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Thread: I'm terrible at singing

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    Look, my point is that everyone can do something to improve their ears up to a professional standard. No one can do much about the timbre of their voice. No one is tone deaf-beyond repair, its just a question of how much they want it and how much they work.
    well on that i disagree. i don't find that people can improve their ears to the point of a "professional" whatever that means. as for timbre as i said you can match your timbre with the right music. probably the singer for smashing pumpkins could never sing for any different style of music really, his voice would probably sound terrible, the singer for AC/DC as well. his voice isn't exactly pretty, but it works with the tunes, lots of famous singers have bad sounding voices but the way they use them and the context within which they use them makes them good.

    so for timbre i think you can work your way around whatever timbre you have so long as you focus on listening rather than doing.

    there are alot of things you can work on in order to achieve a desired result but none of that work can replace the raw talent.

    it's a different beast. a person that sees in black and white, might, using the right system, be able to mix colors according to recipes he's devised, and knowing by memory what colors things are, they may even be able to with enough work be able to paint so as you could never tell they only saw in shades of grey, but they could never master color as one who can see would, because they don't experience it as color.

    some people are tone deaf. that's life. not everybody is the same. not anyone can do anything, you can do alot, you can practice and improve alot, but listen if you're planning your life, and you'd like to be a successful singer/songwriter imo you need to have good ears. that and a good sense of rhythm.

    i am slightly colorblind and when i was young i wanted to be a pilot, but that's not possible if you are colorblind in any way at all. I can paint though, and mix colors and most would never be able to notice without knowing it first, but i could not be a pilot. that's life. different people are suited to different things. that's what makes human beings interesting.

    you can think anyone can sing if you want to, but i would never send anyone to be embarassed like those in the outtakes of american idol.

    talent is a thing. different humans perceive differently, some have perfect pitch, some have different ranges of hearing, some see different colors, some are smarter than others, some have an innate sense of rhythm, some have better balance than others, some can hear softer sounds than others. some are taller some are shorter. some more thin some more hefty, we are not all the same, and therefore we are not all capable of the same.

    but for recreation, i would suggest that anyone that desires it should learn music. but in reality you won't get rich if you need spend all your time just trying to be able to hear whether your in pitch or not.


    but no noone can do much about the timbre of their voice, although in a way, that's not true, because people can imitate voices and impersonate characters and stuff and you can do that while singing, you can sing to sound like axl rose if you want, but this i don't recommend and don't much like, i find you should find the natural timbre of your voice and sing with that. it's safer against injury too.

    toine deaf is not a lack of practice or lack of learned ability it is a physical difference on how one individual versus another perceives sound. what you are suggesting is that one works around the problem so that they may sing in key despite being tone deaf. I've yet to see this happen and i really don't think it can be possible but even if one could achieve that, then they would have trouble making flourishes and building harmonies anyways, which is pretty crucial for being a successful singer/song writer.


    Quote Originally Posted by Padawan
    I know from experience that there are singers who can hit the right notes but their voice is still absolutely horrible. Now that might be subjective but if you really think your singing is bad and you have such a hard time why don't you just look for a fantastic singer (preferably a good looking woman) and create a duo? I myself prefer to focus on my guitar playing and choose singers who have a great voice by nature and have trained it over years.
    ya, if you don't like the sound of your voice then this is a good way to go, but i still think that for really successful songwriting, having a good ear is necessary. except for writing lyrics. but if you're teamed up with a good singer then you might be ok.

    like if it weren't for john lennon and paul mccartney ringo would never have made it big. if you aspire to be in a band, then there is more leniency, more play there, if you aspire to be john lennon or paul mccartney, the whole brains of the operation, then the requirements imo are much more stringent. but then again if you want to be just a regular band member, then you're relying on luck a little more of being in the right place in the right time, like ringo finding john and paul, whereas if you're john and paul you can kind of make your own destiny a little more.
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 07-17-2009 at 08:23 PM.

  2. #17
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    I couldn't disagree more, but thats life! No hard feelings, eh?

    1.) There is no such thing as a bad sounding voice, just inapropriate or un-sellable.

    2.) There is no such things as "intrinsic tone deafness". Everyone you class as "tone deaf" can train their ear up to your or my standard, provided they put in the work.

    3.) Even having untrained ears (what you call being "tone deaf") doesn't seem to stop a lot of people from selling records (I am not happy about this one, but its true).
    Last edited by bluesking; 07-17-2009 at 09:00 PM.
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  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    I couldn't disagree more, but thats life! No hard feelings, eh?

    1.) There is no such thing as a bad sounding voice, just inapropriate or un-sellable.

    2.) There is no such things as "intrinsic tone deafness". Everyone you class as "tone deaf" can train their ear up to your or my standard, provided they put in the work.

