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Old 06-09-2014, 11:27 AM   #1
RhythmFlow
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Slightly tone-deaf?

I'm incredibly depressed. I have always wanted to be a musician and for the last 5 years I have learned various scales, chords in each key in various positions up and down the neck of the guitar and spent a lot of money on lessons and wondered why I was not progressing as others have. I thought first of all it was because I was playing poor instruments so bought a lovely guitar and the same, not progressing.

Recently I was chatting with a friend and he asked me why I always bent a note up until it was 'too sharp sounding' as opposed to just bending it up to pitch (I am playing in the Blues genre so it's a whole-tone bend) and I replied "because it's the only way I can differentiate the two distinct sounds." That's when it hit me. Anything played within a 3 fret radius sounds identical.

I then realised the same for chords, a G major chord sounds the same as an F major chord and also the same as the A major chord next to it whereas I can discern an F major chord from the A major. However I cannot tell you which is higher without knowing, all I can say is that tonally it sounds different. A single note played on say the first fret, the second and third all sound the same whereas at the fourth fret it sounds different but again I couldn't say if it was higher or lower.

My guitar teacher has taught me how to find the chords for a song I'm hearing and I understand the theory behind it. I slide my finger up to the fretted note I hear the bass player play and I know from what note is being played what chord is being played but most of what I hear a bass player play is the same so I am never able to play along to a song I hear, I always have to make a note of the song then go and find the chords online and then can play along fine.

When playing with others I can almost always work out what key the song is in but apart from playing that initial chord I am stumped. I have to just wait for that chord to come round again and then strum it. I have to know what all the chords are and then I'm fine but if the other players decide to jam on out then I am lost because I no longer have a frame of reference other than that initial chord.

I can tell that a note played 4 frets along or further is tonally different than the initial one but for closely spaced notes they all sound the same and having put in 2 hours+ a day for 5 years hasn't trained my ears at all. I can also not discern when my guitar is in tune or slightly out of tune, it has to be wildly out of tune for me to notice.

I cannot sing and even my spoken voice is flat so I have learned to punctuate what I say, to use pauses and to change the volume of what I say because I lack pitch and cadence. Not badly and very rarely is it picked up on because I'm reasonably intelligent in terms of what I talk about so this papers over most of the cracks audibly however at school it was picked up quite a lot so I was never asked to narrate or read a passage from a book because of the 'flatness' of it. The strange thing is, I can tell when someone else is singing flat.

I love music and this doesn't affect my appreciation of it, I guess I'm forever going to be an observer rather than being actively involved within it. I recently took the online Tone Deafness test and came out at 63.9% which means I'm in the low normal range. I took it again because I wondered if I was distracted and the same result.

Any ideas folks?

Last edited by RhythmFlow : 06-09-2014 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 06-09-2014, 12:11 PM   #2
MaggaraMarine
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So if I played C and C#, you couldn't tell which of them sounded higher?

It's sometimes hard to tell which chord is higher because chords have many notes in them. Sometimes you play another voicing of A major chord and it sounds lower than F major chord.

You can still hear if somebody sings flat. So you actually can hear the difference between a C# and C.

It may be that the fact that you think you are tone deaf makes you more tone deaf. You just need to train your ears. Learn songs by ear.

You said you can figure out the key of the song. Some of your statements just don't make sense to me. You wouldn't be able to figure out the key if you didn't hear a difference between C and C#. You also couldn't be able to hear if the singer was singing flat. You are not tone deaf, you just think you are tone deaf which makes your "tone deafness" worse.

Everybody has a bad ear if they have never really used their ears. Many people just stare at the tab and play the frets the tab tells them to play. But they do not listen to the sounds. They just focus on playing the right notes. So if you have never really used your ears, it's pretty obvious that you don't have good ears. But you can always get better. Just because you can't sing now doesn't mean you can't learn to sing.

I don't like it when people blame natural talent when they can't do something. Nobody can do anything naturally. Yes, some people learn some things faster. But you can't learn anything if you don't try it first. A good ear isn't something you are born with. I bet some people do have better ears than others but everybody needs to train their ears. Some people have absolute pitch which just means really good pitch memory. But I think even they need to learn to recognize the pitches they hear (they need to learn the note names and they also need to connect the note name to the pitch).

There aren't just things that you can do instantly and things that you can never do. There are lots of things that at first are hard but you get better and better at them. For example learning to ride a bike or drive a car or learning to speak or swim. Learning to play an instrument or sing are also that kind of skills.

