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I sang Chinese karaoke last night... went alright... but couldn't sing in tune. I wanted to express this to my Chinese friends.... so I wanted to learn phrases/words related to singing and music, namely:

How do you say "Sing in tune", or perhaps "carry a melody"

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Out of tune

  • 跑调/走调/走音——年纪大了,王菲唱歌也开始走音了。要不我们就叫她跑调天后吧。
  • 音调不准——这架钢琴音调不准,和你唱歌一样。
  • 不着调/不合调——你唱歌挺不着调的。
  • 音准差——你唱歌音准太差了。音准 is a professional term.

The phrase 不着调 has later taken a metaphoric meaning to describe an erratic person or deed. 你这人挺不着调的,办事也不着调。

In tune

Just take the negative forms and you're set:

  • 着调/合调——你唱歌还挺合调的。
  • 音调准——你唱歌音调很准。
  • 音准很好/不错——这架钢琴音准很好,你唱歌音准不错。This is how a music teacher praises you.
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If you mean that you cannot follow BOTH the tone of the music AND the Mandarin tone strictly at the SAME time, I'd say it's normal.

Simply sing the lyrics by glide, vowel and the musical tone. It will be fine.

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sing in [out of] tune

唱得合调子[不合调子]

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