    3.) Even having untrained ears (what you call being "tone deaf") doesn't seem to stop a lot of people from selling records (I am not happy about this one, but its true).
    how do you know i have a good ear? ;-)

    as for the bad sounding voice thing, i agree with you, and maybe i said something wrong because that was almost exactly the message i was trying to send, except one step further that they are not unsalable just unsalable as certain styles, and every kind of sounding voice can find its own niche of style of music that matches it.

    as for no such thing as intrinsic tone deaf, i don't see how that can be possible because some are not tone deaf with absolutely zero practice. mozart was picking out 3rds on his piano when he was a toddler.

    if you need to train then you are tone deaf and your training is extra work you are putting in to create the illusion you are not if you know what i mean.

    like with enough practice you might get good at seeming to have perfect pitch, and although you could get good enough to call out any note accurately that does not mean you have perfect pitch. it means you put in work that simulates perfect pitch perfectly to the outside observer and though your knowledge has change your perception remains the same, if you know what i mean.

    color does not exist in the absolute world. it is a creation of your mind, as is the sound tone relationships make. to some those relationships are unmistakeable and clearly defined without training, others are tone deaf, and others still require no training to recognize one note from another with needing a relative comparison.

    you amke a good point on your third one some can sell records even though they can't sing, but i've mostly only heard that with hip hop kind of tunes, although granted nowadays with studios they can fix anything and you only notice how bad they are if you see them live.

    but again i think this would be slightly more risky and is more a kind of who you know and not what you know scenario. and also i have a feeling that alot of those artists may not write their own material.
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 07-17-2009 at 11:17 PM.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    how do you know i have a good ear? ;-)
    I don't have a clue, I was trying to be polite! I am not criticising your skills after all, its just that I disagree with a couple of your points... Anyway, if you didn't have a good ear, I would think you would give up music altogether based on your stance. After all it seems you don't think that one can learn pitch recognition

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    as for no such thing as intrinsic tone deaf, i don't see how that can be possible because some are not tone deaf with absolutely zero practice. mozart was picking out 3rds on his piano when he was a toddler.

    if you need to train then you are tone deaf and your training is extra work you are putting in to create the illusion you are not if you know what i mean.
    OK, with that deffinition I suppose I understand what you are saying, but your deffinition seems a bit strange. I gather what you are saying is "Everyone who doesn't have the same natural talent for pitch recognition as Mozart is tone deaf". I think that is basically playing word games.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    like with enough practice you might get good at seeming to have perfect pitch, and although you could get good enough to call out any note accurately that does not mean you have perfect pitch. it means you put in work that simulates perfect pitch perfectly to the outside observer and though your knowledge has change your perception remains the same, if you know what i mean.
    I am not going to be drawn into more perfect pitch nonsense. Perfect pitch is irrelevant. Relative pitch is all that is necessary and all that most excellent musicians have. I'm sure you will disagree, but lets revive some topical posts for that discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    color does not exist in the absolute world. it is a creation of your mind, as is the sound tone relationships make. to some those relationships are unmistakeable and clearly defined without training, others are tone deaf, and others still require no training to recognize one note from another with needing a relative comparison.
    So the vast majority of people see colours yet you believe only a handfull of people (ala Mozart) are capable of hearing pitch? I think I was wrong to suggest that everyone can learn to hear pitch to a high standard. I would at least have to concede that those people who are physically deaf must be tone deaf as well, and sure there must be people with some physical problems (as a parallel to being colour blind). But these people are very rare. If you have that kind of problem with pitch I doubt you could play an instrument let alone sing. Obviously not the issue with the OP.
    Last edited by bluesking; 07-18-2009 at 12:18 AM.
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  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    I don't have a clue, I was trying to be polite! I am not criticising your skills after all, its just that I disagree with a couple of your points... Anyway, if you didn't have a good ear, I would think you would give up music altogether based on your stance. After all it seems you don't think that one can learn pitch recognition



    OK, with that deffinition I suppose I understand what you are saying, but your deffinition seems a bit strange. I gather what you are saying is "Everyone who doesn't have the same natural talent for pitch recognition as Mozart is tone deaf". I think that is basically playing word games.



    I am not going to be drawn into more perfect pitch nonsense. Perfect pitch is irrelevant. Relative pitch is all that is necessary and all that most excellent musicians have. I'm sure you will disagree, but lets revive some topical posts for that discussion.


