Category Archives: Music

Intonation conditioning and reconditioning.

Listening to She & Him Volume 3 on vinyl, I was struck about how my expectations for vocal music, and the performance capability of singers regarding intonation, has changed.

Intonation has always been an important part of music for me, particularly since I have a background in instrumental performance. Teaching a young ensemble to play in tune is a difficult but rewarding endeavor. In pop music, technology has replaced training and excellence in performance.

Why bother trying to sing or play in tune when the computer can correct your pitch? Well, pitch-correction with a device like Auto-Tune or software will alleviate the necessity for any pop singer to learn how to sing.

It’s clear Zooey Deschanel, the female vocalist in the group She & Him (and an actress), isn’t interested in assisting her performance with technology. But she also sings slightly out of tune.

Not terribly out of tune, but enough to be noticeable, and that’s in a musical environment in which we just expect everything we hear to be in tune — except on American Idol, where the contestants are criticized for being pitchy. Not flat, not sharp, just pitchy. I don’t know any music teacher who could get away with using the term pitchy when offering feedback on his students’ performance.

Zooey’s intonation — or outtonation, I guess — is actually kind of refreshing.

Also, why does no one think it’s weird that She & Him music is playing the background of the bar scenes on Zooey’s television show New Girl? Don’t the characters recognize their friend’s voice? Zooey’s character is not a singer on the show.