If you don't believe you can do something, you won't learn it well. Just believe in yourself. Your ear can be trained. Just start playing songs by ear. Learn the intervals (their sound). Learn to recognize chords. If you have never done it, you can't do it yet.
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Old 06-09-2014, 12:27 PM   #3
reverb66
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Sit down with a piano and hit two keys in succession. If you can't tell them apart, then you have a serious deficit for music and you should either take some sort of ear training course with a specialist or you may want to focus on drums or percussion if you're still interested in playing music.

I've known people who had no internal clock and couldn't keep time no matter what they tried, but I've never heard of someone who was actually tone deaf. You should get your ears evaluated by a specialist to confirm.
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:01 PM   #4
HotspurJr
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Take this test and get back to us with your results:

http://tonedeaftest.com/
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Old 06-09-2014, 02:54 PM   #5
RhythmFlow
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Quote:
Some of your statements just don't make sense to me. You wouldn't be able to figure out the key if you didn't hear a difference between C and C#. You also couldn't be able to hear if the singer was singing flat. You are not tone deaf, you just think you are tone deaf which makes your "tone deafness" worse.


Howdy! I totally get what you mean and I can appreciate how some of what I'm saying doesn't make sense to you as it also doesn't make sense to me. My guitar teacher spent the whole lesson with me trying to show me what chords are played in a song by having me slide my fingers along the 2 low strings until they were in pitch with the bass guitar on the track he was playing. This way he said I can find the chords for any song. I knew the song was in A (and I don't know how I am able to do this) and then I played the A chord but it didn't sound quite right so voiced Amin and that was the actual key but try as I might I couldn't find one chord that fit within the song. Not one.

I have spent 5 years 'playing' guitar and in all that time I have yet to discern what chords are played in any song I hear just by hearing it and I am not saying this because I have just started, haven't got the results I want and then am giving up. I have put in a minimum of 2 hours a day EVERY day during that time. My rhythm is fine, I can keep time just fine and in fact the drums are my natural instrument.

Yes I can tell when a singer is flat but I can't say if I would know they were singing C instead of C#. I know that keys far apart on a piano are no problem for me, I can tell which one is higher and which one is lower however keys next to each other sound exactly the same. When the black keys are played I can tell there is a clash immediately however again I am unable to discern if they sound higher or lower if they are right next to the white ones.

HotspurJr. I just took the test and I got 100% so I guess you are all right, I cannot be tone deaf. I did however take this test earlier:-

http://jakemandell.com/tonedeaf/

And I got a paltry 63.9% which told me I have low normal hearing where pitch is concerned. The notes on the test you linked to were quite different but where the notes on the test I took earlier are concerned, the fluctuations are less varied and that's where my ears fail me. Similar sounds confuse me, very different sounds don't hence why I claimed to be slightly tone deaf as opposed to being completely tone deaf. I still think there is a deficit as I have difficulty discerning notes close to one another in the scale or chords that are next to one another ie C and D or A and G.

Last edited by RhythmFlow : 06-09-2014 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 06-09-2014, 05:02 PM   #6
HotspurJr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhythmFlow


HotspurJr. I just took the test and I got 100% so I guess you are all right, I cannot be tone deaf. I did however take this test earlier:-

http://jakemandell.com/tonedeaf/

And I got a paltry 63.9% which told me I have low normal hearing where pitch is concerned. The notes on the test you linked to were quite different but where the notes on the test I took earlier are concerned, the fluctuations are less varied and that's where my ears fail me. Similar sounds confuse me, very different sounds don't hence why I claimed to be slightly tone deaf as opposed to being completely tone deaf. I still think there is a deficit as I have difficulty discerning notes close to one another in the scale or chords that are next to one another ie C and D or A and G.


The test you linked to isn't really a test of the ability to hear pitch. It's about the ability to remember a short melodic phrase. Now, a good ear will help you with that, but it's not the same thing at all.

It's normal for someone with not very well-developed ears to struggle to tell which of two notes is lower or higher.

I would recommend the following:
1) Forget chords for now. Just work on your ability to work with melodies.
2) Start by practicing transcribing a melody to a simple song. Use songs you know by heart. Nursery rhymes and christmas carols are a good place to start. This will be difficult at first, with lots of false starts, hunting and pecking, and that's okay.
3) Download and use the functional ear trainer, (a free download at miles.be). Makes a huge difference.

Do that for six months. If not every day, then at least 3-5 times a week. This is slow work, but you can do it.

