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Can the tone deaf learn to sing?

mauvepink 10 Jan 11 - 04:03 AM
andrew e 10 Jan 11 - 05:11 AM
GUEST,DaveMc 10 Jan 11 - 05:21 AM
Dave MacKenzie 10 Jan 11 - 06:12 AM
Allan C. 10 Jan 11 - 06:19 AM
JHW 10 Jan 11 - 06:27 AM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 10 Jan 11 - 06:30 AM
Fred McCormick 10 Jan 11 - 07:19 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM
MikeofNorthumbria 10 Jan 11 - 07:26 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 10 Jan 11 - 07:28 AM
andrew e 10 Jan 11 - 07:45 AM
Fred McCormick 10 Jan 11 - 07:47 AM
Bernard 10 Jan 11 - 07:58 AM
Bernard 10 Jan 11 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,Desi C 10 Jan 11 - 08:29 AM
andrew e 10 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM
Fred McCormick 10 Jan 11 - 09:12 AM
mauvepink 10 Jan 11 - 09:35 AM
autoharpbob 10 Jan 11 - 10:11 AM
Bernard 10 Jan 11 - 10:39 AM
Bernard 10 Jan 11 - 10:41 AM
Roger the Skiffler 10 Jan 11 - 11:03 AM
Fred McCormick 10 Jan 11 - 11:08 AM
Dave MacKenzie 10 Jan 11 - 11:19 AM
Fred McCormick 10 Jan 11 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Auldtimer 10 Jan 11 - 12:15 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 10 Jan 11 - 01:48 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 11 - 02:48 PM
gnu 10 Jan 11 - 03:28 PM
paula t 10 Jan 11 - 03:47 PM
Nick 10 Jan 11 - 04:46 PM
JohnInKansas 10 Jan 11 - 05:07 PM
Gallus Moll 10 Jan 11 - 05:19 PM
Bernard 10 Jan 11 - 05:26 PM
Tootler 10 Jan 11 - 06:18 PM
GUEST,Rochelle 10 Jan 11 - 06:31 PM
GUEST,DrWord 10 Jan 11 - 06:57 PM
paula t 10 Jan 11 - 06:58 PM
Nick 10 Jan 11 - 07:18 PM
Nick 10 Jan 11 - 07:29 PM
ClaireBear 10 Jan 11 - 07:43 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 11 - 04:35 AM
GUEST,LDT 11 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM
Dave MacKenzie 11 Jan 11 - 06:08 AM
autoharpbob 11 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 11 Jan 11 - 07:44 AM
The Sandman 11 Jan 11 - 08:48 AM
TheSnail 11 Jan 11 - 09:37 AM
Fred McCormick 11 Jan 11 - 09:53 AM
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Subject: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: mauvepink
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 04:03 AM

Can the tone deaf learn to sing?

The BBC have come up with another musical snippet of interest

What do you think?

mp


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: andrew e
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:11 AM

I direct adult A Cappella community type choirs, and my experience is that no one who's ever come to a choir who can't pitch a given note, has ever learnt to do so. They might get some of them, but it's hit and miss!

The potential singer gives up, even after a few individual singing lessons. Most don't even get as far as singing lessons.
Not from me I might add. I wouldn't have the patience!

So it may be possible, but I've yet to see it.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,DaveMc
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:21 AM

I've seen lots of people who can't initially sing in tune - and who've often been told to shut up in their school music lessons - be successfully taught relative pitch in adult life. They often become confident singers and are able to deliver a solo song well in public. It just takes a lot of dedication between student and a very skilled teacher. "Find you voice" type classes are available in many places here in the UK and some of them are very good - but it does rely on the calibre of the teacher.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:12 AM

I think it depends a lot on the form of tone-deafness. Some can, as stated above, and some despite years of enthusiastic trying never get there. Maybe someone with medical knowledge could explain.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Allan C.
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:19 AM

One of my first choir directors did his Masters thesis on people who "couldn't" sing. As part of his research he assembled a group of such people and, after much hard work and some one-on-one tutoring, formed a choir of these people. The choir eventually performed songs before the entire university population!

IMHO singing on pitch is not something one is born able to do. It is a learned process. It requires practice. I grew up singing along with my little 45 RPM records of Disney's "Johnny Appleseed" and a Sons of the Pioneers recording, among others, as well as singing with whomever was on the radio. Some might say that I eventually got it right.

