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The Case of the Singer with Poor Intonation

Woman playing the piano

Jake was a wonderful guitarist but somehow found it very difficult to sing in tune.

He was studying music at university and had imminent performance exams.

I listened carefully to Jake’s rendition of a beautiful ballad he had written and sure enough, his tone was wandering freely on much of the song. There were, however, areas where his intonation was good and this encouraged both of us to persevere.

Intonation Breakthrough

I noted that Jake was a little low in spirits and in energy.

We began by finding Jake’s home note – the note that he sang in perfect tune any time it was played on the piano.

We played with two-tone melodies there – making up nursery rhymes on the spot – it was hilarious!

Jake soon relaxed and his energy levels seemed to pick up.

We extended the exercise to a three-tone nursery rhyme. I asked Jake to place his hand on his abdomen as he sang through each phrase of the rhyme and to monitor what was happening there. As I suspected – very little.

Jake was almost ‘divorced’ from his torso and his low energy caused a slight dip in his posture, a low head position and a slouch. I asked Jake to suspend his arms gently from the door jam and sing through the rhyme.

The result was quite remarkable; he sang brightly and tunefully. He was connecting to his torso for breath support. Jake was so moved by this he shed tears!

We continued to meet and play nursery games and I also recorded some simple arpeggio number games for Jake to sing, along with clear instructions to hang from his door jam when he did them.

As time passed, Jake was able to make clear connections to the breath support he required for various interval jumps. He practised as diligently with these as he clearly had with his guitar.

He passed his first composition module!