See where that gets you.
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Old 06-09-2014, 05:26 PM   #7
Duaneclapdrix
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You need to learn how to sing. Can you match a pitch if it is given to you?
If someone played an E on the piano, could sing it? When I started I could not. I would flail around and find the fifth or some other consonant interval but I couldnt find the pitch. I practiced that for a week and had it. Then I started singing scales, arpeggios and melodies. Now I'm transcribing Charlie Parker solos. If you practice, you can fix you ear. Start singing scales using solfeggio. First with the guitar and without any instruments. Dedication and persistence have far more to do with success than natural ability.
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Old 06-10-2014, 12:26 PM   #8
MaggaraMarine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhythmFlow
Howdy! I totally get what you mean and I can appreciate how some of what I'm saying doesn't make sense to you as it also doesn't make sense to me. My guitar teacher spent the whole lesson with me trying to show me what chords are played in a song by having me slide my fingers along the 2 low strings until they were in pitch with the bass guitar on the track he was playing. This way he said I can find the chords for any song. I knew the song was in A (and I don't know how I am able to do this) and then I played the A chord but it didn't sound quite right so voiced Amin and that was the actual key but try as I might I couldn't find one chord that fit within the song. Not one.

I have spent 5 years 'playing' guitar and in all that time I have yet to discern what chords are played in any song I hear just by hearing it and I am not saying this because I have just started, haven't got the results I want and then am giving up. I have put in a minimum of 2 hours a day EVERY day during that time. My rhythm is fine, I can keep time just fine and in fact the drums are my natural instrument.

Yes I can tell when a singer is flat but I can't say if I would know they were singing C instead of C#. I know that keys far apart on a piano are no problem for me, I can tell which one is higher and which one is lower however keys next to each other sound exactly the same. When the black keys are played I can tell there is a clash immediately however again I am unable to discern if they sound higher or lower if they are right next to the white ones.

HotspurJr. I just took the test and I got 100% so I guess you are all right, I cannot be tone deaf. I did however take this test earlier:-

http://jakemandell.com/tonedeaf/

And I got a paltry 63.9% which told me I have low normal hearing where pitch is concerned. The notes on the test you linked to were quite different but where the notes on the test I took earlier are concerned, the fluctuations are less varied and that's where my ears fail me. Similar sounds confuse me, very different sounds don't hence why I claimed to be slightly tone deaf as opposed to being completely tone deaf. I still think there is a deficit as I have difficulty discerning notes close to one another in the scale or chords that are next to one another ie C and D or A and G.

If you can hear that C and C# sound different, you are not tone deaf. You just need a lot of ear training.

And yeah, really learn to sing - that will help your ears a lot. Play one note and try to sing it. If you can sing the melodies, it becomes a lot easier to figure them out. I have never had problems with singing in the right pitch. But I know some people do. Some people just figure it out faster than others.
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Old 06-27-2014, 05:55 AM   #9
RhythmFlow
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After much soul searching I have decided to give up playing guitar and enjoy the guitar from the perspective of the listener rather than as an active participant. I was sitting playing my cajon last night and for me itís effortless, I donít even need music as I can simply get into a rhythmic pattern and go off into a world of my own for as long as that lasts and get the satisfaction of playing along to songs Iím hearing which is why I wanted to play guitar to begin with.

The end for me came when I looked at the chart I have which gives all chords in each guitar key so rather than having to follow the bass-line to work out which chord is being played I could just ascertain the key and then discern what chords are in the song from the chart. This however proved impossible. Taking Bob Dylan songs as the reference point I found in most cases I couldnít even work out simple 3 chord songs, looking them up later I discovered the chords were easy like C, D and G but I couldnít place them at all. I got the correct key in 80% of cases but no matter what chord I played within that it sounded wrong and I even wondered whether my guitar was out of tune but no it was fine. I sat there for an hour on each song and got almost every chord completely wrong.

Music for me has to be fun otherwise there is no point in being involved in it. Playing guitar for me is too difficult, too stressful and thereís no genuine progress being made, I donít feel any joy anymore in playing guitar so thereís no point carrying on. Although percussion doesnít move me as much as guitar does, I do have a genuine affinity for playing it so thatís my gauge really and itís not like I canít in the future support a guitarist whereas if I keep with the guitar Iíll just end up hating it and by extension, hate myself.

I feel a genuine freedom in laying down my guitar and having now put up all my instruments for sale, they offer no pull to me. I gave it a good go but itís done and thatís fine. If I had thrown in the towel somewhere near the beginning I would most likely have felt differently but a minimum of 2 hours a day for 5 years to still not be able to differentiate keys that are close together ie A and B or D and E or chords played in simple songs, well enough is enough.

