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I have seen many great singers unable to hit the high notes in some of their songs live, while the studio versions are perfect. What is the reason for this?

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    Who you regard as "great singers"? Depending on that, will let you apply one of the answers below. Also thing the question title should be "what can't SOME singers hit perfect high notes live" because I can think of plenty who can or could when in their prime. – Roger Mellie May 20 '16 at 12:15
  • are you serious? singing is an organic process and dependent on so many things inside the mind and body of the singer and outside... – Ballanne Dec 8 '16 at 16:08
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Well, I can think of a few of reasons.

  • In the studio, the singer can sing the same part over and over until it is "perfect". A take where the singer doesn't hit all the notes correctly can be replaced with a better one.
  • It is possible to pick the best parts of several takes. Doing this, the singer doesn't need to sing the song through perfectly.
  • It is possible to correct out of tune notes using modern studio equipment.
  • The singers voice might be in its best shape at the moment. Consider an artist during an extensive tour with concerts most every night, something which might affect the voice in a negative way.
  • A stage show is often more than just standing still singing. Consider Mick Jagger running around the stage with rolling stones, or an opera singer performing an act which requires a lot of movement. This most likely affects the voice in a negative way.
  • Their voice might also not be in the best shape (from singing the night before, etc) as it probably would be in the studio recording. – Jacob Swanson Sep 6 '15 at 20:17
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    @JacobSwanson Fair point, I added it to my answer. – Magnilex Sep 6 '15 at 20:26
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    You can't discount that rock & pop singers often lack training in proper vocal technique. Opera singers cannot get away with fudging the high notes on stage. Opera parts often involve a lot of movement, dancing, running up and down sets, and often in heavy or restrictive costumes. Much of the time they must do this without the benefit of a PA system. It comes down to training and technique to be able to repeat this night after night. – SpinDownUGo Sep 10 '15 at 3:54
  • @Tom I think your first point is already covered in point 1-3. Thanks for the second point, I added it to my answer. – Magnilex Sep 16 '15 at 14:45
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The difference in atmosphere might have something to do with it. In a concert, a vocalist is not only thinking about hitting notes, but also the crowd and how they react to a certain thing. They are moving and dancing, which messes with your air support.

A studio atmosphere is very quiet and focused, the vocalist is not moving at all, they have headphones on that cancel out any other noise.

Basically, a concert environment is very dynamic while a studio setting is not.

Also, the vocalist might not even be able to hit that note, the engineer/producer could've auto tuned the voice to sound like it.

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