People who can't match pitch haven't given it an honest try.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: JHW
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:27 AM

andrew e - I can sing in tune alone but in a choir am guessing from the music. One of my choir directors tells me relative pitch can be learned but perfect pitch (which I would say she has) seems to be more genetic?


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:30 AM

If you can identify a friend or family member from their voice on the phone, or recognise a tune in a version you've not heard before, then chances are you're not "tone-deaf" - most likely what's lacking is the control of the voice to match it to what you hear.

Like any skill, it takes time to develop, and if children don't get the support they need (and some will need more than others), they're likely to get discourage and not develop it fully. Which is a shame.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:19 AM

A useful homily. In Len Graham's excellent book about his old singing partner Joe Holmes, he relates how Joe had been put off singing in public by a teacher who told him he was tone deaf. As a result Joe confined his singing to the home and limited his public musical activities to playing the fiddle. Len realising that Joe was actually a wonderful singer with a remarkable repertoire of songs, coaxed him into singing in public.

As a result the world is richer by some eighty songs, a lot of people enjoyed Joe's singing who otherwise wouldn't have done, and I have some fabulous memories of hearing Len and Joe sing together.

In my humble opinion very few people are so devoid of any consciousness of pitch, that they couldn't be trained to sing under any circumstances.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM

"A very small proportion of the population are truly tone deaf,"
Been saying this till I'm hoarse.
There are simple exercises and techniques to assist in learning to sing tunes.
One of the reasons why I get so pissed off with those who sling the 'finger-in-ear' insult is that they are detracting from the very simple, millenium-old and world-wide singing aid - cupping the hand over the ear to assist in singing in tune.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:26 AM

There was a young fellow from Tring
Who said when they asked him to sing
'You may think that it's odd
But I cannot tell God
Save the Weasel from Pop goes the King'

If you can tell one tune from another, then you are not tone deaf. Very few people are. (Allegedly, King Edward VII was. He is said to have been able to recognise only two tunes - the national anthem and 'the other one'. The national anthem was the one people stood up for.)

If you can't sing a tune accurately, you are not tone deaf, just vocally challenged. A lot of people have this problem, but with the right kind of help, and a bit of effort, most of them can learn how to sing acceptably.

Unfortunately, some music teachers don't see it this way. Because singing came naturally to them, they can't understand why some people have problems getting it right. It saves these teachers a lot of trouble to write off students who have difficulty hitting notes accurately as "tone deaf" - as well as leaving them more time to get on with coaching the choir.

This strategy has produced some good choirs, but it has also let down a lot of students who might have gained great enjoyment from music, if only they hadn't been told at an impressionable age that they were 'tone deaf'.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:28 AM

I have a friend who cannot sing a scale, or sing an octave jump, but can sing the notes of a chord.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: andrew e
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:45 AM

andrew e - I can sing in tune alone but in a choir am guessing from the music. One of my choir directors tells me relative pitch can be learned but perfect pitch (which I would say she has) seems to be more genetic?

To JHW

You need to learn your part as if it was the "tune".
To you that's how the song goes.

I don't have perfect pitch, and have never met anyone who has!
I use a tuning fork for opening notes.

It's all relative, but also I think a short term memory of a pitch,can be developed with exercises, particularly for A Cappella singing.
For instance singing a semitone scale, and imagining/hearing in your head the first note whilst doing this.
Most community choir singers don't get this far.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:47 AM

Music perception is a very strange thing because it involves several different segements of the brain. If they are not all working properly, an individual will end up strong in certain areas and weak in others. For example I know someone who is a perfectly competent guitarist and has an excellent sense of pitch, but cannot sing a tune correctly to save his life.

BTST, I have no problem at all in pitching a note, staying on key and remembering tunes, but I cannot sing harmonies at all. So what happened when I joined a socialist choir where most of the songs are sung in four part harmony? Simple. I sing tenor so I get in amongst the rest of the tenors and sing what they are singing.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:58 AM

If someone can learn to speak, they can also learn to sing. Whilst there are obvious differences, there are many similarities, the most important of which is being able to hear.

A friend of mine, who is also a 'catter, is profoundly deaf but now uses a digital hearing aid.

He has always enjoyed singing, but until he got his digital aid, his attempts were a little less than tuneful. He still cannot pitch all that accurately, but the improvement continues, and is streets ahead of where he was with his analogue aid.

So it is possible that there may be a link with hearing and singing in tune (such as 'glue ear') that affects some children more than others during their formative years.