    So the vast majority of people see colours yet you believe only a handfull of people (ala Mozart) are capable of hearing pitch? I think I was wrong to suggest that everyone can learn to hear pitch to a high standard. I would at least have to concede that those people who are physically deaf must be tone deaf as well, and sure there must be people with some physical problems (as a parallel to being colour blind). But these people are very rare. If you have that kind of problem with pitch I doubt you could play an instrument let alone sing. Obviously not the issue with the OP.

    no there are tone deaf : alot of people and there are non tone deaf : still lots of people of which mozart is one. but not being tone deaf does not make you mozart, just like having hands does not make you picasso.

    having perfect pitch and making a song is like painting a painting with some extra colors in it others can't see. it's kind of pointless. not enough people can experience it for it to be necessary. relative pitch is much more common, and clearly all i need to make music and enjoy music, except for enjoying a piece made by someone with perfect of which i am sure i'm not getting the full effect.

    inow i don't disagree.

    no not a handful. lots of people aren't tone deaf, but i do think that there are degrees of it. some are basically more picky than others in their level of detection. and that can basically be the only definition of tone deaf, unless you would be saying that some people hear sound in monotone, which there may be one or two in the world somewhere, idk, but barring that it must be possible to differentiate pitch, although how precise you are capable of can be different. some people you can play an instrument out of tune and they won't notice. they are perceiving differently than i am for sure, because since birth i would have noticed that. they are what is commonly referred to as tone deaf.

    not being tone deaf isn't rare, it is not reserved for geniuses of the likes of mozart. but tone deaf is something.

    right. i doubt you could play an instrument let alone sing.... but not quite.

    let's not forget that beethoven went completely deaf and still could compose and play piano. he remembered how things should sound.

    if you read music you can play music without hearing whatsoever.

    it stands to reason you could do the same with your voice, do it by feel, having a kind of perfect pitch in reverse.

    training can go a long way, but it can't un tone deaf you, only make your tone deafness matter less.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    no there are tone deaf : alot of people and there are non tone deaf : still lots of people of which mozart is one. but not being tone deaf does not make you mozart, just like having hands does not make you picasso.
    There is no such thing as "tone deaf" other than a tiny minority with rare hearing disorders. To be truly tone deaf, you would not be able to hear if one note was higher or lower than another - music would mean nothing to you other than random noise. (There are such people)
    Nobody with normal hearing can truly be described as tone deaf; simply untrained in relative pitch.

    There are lot of popular myths about Mozart. All his talent can be traced to early immersion in music by his father. Yes he was precocious, he was 8 before he actually wrote anything, and it was pretty basic stuff; nothing of merit until his late teens.
    There are prodigies around today who are probably as gifted as he was, at least technically. They all get it from hothouse teaching.

    There may be some genetic componect to "talent", but it's a small one if there is. A lot of it is down to personality - eg, an obsessive nature (which can also be learned young of course).
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    having perfect pitch and making a song is like painting a painting with some extra colors in it others can't see. it's kind of pointless. not enough people can experience it for it to be necessary.
    Absolutely agree.
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    no not a handful. lots of people aren't tone deaf, but i do think that there are degrees of it. some are basically more picky than others in their level of detection. and that can basically be the only definition of tone deaf, unless you would be saying that some people hear sound in monotone, which there may be one or two in the world somewhere, idk, but barring that it must be possible to differentiate pitch, although how precise you are capable of can be different. some people you can play an instrument out of tune and they won't notice. they are perceiving differently than i am for sure, because since birth i would have noticed that. they are what is commonly referred to as tone deaf.
    Right - but that means the term "tone deaf" is a bit pointless. It should mean you can't hear (or distinguish) "tones" at all.
    OK, there are degrees of ordinary deafness too! But the common sense of "tone deaf" is that someone is useless at music, has no hope. That is never true, apart from that tiny minority of physically afflicted ones.
    (See Oliver Sachs's Musicophilia.)
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    let's not forget that beethoven went completely deaf and still could compose and play piano. he remembered how things should sound.
    True. But he could also sense vibration, and use that. The UK percussionist Evelyn Glennie is profoundly deaf, but is a successful (and famous) concert performer. She senses via vibrations. (And yes she uses tuned percussion, not just untuned.)
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    training can go a long way, but it can't un tone deaf you, only make your tone deafness matter less.
    The tone deafness you're describing is not a physical state like ordinary deafness. It's not like short-sightedness.
    It's simply being untrained in recognising relative pitch.

    It is true (obviously) that it's much harder for some to learn to be musical than it is for others. But that can always be explained by background and upbringing - and maybe by attitude and personality. Eg, the older you start, the harder it is to become musical - you've learned too many habits. The younger you start - and the more musical influence from your immediate family - the easier and quicker you learn. (When kids start young, it never occurs to them that music might be "difficult". How could it be? By the time they face significant challenges, or become aware of difficulty, they've covered the essential groundwork.)

