In honor of Sunday, I have tried to sing you an out of tune song.  I was with some friends last week, and we started talking about song writing.  The topic was: What makes a good song?  Intonation was discussed among other things, but it got me thinking: in this world of auto-tune, what if we take perfect intonation out of the songwriting equation?  I started with a simple exercise:

Detune the uke strings then detune the vocal. As far as the uke is concerned, it wasn’t a free-for-all detuning, mind you, but just enough that you know there’s something not quite right.  Here is the first version with improvised lyrics/melody and (sort of) in tune vocals but detuned uke.  Then, I did a version with tuned uke and detuned vocals. This was difficult.

Within this discussion about songwriting, we also talked about one of the most beloved songs in American songwriting history: Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  We talked about what makes this song really great and why almost everyone and their mom knows it and can sing it.  The first two notes of Somewhere Over the Rainbow are the interval of an octave.  Intervals can make or break a song, and this one in particular has created one of the most memorable two notes in history: Some….. where…!!!! So, in honor of the octave interval, I used it.

Observations: When the uke was out of tune, I was less tight with melody and vocal style.  I created something wobbly and loose both in style and intonation.  The out of tune vocals were interesting because the goal was to sing decently and still out of tune.  Meaning that I couldn’t make it a joke and sing silly, which was a challenge.  Singing out of tune was so hard, I just tossed trying to sing the lyrics, too.  In the end, it was too much, and I stopped (as you’ll here).  I’d like to try this again with something more solidified in form.

(This topic could actually go one for ages as there are many genres of music that use intonation as expression or as a singular part of its character… Sacred Harp Singing (among quite a few others I could list) is an example of slight imperfections that function successfully within the genre and being a part of the special character that is created by many distinct voices singing together.)


Across the Coals (Intonation Exercise – Uke)

Across the Coals (Intonation Exercise – Vocal)