I can remember from teaching seminars many years ago that there were studies that suggested a child was more likely to naturally learn 'perfect pitch' under the age of two years of age than in later years.

In my days as a primary teacher I saw many children who had difficulty singing in tune, but learned the skill (I like to think through my help) by being allowed to join the school choir. If they weren't 'on key' for a specific event, I'd gently advise them to mime because 'they weren't ready yet'... I never ever found a 'growler' who didn't turn into a nightingale! How odd that, when I was at primary school as a pupil, I was told to shut up because I couldn't sing!

I believe that ability to sing in tune comes naturally to some, but others have to work at it. However, I also believe that too much effort can be counter-productive, if only because one's expectations are somewhat higher than one can achieve - and this applies to any instrument or activity, not just singing.

Whilst there may be a scientific explanation (or two, or three...!), I would suggest that the human mind is so capricious that there will always be exceptions to prove the rule!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:16 AM

On the subject of 'Perfect Pitch', it is something that can be learned (I have it).

Nobody is born with it - the very definition belies that as an impossibility. Some people have a better aptitude to learn than others, and this is where the error comes from.

Think... 'Concert Pitch' is a fairly recent innovation, and there are other 'pitches' still in common use. So the idea that someone can be born with such knowledge is daft! It's like learning to talk - we pick up the accent and dialect of those around us.

For example, older church organs are often higher pitched than 'standard', simply because it made them cheaper to produce. a lot of metal and wood goes into making the pipes, so if they are a little shorter, less materials are needed, especially with the lower pitch notes.

This is also why you will find that some ranks end at 'Tenor C' and borrow pipes from another rank - twelve pipes per rank is a considerable saving!

With the advent of electric action, 'unit organs' provided an even bigger saving - one rank of pipes with notes from 32 foot to 1 foot, and the stops simply selected the 61 notes from the rank at the pitch the stop required. Okay, over simplified and off topic...

All I'm saying is there can be many outside influences on someone's musical learning... far too many to quantify, maybe.

;o)


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:29 AM

Well from what I hear around the Clubs including my own, I think some already do! A lot of people who are described as Tone deaf or describe themselves as so, can often be thought to sing quite tell or to some standard. But if they're literally tone deaf then I'd say no and I count my own Brother and my Brother in law as two who truly should only use their voices for talking. there's some quite good singing exerises on line and vocal exercises etc, for anyone wishing to try


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: andrew e
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM

Perfect pitch is usually understood to be the ability to sing any chosen note out of thin air as it were. So it's an ability to remember pitch.

Doesn't matter if A=416 or 440 or whatever.
It's very very rare, even with highly trained musicians. They might have a good guess, but are never 100% sure.

Remembering colours is also similar.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 09:12 AM

Bernard. On the contrary, everyone is born with perfect pitch but most people, to a greater or lesser extent, lose it in later life.

I'm not sure why this should be so, but maybe it's something which was linked with survival among the higher primates. IE., a new born baby being able to distinguish its mother's voice from all the others.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: mauvepink
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 09:35 AM

Dame Joan Sutherland did not have perfect pitch and yet anyone who ever heard her sing the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor would certainly doubt she had not. Her pitch, alongside the flute part, was perfect to listen to. From this we can deduct that not having perfect pitch may be no obstacle to being a good singer.

I am minded to think of identical male twins I knew when I was in the church choir many many moons ago. One had the most gorgeous boy soprano voice: his twin brother was typically what we would call tone deaf and seldom hit a note proper. We had to put up with the one in order to enjoy the other and their Mother insisted they do everything together! We accepted that as a given but no-one was keen to sit close to the one who could not hit a note as it used to put you off what you were doing yourself. In the end the choirmaster put him in among the bass and alsto singers where he got drowned out affectively with no cruel intent.

mp


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: autoharpbob
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 10:11 AM

I came across one boy when I was teaching music for a while in a secondary school, who not only had no sense of pitch, but also no sense of rhythm. His "Nellie the Elephant" was a thing of wonder! I have no idea whether he could eventually have been taught to sing, but suspect not. No more than you can teach colour blind people to recognise colours. There are IMHO some people who are unable to distinguish any difference in tones, and cannot tell whether the sound they produce matches what is required or not. Anyone had any experience with the standard tests - can't recall the name now - that asks you to tell whether two separate tones are the same or not? They all sounded exactly the same to this boy.

