Learning to stop singing in a flat voice is an obstacle many singers face. With the help of some simple exercises, you can learn about how to stop singing flat, while improving and maintaining your pitch.
If you find yourself singing notes that don’t quite hit the target, there are some exercises that will help. Finding a safe note to pitch from, listening to recordings of yourself, building muscle memory and practising scales, will all help you to stop singing in a flat voice.
Singing consistently on key can sometimes be a challenge, and there are lots of reasons you may not be singing on pitch. With the correct vocal techniques, exercises and knowledge, you’ll be hitting all the right notes in no time.
How to stop singing in flat voice
How to stop singing flat is a conundrum faced by most developing singers. Singing in tune is actually a really tricky technique to have perfect with every song, as it is quite a demanding process for the vocal cords.
For example, as Matt Ramsey explains, when singing the note ‘A4’, the folds of your vocal cords have to open and close as much as 440 times per second to get it right on pitch.
Like how a guitarist needs to repeatedly practice hitting the right note on a cool pitch-bend, practising singers need to repeatedly rehearse the notes that are slightly slipping out their grasp.
What does singing flat mean?
Breaking the term down, the use of the word ‘flat’ is what we call a note when it sits a one-semitone lower in pitch. So essentially, if you are singing flat, the sound of your vocals is sitting just a little lower than where it needs to be to sound in tune.
It is good practice and important as you grow into the singer you want to become, that your pitch stays centred and doesn’t wobble just below, causing the notes to sound flat.
How to not sing monotone
#1 Find your safe start note
A helpful exercise to help prevent singing in a flat voice is to find a safe note. Pick a note that is comfortably within your range.
If you aren’t sure, there are some helpful videos online such as Dr Dan’s Voice Essential on finding your singing range, below, or alternatively, this something you can ask your singing teacher.
Another simple and easy way to find your comfortable start note is to use a keyboard. Using the keys to hear which note sits within your range means you can play the chosen key, and repeatedly sing it back. This helps you vocally memorise the note.
According to Musical-U, you can also do this by talking in your normal, speaking voice. After this, try speaking in monotone, which is where there is no pitch movement from your voice. Move your monotone chatting onto singing the sound ‘laaa’. The note that can be heard is one your voice naturally goes to.
Once you’ve sung the note a few times and have become familiar with it, it’s helpful to test moving your pitch up and down, above and below the note.
Anchoring this safe start note before your singing warm-ups will help you position your singing with a starting point, so it’s in tune, helping you to not sing with a flat voice.
How to sing in tune
#2 Record yourself and listening back
Begin by choosing a couple of successful singers you admire and watch their videos. This could be your singing hero, or just an artist that you’ve recently heard on the radio and love. Watching this singer perform, listen and notice their pitch.
Are they using really effective breathing techniques? Are they opening their mouth wide so their soft palate is high? Or are their vowel sounds well-pronounced with clear diction?
Once you’ve got an idea of what you’d like to be aiming for with your pitch, avoiding your singing voice being flat, you can sing a song from your repertoire and film it.
Look back at the video and listen for which notes you’re singing with a flat voice and make a note.
Then, listen back to the original song and practice singing that note a few times so you can be sure to remember it.
Record yourself again, this time really focusing on keeping your mouth open, posture correct and working hard to sit on the note, not below it.
Repeating this listening back method will build your confidence, understanding and ability to keep in pitch, and not sing with a flat voice.
If you are singing flat, how can you correct flat singing?
#3 Keep in tune with muscle memory and intervals
An exercise which is brilliant for maintaining your notes pitch-wise, is building up muscle memory.
As instructed by Berklee, helping your vocal muscles (the larynx, which is the voice box and pharynx) to remember the placement of certain notes will help you blossom with steering away from singing flat.
A great way to build the muscles memory ability is by practising singing intervals during your vocal warm-up.
For example, you could have a starting note at C and jump up to E and back down (a keyboard is a great reference if you are just starting out, or you can always ask a vocal teacher to help you).
Repeating this interval exercise will build up your muscles ability to recognise the placement of each note, helping you to stay away from those flat notes.
How to prevent a flat voice tone
#4 Improve pitch by practising your scales
An excellent exercise to follow is through scale singing (Pro Audio Land). A scale is a set of notes such as a major scale (C to C. Eight notes).
When a singing teacher warms up your vocals with singing ‘Ah’ or another sound through a series of notes running up and straight back down, this is a scale.
Not only does it warm up your voice, ready to showcase some awesome melodies, but it is crucial for keeping you in pitch whilst singing. Why?
Because you become familiar with the sound and feeling of all the notes and this builds your singing stamina.
- Why does my voice stop when I sing?
Your voice may stop when you sing because you haven’t taken enough breath in or have only inhaled in as far as your throat. In order to keep a note long, strong and steady it’s important to breathe from low down in your belly.
This region is known as the diaphragm. It also helps to be mindful of keeping your soft palate raised nice and high.
- What does it mean to go flat when singing?
Going flat when you sing is when one of the notes you are projecting are pitched just under the note that is needed. It can sound a little peculiar in comparison to being in tune, but is easily fixed with some simple vocal exercises and lots of practice.
- How can I open my voice to sing?
Opening your voice to sing is all about making sure the soft palate towards the back of the roof of your mouth isn’t too low.
By opening your mouth wider, the soft palate will naturally lift and your voice will feel more open and stronger, with your notes soaring to the back of the room.
- How can I improve my voice pitch?
One great way is listening back to yourself after filming a singing performance or practice.
You can listen out for notes that you’d like to work more on and parts that you really love. Repeating this can help you document and understand your pitch progress.
Have you found these vocal exercises helpful? Do you have any advice for other singers struggling with a flat voice? Let us know in the comments below!