From time to time, we get singers who struggle to match pitch. Some of them really love singing. While many of us truly want to help these singers to improve, we also realize how they can negatively impact our daily rehearsals.


There is no doubt that singers that are struggling to match pitch can really cause a great deal of  frustration in rehearsals. They can frustrate: the singers around them, the choir director, and themselves.


Fortunately, this is a short-term issue if it is handled properly. A struggling singer does not need to be removed from a choir. Instead, we need a plan to get them the help they need to be able to match pitch while finding the best way for them to positively contribute vocally in rehearsal.


When you hear a singer in your choir who isn’t matching pitch, you must do two things over and over again:

  1. Isolate 
  2. Make accommodations in the rehearsal



1. Isolate the singer – PART 1

There is only so much we can do in the choral setting to reach an individual who is struggling. You must be willing to work with your singer one-on-one. You need to assess what they can do when isolated. This meeting doesn’t need to be more than 5 minutes, but will likely require more than one session. The more frequently you meet, the quicker the result. The key is that you have to know HOW TO HELP THEM!

My online, on-demand course teaches the 7-steps to get every singer to consistently match pitch. If you want a less clear, but far less comprehensive understanding of how to get anyone to match pitch, check out this blog.

This doesn’t mean you must always be alone with a struggling student. You can work with a few singers at a time and have each one sing by themselves. The concept is that a struggling singer must sing alone in order to receive accurate feedback and gain awareness of their production.

2. Make accommodations for the singer in the rehearsal

When you make progress with a singer one-on-one, it doesn’t necessarily translate back into the choral setting. This is because they aren’t able to focus completely on themselves the same way they were able to when singing alone. Did you ever sing along with the radio, thinking you sounded great and then turn off the radio, only to realize how poorly you were actually singing? Well, that has happened to me more often than I care to admit. My point is that one-on-one awareness doesn’t translate right away into a group ensemble. There are 6 clear steps you can make to help the struggling singer to effectively transition into a positively contributing choir member.

Here are 6 steps to navigating a struggling singer within the rehearsal setting:

1. Have a signal for the struggling singer in class when they know they are not matching the pitch of the group.

Struggling singers need to know when they are off. If they can’t self-assess, we must be able to inform them.


2. Encourage them (privately) to allow you to single them out to get them back on pitch.

This discussion needs to take place first. A struggling singer needs to understand that being singled out is intended to help both them and the choir.


3. Once the struggling singer sings the correct starting pitch to a song or to a phrase, have them sing along with just their section.

Once a struggling singer sings the correct pitch or series of pitches to open a phrase, have their section join them immediately afterwards. Think of the section as being “on call”, ready for the second that singer locks in their pitch.

4. Repeat steps 1,2,3,4 over and over again without frustration.

If you or the struggling singer begin to get frustrated, call it a day and try again at the next rehearsal. Consistent singing is a marathon, not a sprint!

5. Create a musical road map for what the singer is accurately capable of singing.

This needs to be done during an isolated session. Have them refrain from singing anything that is not clearly in their range. Don’t waste your time creating a “different or modified part” for them because it’s only going to confuse them further. It’s okay for a singer to only sing 50% of the music.

6. Keep struggling singers in one register per song.

Even if a struggling singer can sing in multiple registers, it’s likely they can’t yet consistently switch between these registers.  This is frequently an issue within the choral rehearsal. The singer may be in tune for a line or two and then suddenly go off. This is likely because they’ve switched areas in their voice.

An example would be preventing a low bass from navigating below C3 and then moving to the F3-C4 range. Another example would be a tenor navigating between chest voice and falsetto. A third example would be an alto navigating between chest range (G3-E4)  and their mixed voice.


Valentine’s Day Round – focuses on tricky consonants, easy to learn, great for sight-singing or rote learning, fun to sing!


3. Isolation – Part 2

As the struggling singer develops in one-on-one sessions, work on specific lines in the chorus music that should fit their vocal range.

Those same exact passages you work on in the one-on-one session should be the specific lines you tackle in the rehearsals that follow the one-on-one session. The singer should know that you will be paying specific attention to them during that portion of the rehearsal. Make sure the passages you choose for a specific song are all within the same register for that singer. Make sure you continue to work on the pitch matching techniques that are described in my blog post or my online course.

Please note these isolated sessions can be effective in just 5 minutes. Think of it as 5 minutes before class, 5 minutes after class, 5 minutes before school starts, or 5 minutes during extra help.

Final Words

Before you consider working on choral parts with a struggling singer, you must spend the time working on matching patch. Many choral directors struggle to teach this. This is why I developed an online course for choral directors to teach anyone to match pitch. If you have been faced with students who seem to be “tone-deaf”, chances are you have not taken the right approach to help them.

The online course teaches you how to help each singer to match pitch. It then explains how to navigate these singers in the daily rehearsal (similar to this blog post but more in depth).