And perfect pitch does not mean being able to sing in tune. Perfect pitch means being able to pitch a note without outside stimulus - sing any named note on cue without relating to any aural input. I knew a guy who had that in a male voice choir I belonged to. We called him the human tuning fork.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 10:39 AM

Fred, I agree, but disagree...

Everyone is born with the ability to LEARN perfect pitch, but the accepted definition of 'perfect pitch' is the ability to sing (and name) accepted reference notes. It does NOT mean the ability to sing in tune per se, that is a somewhat different skill.

Perhaps this thread has greyed the definition somewhat, but we should go back to first principles if we are to find agreement.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 10:41 AM

Sorree! Seem to have crossed posted!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 11:03 AM

In my case it is more "how can we stop him singing"!

RtS


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 11:08 AM

Bernard. We are indeed greying the waters. Whether a person has perfect pitch or not, singing is still an acquired skill. However, it's worth recalling John Blacking's dictum. "In primitive societies everyone sings. In agrarian (peasant) societies, most people sing. In modern society hardly anyone sings."

If that's true we may well pause and wonder what went wrong.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 11:19 AM

The walkman, for a start?


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 11:33 AM

No, the problem goes back a long way before the walkman, and stems I think from the growth of mass society and from forms of mass media which were around before the walkman.

IE., if people cease to live in small communities it becomes ever more difficult to get them to sing because they have no communal ties to the people they would otherwise sing to or with.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,Auldtimer
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 12:15 PM

If you can talk, you can sing. How good may be the sticking point, but that's no reason not to try.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 01:48 PM

Well for my two cents worth perfect pitch is split in two parts. If you can properly tune a piano by ear you would have aural perfect pitch but you may not be able to sing in perfect pitch. You may have vocal perfect pitch but not be able to tune that damn piano at all. However if you have a good ear you can train your voice to follow a reference. Most people can come close enough accompanied to annoy only ears that claim perfection. Pitch is only one part of singing, and timing, presentation, and a good song are also just as important!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 02:48 PM

"If you can talk, you can sing."
Sorry to digress - couldn't resist.
There's a rather derogatory saying in the building trade' "If you can piss, you can paint" - no relation, I trust?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: gnu
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 03:28 PM

Well said, Sandy.

I might add, knowing which songs you just CANNOT sing is a priorty. Sorry if that is preaching to the chior.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: paula t
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 03:47 PM

I teach music in a small primary school. It makes me very sad when adults tell me their teacher told them they could not sing. As far as I am concerned, everyone has a different voice and everyone's voice is for singing with!(I demonstrate this by explaining that I have a deep voice for a lady and that lots of the teachers and children are able to sing much "higher" than me but it doesn't matter a bit). I don't have a choir, because I do not believe in ruling people out.Every child takes part in performances because I believe that everyone's contribution is valuable. We all work hard to learn the songs and do our best every time, but I stress that mistakes happen in any performance because it is live!
If someone is not accurately pitch matching every note then that is because we are all still developing our voices, in just the same way that we learn everything else and that's all part of the school experience.We are showing what we have learned to do so far. I stress the need to warm up (We have lots of fun!)and to stand properly and breathe properly- right from the reception year. I introduce songs / games with 2 notes at first and then gradually add on as we learn to pitch match. At the moment every child in reception is accurately pitch matching in songs with a limited number of notes and we are very proud of our voices. This might seem a bit twee, but hey ho!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Nick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 04:46 PM

Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Jim Carroll - PM
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 02:48 PM

"If you can talk, you can sing."
Sorry to digress - couldn't resist.
There's a rather derogatory saying in the building trade' "If you can piss, you can paint" - no relation, I trust?
Jim Carroll

>>"If you can talk, you can sing."

Which is true

But Jim will always be there behind you to tell you what is right

Angry post but Jim that's very very smug.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:07 PM

One of the simplest barriers to a person learning to sing is having nobody to sing with.

There's no such thing as an "out of tune" note in isolation. It's only when two separate notes sound at the same time that it becomes necessary to distinguish which one is "right" and which is "wrong."

If two people sing together, it's physically easiest if they both sing at the same pitch. The difference in being "in tune" and slightly "out of tune" may be quite small, but it is present, and if a person can be taught to "tweak to the match" the external sound from the other singer makes the tone come more easily, and sound "fuller" and more resonant.

