple of years (I am male, teacher is female).  After a particularly nightmarish attempt at recording a track, where I could tell she was a little exasperated and puzzled, herself, I decided to take a lot more responsibility with my practice - and establish where I'm at.  

Suffice it to say that I believe significant time has been spent with the wrong focus.  Not enough technical and it's showing.

After that bad recording lesson, I bought a Roland VT-12, which is a tone generator and pitch measurement device with built in lessons.  I already own sing and see - which is pitch measurement software, but I was keen to maybe step away from the computer a little.      

The VT-12 arrived and I discovered that I was terrible at even the beginner/intermediate exercises.  Really bad.  Horrifyingly so.  Couldn't sing along, couldn't do it with just the backing.

I was also pretty bad at matching a tone with it playing at the same time.

Don't get me wrong, this stuff wasn't a surprise - I knew I was bad, I just didn't quite translate that to "bad tech, bad ability to sing songs".  Time consequently wasted.

I also bought Ken's stuff, but I decided to persist with the VT-12 for a little while and try to get a better understanding / mastery of what I was failing at.  I did watch his basic pitch for beginners videos, though.  

3 or so weeks later, ie, now, the performance on the technical exercises is much better (practicing every day will do that) and the matching a tone is much better but the fundamental flaw I have always had is still very obvious.  I can match a tone quite okayish (now), what I am very very bad at is then doing that tone, immediately after, with no guide.  

I basically always go high and end up roughly in between the note and the next note.  Sing and see shows this quite well.  I am absolutely like clockwork with it.  Play a note, match it not too bad.  Sing the note on its own without the backing note - terrible.   When I match tone, I am was often a little high, too, but I have been reasonably quickly understanding that I need to relax and let it go a bit lower.  I still go high on matching a tone but I can see I'm getting there and that is cleaning up.  Take that tone away and I will stuff it up, immediately.

The technical exercises on the VT-12 oscillate between singing with the singer and then doing the exercise on your own with backing.  I am quite ok with the singer and then awful with the backing.  It all goes out of my head and I rarely stay in tune.

So my long winded questions would be:

Fastest way to cut this terrible pitching on own ?  Just hammer away until I get it?  I haven't spent a long time trying to sing notes on their own so maybe I'm jumping the gun in even bring this up.

Switch to Volume 1 Ken, now?  Stay on VT-12 exercises until I nail them?  I am really only doing the VT-12 because I feel as if I should be able to do everything!

Should I cut my teacher? she means well - she's not *bad* - she only sees me at best once a fortnight - I am totally not into ever blaming anybody but myself but there's a part of me that says "loyalty aside - this should have been diagnosed, earlier", when someone cannot pitch and never pitches right, surely they should be hammering through technical exercises, not songs and getting that drilled into them from the teacher?

The other thing is that I do not want to get into an argument about which direction to go, I bet there is a lot of territorialism to wade through if you're doing someone else's course and then going to see a teacher.  I want to do Ken's stuff.

One thing for sure is that I'm enjoying practice again, by doing these exercises.  I often had to force myself to practice.  I like it, now - because I can feel the change occurring.


  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357

    Hello, @rj326.

    I appreciate that you have filled us in on what you have done so far, and I also appreciate that you recognize the importance of tackling your pitch issues, and that you have been working to try to improve.

    I do not agree with those who think that pitch discernment cannot be learned.  It's great when you have it already, but that does not mean that if it is a challenge to you, that you cannot make improvements. 

    I've been here a while, and I take interest in folks that have to fight the pitch-monster.  The pitch monster is a deal-killer, as you can get by with poor technique and great pitch, but you can't do very well as a singer with poor pitch and great technique.  Some students really struggle with pitch.  They are going to have to tackle the pitch issue first.  Otherwise, the rest is not going to help much when it's time to go onstage.

    We have a student here who has been documenting his journey from the start.  His pitch matching was not so good at first.  The course of action he has taken has so far resulted in a lot of improvement, and I would like for you to consider doing what he has done.  I'm talking about this student: username: kaulfers

    He is still working to improve.  He's not perfect with pitch yet, and has some of the same issues you do, but he KNOWS he has an issue, and he's working hard to tackle it.  He has improved about 10,000% using the methods of 1. Ken's Basic Pitch, and 2. extensive workouts using a keyboard, playing random pitches, and learning to duplicate the pitches with his voice.  He records the entire process, and reviews to hear where he's getting it and where he's not accurate.  Slowly but surely, his ability to hear the notes in his head (which is what you need to learn to do) is becoming more accurate.

