Are you actually “tone deaf”?

Probably the biggest hurdle to overcome in singing is the creeping feeling that you’re secretly the worst singer in history; that you might be …TONE DEAF!

When people say “tone deaf” they refer to the supposed phenomena that one cannot tell the difference between two notes. It’s the kind of thing thrown around in casual conversation to dismiss oneself as a singer. In fact, it’s so common a phrase that many people falsely believe they are tone deaf and thus, beyond all hope as a singer.

Before we go into dismissing this, we must first address there is indeed a condition called amusia. This is a neurological condition in which the brain cannot process music properly. However, this is exceptionally rare, and the chances are if you’re thinking “I wish I could sing” you aren’t afflicted by it. People with amusia tend not to appreciate music enough to wish they could play an instrument or sing.

For most people, when they use the term tone deaf, they actually mean they have poor pitch discrimination. It’s tempting to think this is an innate, unchangeable trait, however precise pitch recognition is actually a skill one can master. It may take work but it’s a wonderful gift

Many of us see the finished result with musicians. We see the virtuoso talent or the operatic powerhouses but we don’t see the years and training that continues behind the scenes, and this distorts our perception of musicality. We like to think these talents came easy to them and the only reason we’re not up on the stage is because we lack something.

So, if anyone can learn to become musical, how do we go about this? You might have guessed that as a choir blog, we think choirs are a pretty good way to learn and you’d be right! Singing, in particular, builds a relationship between a note and the way it is produced, because it is the body that is changing to produce the note and modulate it until it is correct.

Choir practice means having access to a talented teacher who can work with you to guide you to the right notes and build your personal relationship to the sounds you can produce. This is called the mind-body connection – “If I do this with my body, the result is…”

There’s also a difference in the note one hears produced by your own voice and the actual output. This is because the skull itself slightly modulates the sound before it reaches your ear, directly through the bone. Singing in a choir gives you an external references point and over time you learn the relation between the two sets of sounds, the choirs and your own.

The choir also provides a safe, fun and supportive environment to take those first steps. If your early experiences of learning are dismissive, it doesn’t give you much encouragement. Learning music should be a joy, rather than a chore.

We believe everyone can learn to sing, it just takes patience and the right application of knowledge. Fortunately, we’ve got that covered. See you at choir.