Singing with an experienced singer can help a "learner" to discern when the tones are "coupled" to another singer; but the physical coupling between the tones is only easily discerned when both tones are nearly equally loud. The "head echo" for the learner can obscure the "synch" that you're trying to teach, unless the "teacher" is able to sing in full voice and fairly loudly nearby, or if the two singers are "intimately close" at comparable loudnesses. Once the matching of tones is recognized, a less close coupling of the tones should be sufficient.

Our entire systems of "western music scales" is based (partly by accident) on each tone in a chord being "in step" with harmonics of another tone of the scale. Once the learner has developed the ability to "feel" being in tune singing the same note as another singer, the same ability to find the "easiest tone production" in synch with a harmonic of another voice should be fairly easily developed with a reasonable amount of practice.

The same principle applies to many musical instruments. A saxophone, which was my first "main instrument" can be "lipped" over a range of somewhat more than a semitone in either direction, but with practice there's a definite "feeling of ease" when the note is "pulled into synch" with other players. A clarinet possibly has a shorter "bend range" but experienced players use the same sort of "tweak." When the note is "on" it can be felt all the way to the bottom of the lungs.

Fiddlers perhaps can't get the "whole body sensation" enjoyed by wind players, but at least the sound "swells" to detectable fullness when the finger rolls onto the point of synch with the rest of the music.

Guitar players ... (I guess they're pretty much out of luck on this?)

A popular mantra for lap dulcimists is "just find a pleasant tone." That part's pretty easy, and with accurate frets other "pleasant tones" are a simple result. Getting some of them to get close to the same pleasant tones everyone else is playing can be an excruciatingly prolonged process - - - if they haven't really learned to "sing."

I haven't encountered a person who, with practice, could not sing reasonably in tune as part of a group of singers, although there may be a few. Teaching how to "feel being in tune" has been helpful to several where I've observed "the method." Not all made it to the point of being candidates for "close harmony in four parts" a.la. "barbershop;" but with practice most ceased curdling the milk when they felt the urge to sing a solo out in the barn.

John


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Gallus Moll
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:19 PM

Like Auldtimer,
I agree that if you can talk, you can sing - think of some of the old traditional singers, they may not have had 'good' voices but they had total belief in what they were delivering, and commitment to the song or ballad - and that is what is important! I much prefer the diamond in the rough than the polished sparkler! Imagine if someone was the only person to know a song, and couldn't /wouldn't /was discouraged from singing it - it would be lost forever!
Many years ago at summer school one of the class embers was a Canadian who had spent the previous 8 months in Ireland, heard lots of great Irish songs - but was tone deaf. He sat in our Scottish ballads and traditional singing class and did not even try to join in a chorus. At the evening sessions, he constantly asked if anyone knew. could sing, some of the Irish songs he named - but none of us came from that culture; we tried to persuade him to have a go, and eventually as the week progressed and sufficiently relaxed by whisky, he finally sang! That was the first time I ever heard Raglan Road, and it made a great impact on me - and despite his not holding the pitch etc I was able to learn the song from him - and surely that is what singing is about, communication? The guy was liberated, and for the rest of the week he sang along in class - and it didn't matter that his voice droned, the rest of us were loud enough and strong enough to support that - and how he enjoyed himself!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:26 PM

Paula - I couldn't agree more. What you are doing sounds much like what I did some thirty years ago.

Although I had a 'school choir', I should clarify that any child could be a member if they wished to give up part of their lunch break and stay after school for twenty minutes twice a week.

In other words, the only criterion for selection was that they wanted to sing!

Here in Lancashire (UK) there is an expression 'Cock of the School' which is the 'badge of honour' earned by the boy who could hold his own against any other boy in a hand-to-hand fight. The school staff were always perplexed as to why the 'Cock' was a member of the school choir...!! I must have been doing something right!! ;o)


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Tootler
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:18 PM

"Perfect pitch or, more correctly, absolute pitch is defined as an ability to effortlessly name a note or a group of notes without comparing it with any external reference tone (my italics) when they are sounded, also people with perfect pitch can produce the note in instrument or via voice when it is told."

The jury appears to be out as to whether it is an innate or learned ability but current research seems to suggest it is a combination of both. i.e. there is both a genetic and a learned component.