    Follow this link and there you will find other links to kaulfer's video recordings of his rehearsals. 


    Follow those other links.

    You are going to need to put some time and effort into this.  You have to train your ears, your brain, AND your voice to become a Pitch-Seeking Missile Guidance System.  You aim for the pitch, determine if you are dead-on course, make constant corrections, compare again, and so on...  Eventually you get better.  You HAVE TO.  It's a requirement for singing. 

    We can't all be Bob Dylans.  (He's a great writer, and does well with what he does, don't get me wrong.)

    I want to see and hear you succeed.  It's not that easy, but it CAN be learned. You have to believe that, and do what it takes to get there.


  • rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
    Thanks for that, Bob, that is very interesting - I didn't have permission to view that link, though - not sure why - I have bought all Ken's stuff.  I was only just activated, though.

    It never even remotely occurred to me that pitch could not be learned.

    I'm the type of person who is quite happy to grind through problems - I lift weight a lot and drum, too and I see the constant improvement and mental reinforcement that working on something incrementally has given me - I would never doubt myself of picking pitch up.  It never even entered my mind.  Every bit of it is muscle memory along with some realisations about what is occurring.

    I have not worked through where I'm at yet with respect to hitting reference pitches after they are no longer playing, so I won't say too much now - but I believe my pitch at higher notes is quite good.  I believe my problems are with lower stuff (and ironically, that is where I am mostly thick at).

    I honestly wish that my teacher would have laid it on the line that it was a problem two years ago and I'd have dealt with it then.  It was something I knew then, too, though - I knew I couldn't hit anything much without a constant reference.

    I'll post more when I've established where I'm at - I literally only just pulled the guitar out and tried to match pitches on my own last night.  I haven't really ever tried to do it so there's no guarantee that it won't go away quite quickly.

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357


    A couple of additional things: 

    You added information about the pitch being more difficult at lower notes.  That's important information.  In fact, you will hear Ken talk about the need for always having a very bright tone is related also to being able to hear pitch more accurately.  The Brighter the tone, the more accurate the pitch discernment will be.  This is even more true at lower pitches.

    Also, regarding your forums status: I usually notice that, but didn't think to let you know.  Here's what you need to do:  Copy and paste into an email to ktvaforums@gmail.com a copy of your KTVA purchase receipt and ask for a forums upgrade.  Make sure you include your username here.  That will get you upgraded to the appropriate level for your purchase, and will give you access to the areas that those links point to.

    Glad to hear of another brother Drummer coming into the program.  Drummers Rock.


  • rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
    Thanks for that, I have sent the email.

    I've just been looking at where I'm at.

    I definitely drift.  Even if I do hit the note, I generally move off course, going higher.  I find it very hard to arrest that drift.  I'm sure there's a very technical reason for that.  I would imagine it has something to do with me gradually getting more tense.

    From what I've seen, what I'm doing is extremely difficult for me.  I wouldn't say I was discouraged - but I sure as hell have a lot of work to do :-)

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357

    And you are now showing up on my screen as upgraded.  You may have to log out and log back in to see a difference.

    Don't be discouraged at your pitch situation.  It's an opportunity to improve in ways that you've never accomplished in the past.  There are others in the same situation.  You can improve.  It may not be easy, but it can be done, and it's worth the effort.  Go for it.

    : ^ )


  • rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
    Thanks Bob,  I see you put a lot of effort around here and I think you're good people.

    Is this the best place to log my efforts?  I am quite the analytical type so I will be posting some quite in depth stuff about what I'm experiencing.  I may log it on youtube or something like that because I think I am that much of a psychopath with how far I will go into analysis that I might be able to help others with seeing what I'm seeing.  I have a lot of toys to do that, with, too.

    I won't always post novels, either, by the way.

    Day 1 of looking at pitch with the Basic Pitch stuff began.

    I thought, okay, I can match a note and witness the resonation.  I did as Ken did and used the guitar.  

    and I was pretty off on the recording.  The important factor here is that I thought I was fairly on when singing.  This is obviously the main problem.  I have some very open headphones that leak sound terribly and on more than one occasion I have actually accidentally left a recording of me singing over backing track playing whilst being somewhere else in the room and I can IMMEDIATELY hear that I am off pitch just from the leaking sound!  

