Mar. 16, 2007 | 06:00 AM EDT

Your Audio Guide to Idol: 'Pitchy' Explained

Your Audio Guide to Idol: 'Pitchy' Explained | Randy Jackson Ooooh ... that was pitchy! Photo by:
If you're a devoted Idol watcher, you've heard the word "pitchy" used a thousand times. Randy Jackson even explained the dreaded word no contestant wants to hear during a recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. To make things more crystal-clear, we asked New York City-based singer and vocal teacher Carolyn Leonhart ( why even a good singer on Idol can be a victim of pitchiness.

"When you add a sound system and a live band to the mix, very often singers aren't hearing enough of their voice," says Leonhart. "For a less experienced singer, they try to sing louder and that throws off the balance of the voice, which changes the pitch." It also doesn't help that the pressure on the Idols is fierce – and nerves can take a toll on the way they breathe. "Nervousness or excitement affects breathing. If you don't have sufficient breath support, the lack of air flow forces other muscles to work harder than they should – which can alter the pitch," she adds.

As the Idols cross their fingers that "pitchy" won't be uttered by Randy and Paula, Leonhart shows us how a verse from Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman" should and shouldn't sound. Take a listen:

In Tune