Those who possess absolute pitch say it is a mixed blessing. I can remember clearly reading a letter in one of the UK broadsheet newspapers many years ago (Telegraph, I think) from a man with absolute pitch who had been to a concert of music by Bach played on "authentic instruments". He had been looking forward to the concert and had been disappointed because the orchestra was "out of tune" and had played a semitone flat throughout the whole concert. This had spoilt it for him. He was unaware that the orchestra had been tuned to A=415, that pitch standard being relatively new at the time. I think the letters editor or the music correspondent of the paper had added a note to the letter pointing this out.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,Rochelle
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:31 PM

I think you guys are talking about something different from tone deafness, are you talking about people who can't sing in tune?

I don't think it's about being tone "deaf" it's about being tone "dumb"-I apologize for the use of the word dumb. Just because you can't sing music, doesn't mean you can't play it. In my experience a great deal of musicians who play instruments can't sing very well. You can have both, but a lot of the times you usually have one of the other. So it isn't about not being able to hear the tune, or even recreate it on something else such as an instrument. It's about being able to "speak" aka sing it. People can whistle, people can tinker on the piano, everyone posses some ability to express music and rhythms in some way, even deaf people. (Beethoven wrote some of his greatest pieces while deaf)

Singing is solely based on biological factors, you can't teach someone to make a noise in their throat if they have no ability to do this. Or you can teach them the technical process of this, but it's not going to make them sing in tune. Singing is not "talking" it's a specific type of sound your larynx makes. When you sing, your larynx acts like a reed and creates a sound, our vocal chords allow us to manipulate that sound. (Of course all due to air, which creates the sound waves) This is what singing is, just speaking is not necessarily manipulation of your vocal chords. (Often times people just speak in the same tone-although good voice actors probably have the ability to manipulate while speaking) People who are tone deaf aka dumb, have no real ability to manipulate like a singer does.

I suppose you can look at it this way, everyone possess the reed, but not all of us our instruments. Not everyone is physically able to manipulate their vocal chords to match musical pitches. There are disorders in which people have medically lost their ability to be unable to possess pitch, such as Amusia. Of course actual deafness doesn't allow someone to hear pitch.

There are people who of course are just singing incorrectly, but usually you can hear some type of a resemblance of music. In reality there are actual people who simply have no biological ability to sing musically in pitch. My mother is one of them and it sounds like she can't physically sing the notes in tune, rather than she has no ability to distinguish pitch. We used to watch American Idol when it first came out and she could tell that the people who auditioned could not sing in tune.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:57 PM

vocal CORDS


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: paula t
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:58 PM

Hi Bernard,
Coming from Rochdale, I remember the term "cock of the school" very well!
I developed my love of singing while only a toddler , but I was inspired at primary school by a wonderful, fierce teacher called Mr. Gee. He had a nickname for every child in the school.None of the boys had the impression that singing was for softies, because Mr. Gee was quite a toughie.He would hammer on the piano as brutally as he hammered his finger onto our foreheads when telling us to think about the tone of our voice .Thus we spent our time in lessons, half scared that we would get his undivided attention for a couple of minutes (he would rib us mercilessly and we loved it) and the rest of it worried that we wouldn't!)
It was cool to sing!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Nick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:18 PM

Most - I repeat most - people can sing 'Happy Birthday'

I seem to remember that and still listen to people singing it in tune

How does that work?


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Nick
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:29 PM

Jim - I never really know who you are attacking or what standards so I always react.

Does politics (small 'p') touch singing somehow?

Singing in tune has never been the measure of a singer has it?

Cliff Richard at Wimbledon got pilloried for being cliff rather than for technical ability which he has. A man who can always sing in tune

I go to all sorts of stuff where tradition/balls/americana/ rock /substitute whatever/ performance triumphs over 'in tune'

In trad folk the roots rather than the notes always seemed to win out. When the notes went the tradition kicked in because it was worth more.

It was why I've never been a proper folk person because I never understood that. I may do one day or it may pass me by like garage


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: ClaireBear
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:43 PM

When I was in college, I took on a dulcimer student who, when I played her the A string and then the high D string, literally could not tell me which note was higher. She was also totally unable to reproduce either note vocally or on the instrument by ear, even within a half octave.

Thus, I believe she could be called tone deaf.

