How to find the pitch of a song? The easiest way to find the pitch of a song is to hum or sing along with the song; you can also train your ear to recognize a pitch through memory. Alternatively, there are also apps or software that will help you distinguish the pitch of any song!
“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” these were the exact words of, unarguably one of the brightest of minds, Charles Darwin in his autobiography.
Going back to Darwin, our innate love for music has deep evolutionary roots. Darwin, himself, believed that music stood as a selective advantage – allowing our ancestors to communicate with mere rhythmic patterns of clapping.
As millennia went by, the influence of music grew stronger. Imagine, after a long day at work, your favorite song plays on the radio – do you ever wonder how music swiftly changes the ambiance. Indeed, music is complex.
To elucidate music’s mysteries, we’ll first dive into its basics. In this article, we’ll help you layout the foundation in understanding pitch in music.
Understanding Pitch in Music
“Her singing is a little pitchy,” you’ve undoubtedly heard it before.
In the world of music, the pitch is among the most relevant key phrases. Nonetheless, it is frequently misconstrued, and what we think of as pitch is frequently misread in terms of its underlying significance. In music, the pitch is the property that allows you to distinguish between “higher” and “lower” sounds.
In the notion of melodic compositions, sounds are higher or lower depending on the frequency of vibrating sound waves that produce them.
A sound wave is simply vibrations of air particles picked up by our ears, which we may deconstruct further (with a bit of physics). The frequency (basically, how swift the cycle of the wave) of a sound wave is one of its most important features
To make it appear less complicated, when a sound’s frequency is greater, your ears will interpret it as having a higher pitch. However, don’t confuse the two terms! The ability to quantify frequency is an objective, empirical attribute. The subjective sense of sound waves, which cannot be precisely measured, is known as pitch.
In other words, what sounds low to you may not sound low to someone else. As a result, in psychoacoustics (yep, there is a whole field of study dedicated to studying how people perceive sound), pitch is a major issue.
So, what is the most widely acknowledged method of determining pitch?
This value is then presented in Hertz (Hz) once pitch is measured scientifically. Humans can only hear tones with frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz, which is a fascinating fact!
Common Pitch in Music
However, “pitch” isn’t necessarily an all-in-one term. For us to better get a grasp of its concept, let’s hover through some common pitch-related keywords in music:
With the hype around Pitch Perfect, this may be the most familiar to you. After hearing a musical note, a person’s ability to name by referring to other notes is referred to as perfect pitch. Let’s imagine you’re a piano player who played a low E with a blindfold on. You could probably guess the proper note (with the help of a tuner) if you had perfect pitch. Only 1 to 5 persons out of 10,000 will be able to have innate perfect pitch (of course, this odd is higher if we only take musicians into consideration).
Many often misconstrue this for perfect pitch. Well, they are almost similar. It’s just that people with absolute pitch can name an exact note they hear without the need for any reference.
“You went a little sharp” is a term that you may hear a lot in reality contests, but what exactly does it mean? A pitch that is a little too high for the intended note is known as a sharp pitch. Re-tuning your instrument or changing your approach might help you rectify sharp notes.
A flat pitch, on the other hand, is one that is a little too low for the desired sound.
Here’s a short video explaining the musical pitch:
No Pitch Reference? No Problem!
To reiterate, all songs are composed in a specific key that tells you what notes and chords will be utilized in the song. It’s simpler to play an instrument when you know the key to a song. Going further, you can still tell what key a song is in even if you don’t have any musical training and can’t read music. Aside from that, being capable of determining pitch without first plucking notes on a keyboard is useful.
Is it possible to “memorize” a note and work from there?
Yes! Memorizing a pitch, like everything else, needs practice and trial. You can start by tuning your guitar! Listen to the standard tuning from time to time, and try tuning your guitar by ear before having it checked with a tuner.
You can also try humming along with the song!
Try humming along the track you are working with for a good amount of time. Then sing a steady note that is most probably the root or a perfect fifth above the root. You can verify this you have an instrument with you!
Tip: modern songs would probably have a key in minor!
If all else fails, try some online key detection sites or software (we’ll hook you up on that later!)
Picking the Perfect Key
How about instead of listening, you’ll be playing or singing. It can be a bit difficult to choose the best key for you (but not as challenging as singing in a mismatched key).
Assess your vocal range.
Grab a piano (or any available instruments) and try singing up and down the scale. Determine your voice’s upper and lower limits – you don’t want to end up straining your voice, trying to hit notes way above your range.
Put the song on repeat.
This does not only apply to the original track alone. Do record yourself singing as well (and listen!). If you sound a bit strained, the key may not be the right fit.
Experiments aren’t only for scientists.
Try singing and recording in different keys! You can either choose ones slightly above or lower than the original or just go outside the box (and let your creativity take over).
In this article, we gave you a crash course on the basics of pitch – and ultimately, on how you’d be able to determine a song’s key and progression to sing or play in. As a musician, mastering the fundamentals is vital in songwriting and performing.
Bonus: As promised, we also compiled a bunch of sites and software to look into to make this task a stroll in the park!
Joyce Ann graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies at New Era University. She especially enjoyed her journalism class and was nominated for Photojournalist of the Year. Joyce Anne loves music; she is a self-taught piano player. When she's not writing (or baking or watching documentaries), she's probably playing songs on the piano, mostly by ear.