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Life-long creative. I have one goal in life and that is to live from my creative endeavours. That's what my motto 'Art will feed itself' means.

This simple tone deaf test could change the way you think about singing

Posted by Norman Bailey on Sunday, January 5, 2014 Under: Singing

I can't sing because I'm tone deaf.

I hear people say this all the time.  But a couple of simple questions usually proves that they're not. People quite often think they are tone deaf because they don't really understand what being tone deaf is.

If you think you're tone deaf, try this little test now.  

  1. Go to you music collection and pick out one of your favourite tracks.
  2. Listen to it.
How does it sound?  Those swirling sound rising and falling.  It sounds good right?  CONGRATULATIONS!  You're not tone deaf..if you were you wouldn't be able to enjoy music in the way you do.  If fact you probably wouldn't have a favourite track to listen to because you wouldn't have much, if any, appreciation of music.

One of the main aspects of being tone deaf is the inability to differentiate relative pitch - tell the difference between one note and the next.  The fact that you can hear melody in all it's complexity means that this is not you.

So what's up?  Where's it all going wrong?  How come you sing out of tune all the time?  A new singing pupil asked me all there questions this week.  I asked her to sing a verse and chorus to a song she had been trying to sing.  She sang, and true to her word she was slipping in and out of key all the time - just as she said she would.

What's the first note", I said?  
What do you mean?" she enquired.  
The first note of the song. Is it a C, a D, what is it?
She looks at me baffled. "I don't know."
Well then what's note is the second word?  Still nothing.  "Is it higher or lower? Do you now what any one them are?"  She didn't.

This I've found time and time again.  The reason people don't sing in tune is because they don't know the tune.  They just guess and so get it wrong.  Hearing a song is not the same as learning a song.  Me, like most people, know the hook and some of the key words to songs I absolutely adore, but I don't know all the words.  But does not knowing all the word mean that you are illiterate? No.   Well not knowing and being able to recall the melody to a song does not make you tone deaf, and certainly doesn't mean you can't sing.

To be able to sing back the whole melody of a song you have to remember it fully.  Most people don't believe that and think that human being have some innate ability to just repeat what they hear when it comes to music.   How many times do you think you would have to hear a poem before you can recite it word for word?  Yet strangely people expect to be able to do that and remember the tune that goes with it after only hearing it a few times.

Sure, some people have better recall than others and can do this more easily.  But they still follow the same process: 
  1. Hearing 
  2. Processing
  3. vocalising
You need to do it at your own pace and don't be intimated by how other do it, or you will get flustered and never get it right.  And consider this, professional singers rehearse for weeks, years, or even months to be able to sing song 'effortlessly'.  Even if a singer can, seemingly, just 'pick up a tune', it's usually because they have years of training. It's not that natural ability is a myth; it just that it's usually backed up by practice, practice and more practice.

So, with all that in mind, take the tone deaf challenge.  You may not think you need to, as you've probably realized you don't need to.  But you might have a friend or relative who's missing out on the joy of singing, and you feel they could do with a boost.  Think it's a good Idea to tell then to give it a try? 

In : Singing