I really hate seasonal allergies.  My ears and sinus cavities are so plugged up, even with meds, saline wash and whatever else I can think of,  that I can't hear the pitch of what is coming out of my vocal cords.  I'm shocked at what I think sounds sort of acceptable when I'm playing along and singing, but to watch back a recorded video through headphones or larger speakers is shameful.  Hopefully this will calm down soon in the Northeast.  

One trick I've learned is to use my PitchLab guitar tuner on my Android tablet and phone.  It has a continuous chromatic display so you can see the notes you are singing and the notes of the guitar like a strip-recorder (think like an EKG output).  I pluck a note on the guitar and then sing what I think I hear.  And it is almost always a full step or more off.  But the more I go back and forth, the closer I get.  Then I just have to memorize how each note feels rather than how it sounds.   As I get better I can play and sing along knowing where the voice notes and guitar notes are on the screen.  I make minor adjustments to keep in tune as I go along, constantly memorizing the feel of each lyrical phrase.  Difficult and time consuming.  Got to be a better way.

Maybe I'll just focus on instrumental for awhile and get someone else to sing?  Or I'll do a rip of speaking blues videos.  Er ,something.

A practical question comes up.  When singing in key, which note of the chord do you typically put on the lyric?  First, third or fifth?  Is there a rule?  I find myself naturally singing the third or the root note when in the key of G.  My guitars are tuned 151.

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Comment by Bad Finger (Eric) on June 3, 2014 at 10:06am

Thanks guys.  Sinus blockage is less of a problem than my ears being congested as well.  It really affects the tone you hear resonating inside your head vs what everyone/everything around you hears.  Like being under water.

Thankfully, as long as I take an antihistamine every day and go through the neti pot routine a couple times it is manageable and sometimes I can even hear right.

Comment by Patrick Curley on May 31, 2014 at 6:35pm
Sing scales and sing them every day. Start with a major scale, then chromatic. Don't rely too much on tuners or apps, learn to use your ear. Listen for the note in your head before you sing it. Get the mechanics of singing sorted so your voice responds like you want it to. Be prepared for it to take a lot of time and hard work, nothing else will do it. If your sinuses are blocked you'll feel like shit but it won't effect your pitch. Listen.
Comment by Glenn Watt on May 31, 2014 at 6:09pm

Also being a resident of the northeastern U.S. I can understand where you are coming from Eric. I, thankfully, don't react to this season as badly as some around me but it is a trip nonetheless.

I enjoy this post. Storytelling is key to drawing me into an article and makes this subject fully relate-able. Now if I could only chalk my shoddy singing up to something other than shoddy singing...

I agree with Muddy. There doesn't need to be any hard and fast rules applied to singing but any note in the chord will do. Almost any music you can hear through most mediums in this culture has a vocal track that sticks with the 1, 3, and 5. If it works for you then it's good in my book.

Comment by Ron "Oily" Sprague on May 31, 2014 at 1:31am
Ear training. My guess as a longtime chorister, who also suffers from seasonal allergies as well as lifelong tinnitus, is that you are hearing muddy tones due to your clogged aural and nasal passages. Your approach to converging on the proper notes through repeated singing and listening exposure is the right one, time consuming as it may seem. There are a number of ear training and vocal coaching softwares out there that allow you to train yourself at your own pace, including RockBand-like games that are surprisingly accurate and fun. I have VocaLive on the iPad, which. I use when I need a tuneup.

That said, we once (very briefly) had in our community choir a poor woman who had been told her whole life she was a great singer by her family and friends. During an intricate harmonic passage practice, we kept hearing dissonance. We began isolating groups of singers until we found her. We then sat her down at the piano, and asked her to sing various notes. She had only a semitone range: two notes, neither of which were pure. Her husband, who was a decent piano player and her accompanist, was dumbfounded ( we wondered about his aural capabilities, too, as they were both older). We asked if she had seasonal allergies. She replied no, so we suggested she have her hearing tested. We later heard that she was discovered to have a congenital hearing defect. And that apparently, everyone had been lying to her, because she enjoyed singing so much. Turns out she could deliver the emotional content when singing solo, but she simply couldn't sing harmony.
Comment by Muddy Creek Guitars on May 31, 2014 at 1:02am
Miles Davis (famous jazz trumpeter/band leader) said:
"If you play a wrong note enough, then it's no longer a wrong note."
Comment by Bad Finger (Eric) on May 30, 2014 at 5:38pm
I am a master of less than pleasing dissonance!
Comment by Uncle John on May 30, 2014 at 5:35pm

Sounds like good training, Eric. I think Muddy is right and know he's a music teacher.    I just try to adjust my voice as I hear it.  

Comment by Bad Finger (Eric) on May 29, 2014 at 8:28pm
Geez. At least 4 of 12 good notes and I have to hit the 5 or 8 that stink. Haha.
Comment by Clock The Wolf ™ on May 29, 2014 at 8:27pm

"It will have to be removed!"

Comment by Muddy Creek Guitars on May 29, 2014 at 6:07pm
The melody can start on any note in the chord and even on a non-chord tone. There is no rule. In fact, in a lot of music the second degree (one note above the root) forms a pleasing dissonance.

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