(photo of Nino’s Beach in Port Washington, New York)
Hosting a family for dinner = tone-deaf conversation and guess what ensues?
Last night, we hosted a family at our house for dinner. As we sent our two kids and their two kids down to the basement, the adults began a discussion about singing. While my wife and I are musicians, the other couple are not.
The husband and his wife were bickering about singing. The wife was a musician in grade school and into early high school while the husband had no formal musical training. The wife announced that her husband was tone-deaf. The husband also believed he was unable to match pitch.
Of course, being the guy who wrote an online course, How to Teach Anyone To Match Pitch, I was ready to prove them wrong. The wife was so confident that her husband was tone-deaf, she told my wife and I that they would make a bet.
The bet was, if I could get her husband to sing decently they would treat us to a fancy dinner at Nino’s Beach. This restaurant is brand new, stunning, on the water, and the perfect date-night hot spot. We are definitely foodies and love great restaurants, so this was a bet I could not refuse to partake in.
I love proving people wrong about being tone-deaf; fortunately for me, the husband was a great sport and gave maximum effort.
Let the challenge begin – 1st prove he isn’t “tone-deaf”
The first thing I did was pull up the tone-deaf test on my phone: This is the video I’ve shared and include in my matching-pitch online course. With our 4 kids screaming and running around the living room and dining room, the husband pulled my phone up to his ear as the 3 adults surrounded him.
Well, what do you know: he got all 5 questions right. So…..he was NOT tone-deaf.
But that wasn’t the bet. I needed to get him to match pitch AND sing decently.
Next goal: Get him to Match Pitch
So next, all the adults (and screaming children) climbed up two flights of steps to our attic where we have our piano. I began trying to get the husband to match pitch with the piano. At first attempt, the husband was approximating the pitches but wasn’t cleanly able to match pitch. So then I attempted step 2 in my 7-step pitch-matching method: I matched his pitch. I asked him to speak and found his general speaking range. From there, I moved to step 3 where I got him to sing in small step-wise motion, beginning in his speaking range while engaging the core. I actually didn’t have to give much verbal direction as he was responding to my basic vocal demonstration. By now, it was clear to everyone he was able to match pitch.
From “not tone-deaf” to being able “match pitch” to “gaining range and flexibility”
Next I jumped right into falsetto. This is a step that most vocal experts overlook. Believe it or not, the husband matched my falsetto pitch perfectly with great support on the first try. He was able to complete three-note descending patterns that sounded like an experienced singer. This was a major shocker to both wives. But that in itself wasn’t MY goal for entering the falsetto: my goal was just to get him into the falsetto to create flexibility with his soft palette and vocal folds, while engaging his solar plexus. The fact that his falsetto was supported, in tune, and strong made me super confident that Nino’s Beach was in my future!
After successfully experimenting in his falsetto, we immediately dropped down into his original speaking range. This time, instead of singing small 3-note patterns, we expanded to 5-note patterns; the falsetto range gave him the flexibility to navigate his lower range with more ease.
Am I onto something?
This was all very promising, but his wife still didn’t think he could sing a song. So my wife pulled up “Let It Be” by the Beatles on her computer. This was a song he was recently “singing along to” in the car with his family. His wife had told him not to sing because he was tone-deaf.
The beginning of the song, “When I find myself in times of trouble”, was only slightly out of his range. I was confident that I could get him to sing that line by demonstrating a supported sound and using call and response. I knew the challenge would begin at the 2nd half of the first line, “Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom…”
The final approach
After getting him to sing the first half of the first line perfectly, I asked him to sing the second half of the line down the octave, basically in his speaking range. He did that instantly. This again proved that he understood what the actual pitches were supposed to be. Singing the correct notes down the octave is a BIG step. It again reaffirms he can match pitch whenever his technique allows him to.
Next, I went back to Step 3, supporting his sound and having him sing a staccato 5-note ascending and descending scale pattern. Within seconds he was singing scales up to the high F4. The success of this scale exercise didn’t immediately translate into finding those notes in the song. After each exercise, when he couldn’t find the same pitch in the song, I would locate the note on the piano that he was stuck on and then have him sing staccato pitches up the scale from his “stuck” note up to the correct note. Once the exercise brought him to the correct note of the song, he would start singing the song melody and lyrics on the correct pitch.
This entire process from learning to match pitch to singing decently happened with 4 kids running around, a few glasses of wine in our hands, and just 5-10 minutes of playful musical exploration.
First off, it was a really fun night. Any time a bunch of people can share the music-making experience together is a great time.
I have 3 additional points to my story:
Anyone can learn to match pitch. Being tone-deaf is a myth 99.99 perfect of the time. I have still yet to meet anyone who couldn’t learn to match pitch.
If you are looking to learn how to teach anyone to match pitch, I can teach you this skill. My online course unlocks this often misunderstood phenomenon. On top of that, you can feel free to reach out to me. I will answer any question you have. I’ve Facetimed, Zoomed and Google Met with teachers and students who’ve asked for help. My course will give you a step-by-step method, cheat sheets, a pitch-matching rubric, and so much more to ensure you are successful every time with every student!
The most important point I want to share: I just won my wife and I a free dinner at Nino’s Beach with a great couple!