    I took a step back and changed the instrument, I used a piano instrument playing (itself, via midi), no more having to play a note and then sing.

    Better, but piano was pretty bad in that it tapers off very quickly.  I absolutely know I am all over the place with tone after a certain amount of time.  I do not HOLD notes.  I generally always bend up.       

    Both times, I wasn't listening to any feedback from the mic, I was just singing into the mic and listening to the notes from the speakers.  I decided to again change the setup.

    Being comfortable with synths, I switched to the basic default sound from native instruments massive (a saw waveform sound), put the headphones on for feedback and had the sound playing constant the whole time.  There is no attack.  The sound happens and never decays.  I feel this is best for initial testing.  This sound is actually extremely great for pure resonation.  I knew exactly when I was on and exactly when I was off.  I had a pitch meter going the whole time (sing and see) and it showed exactly what I was hearing.  

    A recording of me and the synth   


    So what I learned from this:

    Lower pitch is the biggest problem.
    I need to concentrate - sometimes I went off and I really feel like I can nail that whole scale with this particular setup with a tiny bit of practice
    I can hold a note pitch only if I have a very clear guide note.  I have some bad habits to lose with dynamics, I deliberately sang very dull and machinelike because it's the only way to stop myself from just bending up at the moment.

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357

    Probably a thread in the Volume One section would be better than in the Introduce Yourself area for a longer-term post.

    You are able to match the pitches.  You just oscillate in and out of tune a little bit. 

    I think you should start doing scales, so you strengthen your musculature for more rapid-fire response and change.  You will probably have to put some extra effort into intonation, but I think you also need to build support and the ability to more quickly adjust.

    You can hear pitch.  You can adjust pitch.  You need to get more adept and confident with pitch.

    All the Best.


  • rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
    Thanks Bob,

    Do you mean start the volume 1 as that does have scales in yes?

    Or just scales in general?

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357
    edited January 2015

    Yes.  I think you should start doing KTVA Volume One and see how you do.  We may stop and focus on one thing or another, but let's try to get the foundation laid out.

    One thing you should be aware of is that intonation programs and devices put your voice under such a microscope that you can start paying too much attention to imperfections that are not noticeable.  You then become hyperfocused on imperfection, which can paralyze your progress.

    I don't mean to say that it's OK to sing off pitch, but on the other hand it's pretty much impossible to sing perfectly on clinical pitch.  We can be off by a few cycles, and as long as it's really close, that will suffice as "in-tolerance".  When we use vibrato, we intentionally drop the pitch and raise it back up, and artistically that makes it sound better.

    If I look at a graph of me trying to hold a perfect pitch on a tuning program, it will give me a complex, because it's imperfect.   I'm human.

    I was tested and rated "superior" at discerning pitch when I was in grade school.  I can hear guitars out of tune when the person playing it thinks it's fine (I'm a drummer).  I make them stop and tune up. 

    What I'm saying is those tools are fine for looking at your voice under a microscope.  You can learn a lot, but don't overthink things. 

    You just need to find that sweet spot, and be able to hold on to that pitch in your mind, so you can match it with your voice.  That requires critical, active listening, ability compare and know the difference (higher or lower), and a lot of training while using your voice.

    A cassette recorder, recording you singing your scales will teach you a lot.  Be somewhat forgiving, yet insistent upon becoming more consistent with pitch.  Don't bog down on microscopic flaws.  You will improve with time.

    You need to get started to see where you are without the gadgets, and begin adapting your listening and adjusting skills, and training your voice.  You need to rely upon your internal feedback loop system where you utilize your guidance system to get you on course and make active corrections on the fly. You calibrate that system so you can trust it.  That will require active singing, building muscle-memory, and getting the whole brain-body-voice universe working harmoniously, and listening to the recorded playback, and that will all take time. 

    Let's see what you can do without the training wheels, and go from there.

    : ^ )


  • rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
    Typed a huge reply in a wordpad and it crashed.. great.

    (I hate the tiny box of this forum)

    I don't hate that it saves drafts, though - that would have been helpful.

    Damn, ok, well I'm going to move to a volume 1
  • rj326rj326 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 18
    And thanks for what you've said, there Bob

    I will take any responses to my progress thread, which is going to be interesting
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