Thanks to everyone hear at Ultimate Guitar Forum. All the best dudes and dudettes - rock on!


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Old 06-27-2014, 06:28 AM   #10
MaggaraMarine
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Sorry to hear that. Yeah, if it's not fun anymore, I see no point in continuing. I guess a better teacher could have motivated you and could have improved your ear.

But yeah, playing the drums/percussion is also a lot of fun.
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Just rememeber that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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Old 06-27-2014, 10:57 AM   #11
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^ +1

And yeah drums are awesome fun too.
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Old 06-28-2014, 06:24 PM   #12
Sean0913
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Result: Not tone deaf!
Stage A: 12/12
Stage B: 12/12
Stage C: 12/12
Final score: 36/36 = 100%

Yay me! Good thing! I teach ths for a living - I'd be in trouble...

EDIT: Just saw Jake Mandells and took it. That's really a BS test, I don't think its anything more than a brain teaser. They ran a lot of things that I felt were questionable...for example, they ran the same phrase but bumped up the timing slightly, therefore you hear the same musical pitch, not the same "phrase". And then they'd run the primary line correctly, but one of the 5 almost 1 low "counterpoints" would vary by a semitone. Whatever.

Kettledrums and electronica music in interval leaps? OK

I caught it....but it's BS....96.4%

Best,

Sean
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Old 06-28-2014, 07:07 PM   #13
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That test is total BS. I can recognize all intervals at a good accuracy and transcribe some melodies in real time yet I only got 70% from that test. By the time I heard the second phrase I had already almost forgotten the first. So yeah, like HotSpur already said, it's a memory test.

EDIT: I didn't see the second link. That's definitely a better one. Got 100% from that. But does someone actually get less than 100%?
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Old 06-29-2014, 05:49 AM   #14
MaggaraMarine
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88.9% Yeah!

Some of them were hard to remember (they sounded so strange that you couldn't tell if just one note was changed). But some of them were obvious. Yeah, I would say it's more of a memory test. If the samples had actually sounded more like music, I think it would have been more useful (in measuring your "tone-deafness") - I mean, where are people going to use this kind of sounds? If you are not used to this kind of sounds, it may be hard to notice the difference. But yeah, some of them were really obvious.

And obviously, the test HotspurJr posted - 100%

Yeah, I don't get how somebody would get less than 100%, unless they got 0% from it. It is pretty much either 0% or 100% (unless you accidentally click the wrong button).
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Old 06-29-2014, 01:03 PM   #15
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Yeah I got 100% on the tone deaf one. I got in the low 80s (I did it weeks ago) first time I did the other one when I wasn't really taking it seriously (I had my volume down too low and thought it'd let me repeat them so didn't pay enough attention for the first few ) but I did it again and got ~89% IIRC. That second one was pretty darn hard. To be fair, it said that at the start. And yeah it did also say that if you did very poorly in it that it could be memory problems rather than tone deafness which were to blame.

Also just noticed the irony of my not remembering exactly the score I got.
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Old 06-29-2014, 05:00 PM   #16
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Are you sure you want to give up man? Why not take some singing lessons before giving up?

It may not be your fault, maybe your teacher is teaching you wrong. Have you considered taking lessons from someone else?

Some people just have a "worse" ear than others and need to train more to get it up to shape. The best way to do it without having to do boring exercises would be to take singing lessons and transcribe songs (transcribe easy melodies first, like Happy Birthday and such, chords can be confusing when you don't have a trained ear).

Tone deafness is something really rare, as far as I know, and I wouldn't say someone is tone deaf without seeing a doctor first (something I really recommend you to do).
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Old 06-30-2014, 10:17 AM   #17
MaggaraMarine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mp8andrade
Are you sure you want to give up man? Why not take some singing lessons before giving up?

It may not be your fault, maybe your teacher is teaching you wrong. Have you considered taking lessons from someone else?

Some people just have a "worse" ear than others and need to train more to get it up to shape. The best way to do it without having to do boring exercises would be to take singing lessons and transcribe songs (transcribe easy melodies first, like Happy Birthday and such, chords can be confusing when you don't have a trained ear).

Tone deafness is something really rare, as far as I know, and I wouldn't say someone is tone deaf without seeing a doctor first (something I really recommend you to do).

Well, TS said he doesn't really enjoy playing the guitar any more. Maybe he will get into it later in his life? But at the moment he doesn't like it and wants to try something else. I don't think you should try liking something you don't like.
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