What Academic Studies Say About Singing Out of Tune and Poor Pitch Singing

Singing out of tune is not something that deters people from enjoying music. Generally, people enjoy listening to music that includes listening to singers croon or belt out a song. The activity becomes even more enjoyable if the listener can sing the songs in the same way you he or she heard them.

However, this is not always the case, as some individuals demonstrate inability to sing songs in the right tune and with the right pitch; albeit some believe that they are delivering the song exactly like they heard it. Although singing out of tune or in a bad pitch can be a source of great frustration, it is not regarded as a form of abnormality or deficiency.

After all, poor singing is not uncommon, and becomes a source of frustration only when unable to participate in occasions when singing becomes the focus of activity. The frustration factor is strongest if a person has ambitions to become a singing sensation, whilst refusing to believe that the sound he or she makes is not in the right tone or correct pitch.

Still, there are academic researches that attempt to examine and analyze the real reason why poor pitch singing happens.

What Studies Reveal about Poor Pitch Singing

Available scientific researches about singing out of tune mostly delve on the aspect of poor pitch singing. First off, that is because some studies have already established it as a fact that poor pitch singing is not the same as tone deafness.The latter is different because it is a biological condition related to the absence of brain functions that allow an individual to recognize differences in pitch and tone.

To date, facts gathered about tone deafness impart that in a general population, only three percent (3%) suffer from tone deafness; making the condition a rare form of cognitive disability.

The most recent study about poor pitching was conducted by a group of researchers of the Department of Psychology at the University of Buffalo (UB). The report on the UB study became available online via the Psychophysiology Journal in October 2018, ahead of its publication in print last March 2019.

The UB study arrived at evidence suggesting a relationship between poor pitch singing, subvocalization and auditory imagery. Subvocalization being the silent internal speech individuals make when reading only by sight. It helps the mind process what is being read as well as help the reader remember the contents.

However, it turns out that poor pitch singing is the result, when the preparatory muscle movements while running the song in the tone imagined by the mind during subvocalization, does not match the auditory imagery formed once they hear the sound of the song they are about to sing.

According to one of the researchers, Tim Pruitt, a doctoral candidate at the University of Buffalo, subvocalization is a mechanism that assists in cognitive processing and serves as a guide to the thinking process.

Pruitt’s co-authors, Professor Peter Pfordresher, of UB’s Department of Psychology and Andrea Halpern, a psychology professor at Bucknell University explained that their findings show  there seems to be an issue with what was perceived musically during muscle planning, with the actual motor movement required when about to sing.

They concluded that if the internal sound is goading movement to sing differently from the pitch heard in preparation for the actual singing, then the remedy to correct poor pitch singing is to reduce subvocalization as a preparation for singing.