Yet she loved music, had a good sense of rhythm, and went to great pains to memorize the fingerings it took to play tunes accurately on the dulcimer. She defied her inabilities and, to the extent she could, vanquished them. Very impressive lady.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 04:35 AM

"Angry post but Jim that's very very smug."
Sorry - not sure I understand - I was passing on a building trade joke - nothing more - I was not attacking anybody.
I believe that, excepting physical disibilities, which I believe are few and far between, ANYBODY can sing - as long as they are prepared to put in the work. The problem for me comes with those who argue that singers should be encouraged to 'practice in public'; to go up before an audience without having masterered the basic techniques of holding a tune, and remembering, and to some degree, making sense of the words.
I believe that clubs who encourage this are copping out; they are failing to provide an audience with a reasonable standard of singing, they are leaving the singers who have done the work to pick up the pieces after a bad piece of singing, and they are failing the inexperienced singer by throwing him/her in at the deep-end rather than offering constructive help.
I also believe that they are also displaying a contempt for the music they are presenting as being 'not worth applying standards to'.
I've even heard the argument, including on this forum, that good singing is not desirable as it "puts off the lesser talented".
If club organisers are serious about encouraging new people on to the scene as singers, they would offer help to struggling new singers and not leave them to struggle unassisted.
"Does politics (small 'p') touch singing somehow?"
Sorry, totally beyond me - explain please.
"Singing in tune has never been the measure of a singer has it?"
JUST singing in tune hasn't certainly, but surely it has to be a basic requirement, a starting point, or hasn't it - you tell me?
"...tradition/balls/americana/ rock /substitute whatever/ performance triumphs over 'in tune"
Are you advocating that singing in tune should not be a requirement for singing in public?
You'll have to leave me to struggle with the rest of your postings I'm afraid - I have no idea what you are talking about.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM

The quiz 'questions' seemed to be biased towards singing.

I'd be surprised and very impressed if anyone could get me to sing pleasantly...and in tune.
I'm not comfortable with talking let alone singing. In my head I have the notes but I just can't reproduce them. This is why I took up an instrument.


I got:
Enthusiasm for music 49%
musical perception 35%
Emotional connection 2%
Social creativity 13%
Musical curiosity 38%

In group the music 0 (I really didn't understand what they were looking for if they'd have said the genres I might have stood a chance)
Match the beat 15/18
Out of nine 6 high 3 medium
Melody memory 7/12


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:08 AM

"No, the problem goes back a long way before the walkman"

I agree entirely, Fred. My 'start' did not imply a temporal meaning. The main problem is that, with massive help from the "music industry", people are encouraged to regard music as something done by "professionals" rather than an activity that everybody can partake in. I often feel that I'm the only person in Britain who whistles.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: autoharpbob
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 07:23 AM

Surely there is a spectrum here from completely tone deaf - I have met a tone deaf student and so apparently have others - to possessor of perfect pitch, whether aural or vocal. Both are extremes of the "normal". The question is whether anyone can get better. I suspect there are some people who cannot - my example of colourblindness applies, some people cannot distinguish colours at all and see the world in tones on black and white, and these cannot be taught to see colours. You try distinguishing between dark blue and dark red when you are looking at a black and white printout.

A lot of people though can be taught to improve. Listening exercises will train the ear. Over many years I have taught myself what my throat feels like when I sing a high E or a low E, and can pitch those notes close enough for unaccompanied singing. I have also learned through many years of practice to sing intervals like 4ths and 5ths. But IMHO the answer to the question "Can the tone deaf learn to sing" is probably No - depending on your definition of singing!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 07:44 AM

90% of the time I can reproduce a Bb and work up from there to the note that I want.
Most time if I do not think about it I can correctly pitch the starting note of a piece I am familiar with. If I start to think about it I doubt myself and lose the abillity.
It is very rare for me to have to re-start a song because I have pitched it too far away from the correct note.

I do not claim to have perfect pitch because I am not perfect!


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 08:48 AM

yes.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 09:37 AM

Jim Carroll

The problem for me comes with those who argue that singers should be encouraged to 'practice in public'; to go up before an audience without having masterered the basic techniques of holding a tune, and remembering, and to some degree, making sense of the words.

Sigh. Nobody ever has argued that Jim.


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Subject: RE: Can the tone deaf learn to sing?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 09:53 AM

"The main problem is that, with massive help from the "music industry", people are encouraged to regard music as something done by "professionals" rather than an activity that everybody can partake in."

Amen to that. Curiously enough, the idea that professionals are the only people who can make music and are therefore deserving of vast amounts of hero worships and shed loads of shekels is a peculiarly western thing.

Elsewhere, traditionally at any rate, music was frequently regarded as a lowly profession, and often followed by people who were on the margins of society.

Oh for a return to common sense and the realisation that there is nothing god-like about being able to make music.


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