Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/singing


I am now taking ear training exercices (from a CD I bought) and the teacher in the CD says it's extremely important to sing the notes you hear. I have two questions:
1. I can really only sing notes of the small octave (C3-C4) but I do have problems with singing the notes C3 (nearly to low) and C4 (nearly to high). The only song I really sing is this (but in that small octave)
Now, what should I do if I have to sing notes that are highter than this octave (I tried just doing it but it's not that easy)?

2. My (digital) piano is tuned to A=440 but do all people sing like a piano is tuned? I mean, if I would figured out by ear how certain people sing (and then play the melody on my piano) there may difficulties as they sing pitches that are between the pitches on a piano?  

3. If I play a note on a piano there will be overtones as well eg. if you play the note G other string wil resonate as well. Are there overtones in the human voice as well? or do you just sing the note G without any overtones?

Hi Anders;

You have many interesting questions.  As an overview you need to find a vocal teacher
And study voice, that will clear up a lot of your confusion quickly.  The human voice is not
As precise an instrument as a piano, so training our muscles and breath to reproduce pitch is
Not an exact science, it is an art, a skill that we develop over time. You can learn a lot more about
Pitch and harmony singing in my 2 cd set of interactive harmony singing lessons available on my
Website at  And yes, there are singers who sing in overtones
Check out "tuvan  throat singing" on the internet also Florence Riggs vocal toning workshops
And I am available to teach online through Skype. You can sign up at my website.

Best wishes, Penny Nichols  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Penny Nichols


I can answer all kinds of questions regarding singing techniques, practice, performance, vocal recording technique and harmony vocal arranging.


I have been a professional singer/songwriter and vocal arranger and teacher in the music business since 1965.

BMI, Folk Alliance, SummerSongs, Inc. (I am the founding director)

Singer Magazine

I have a doctorate in Music Education from Harvard.

Awards and Honors
Platinum record for my vocals on Jimmy Buffett's Son of a Son of a Sailor, 3 times nominated for a Grammy in the background singing category, MVP in the motivational singing category of the Assoc. of Multi-image Assoc. Annual awards two years in a row.

Past/Present Clients
I have sung with, recorded with or opened shows for Mort Sahl, The Byrds, The Dillards, Dillard and Clark Expedition, John Kay (Steppenwolf), The Association and Big Brother and the Holding Co. (Janis Joplin), Steve Miller, Quicksilver Messenger Service, 13th Floor Elevator, Chocolate Watchband, Jefferson Airplane, Dan Hicks & his Hot Licks, Cream (the Santa Monica Civic auditorium 1968), Little Feat in concert.  I wrote and performed commercials for Toyota's campaign to plant a tree for every car bought, Carnation Dairies, and produced a public service announcement for the Navajo Nation called "Black Mesa" to protest the misuse of the land around the Four Corners power stations in Arizona. In 1977, while working with Emitt Rhodes on a record for Elektra, I joined Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefers.  I appeared in the movie FM with the band, toured the U.S. and earned a Platinum Record for my singing on Son of a Son of a Sailor. Also, I've recorded with Art Garfunkle (Fate for Breakfast) Suzi Quatro, Danny O'Keefe, Yvonne Elliman, Jennifer Warnes, Albert Brooks, The Credibility Gap, Steve Gillette and earned a Grammy nomination for my work on Arlo Guthrie's album The Power of Love.  In addition, I have recorded a series of singing lessons which have been sold world-wide by Homespun Tapes since 1985.

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