    But anyone can learn some degree of useful musicality at any age, even tho they may not go on to become successful professionals.
    Singing - true - is the hardest thing, because the voice is not as easy to control, pitch-wise, as a musical instrument. You have to be able hear your vocal pitches accurately, and also control your vocal cords (etc) accurately - a twin skill. But it's still possible for anyone to learn to pitch accurately, which is the first requirement of "singing".
    Of course, some have "good" voices and some don't. Some have acquired an attractive timbre over their life (maybe by smoking too much!). As we've said, while pitch always matters, in rock and pop timbre and personality matter more than classical qualities like power, rich tonal quality or vibrato. You can't learn (IMO) those qualities of timbre and personality - well, you can, but it will always appear fake, and that doesn't sell as well as authentic.

  7. #22
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    Due to lack of punctuation and coherency I don't think I can continue this anymore.

    Good points all around everyone, tata from me.
    Last edited by bluesking; 07-18-2009 at 11:27 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    There is no such thing as "tone deaf" other than a tiny minority with rare hearing disorders. To be truly tone deaf, you would not be able to hear if one note was higher or lower than another - music would mean nothing to you other than random noise. (There are such people)
    Nobody with normal hearing can truly be described as tone deaf; simply untrained in relative pitch.

    There are lot of popular myths about Mozart. All his talent can be traced to early immersion in music by his father. Yes he was precocious, he was 8 before he actually wrote anything, and it was pretty basic stuff; nothing of merit until his late teens.
    There are prodigies around today who are probably as gifted as he was, at least technically. They all get it from hothouse teaching.

    There may be some genetic componect to "talent", but it's a small one if there is. A lot of it is down to personality - eg, an obsessive nature (which can also be learned young of course).
    Absolutely agree.
    Right - but that means the term "tone deaf" is a bit pointless. It should mean you can't hear (or distinguish) "tones" at all.
    OK, there are degrees of ordinary deafness too! But the common sense of "tone deaf" is that someone is useless at music, has no hope. That is never true, apart from that tiny minority of physically afflicted ones.
    (See Oliver Sachs's Musicophilia.)
    True. But he could also sense vibration, and use that. The UK percussionist Evelyn Glennie is profoundly deaf, but is a successful (and famous) concert performer. She senses via vibrations. (And yes she uses tuned percussion, not just untuned.)
    The tone deafness you're describing is not a physical state like ordinary deafness. It's not like short-sightedness.
    It's simply being untrained in recognising relative pitch.

    It is true (obviously) that it's much harder for some to learn to be musical than it is for others. But that can always be explained by background and upbringing - and maybe by attitude and personality. Eg, the older you start, the harder it is to become musical - you've learned too many habits. The younger you start - and the more musical influence from your immediate family - the easier and quicker you learn. (When kids start young, it never occurs to them that music might be "difficult". How could it be? By the time they face significant challenges, or become aware of difficulty, they've covered the essential groundwork.)

    But anyone can learn some degree of useful musicality at any age, even tho they may not go on to become successful professionals.
    Singing - true - is the hardest thing, because the voice is not as easy to control, pitch-wise, as a musical instrument. You have to be able hear your vocal pitches accurately, and also control your vocal cords (etc) accurately - a twin skill. But it's still possible for anyone to learn to pitch accurately, which is the first requirement of "singing".
    Of course, some have "good" voices and some don't. Some have acquired an attractive timbre over their life (maybe by smoking too much!). As we've said, while pitch always matters, in rock and pop timbre and personality matter more than classical qualities like power, rich tonal quality or vibrato. You can't learn (IMO) those qualities of timbre and personality - well, you can, but it will always appear fake, and that doesn't sell as well as authentic.

    http://www.yourdictionary.com/tone-deaf

    you misunderstand the definition of tone deaf. you might want to disagree on the owrds used to build the name of the thing, but tone deaf is something, it means something, and not what you were explaining.


    no you're wrong. tone deafness is not a lack of training.

    the percussionist you'r etalking about didn't train to develop hearing, they treained to be able to play despite being deaf, using other senses and other techniques.

    this is what your tone deafness training is doing.

    it is a physical difference. i don't know why you don't see that.

    there is a difference between being able to easily recognize pitch relationships, clear as day, you don't need to be able to name them all, but hear them all. a difference with being able to tune a guitar right away without any more training than someone telling you which frets should sound like which strings.

    one who needs to train to do these things is tone deaf. one who does not, is not.

    it's a physical thing, not just a alack of training.

    saying different sounds ridiculous to me. that's like saying that you need to train in order to taste the flavour of orange or banana or something.


    sure they can all be explained..... those are red herrings. people always say stuff like that.

    human beings are different. they are not the same. genetically different. it is not just learning and upbringing and age you started at.

    these things do matter though but one's musical ability versus another is not always explained by events in their lives.

    not every person under the right conditions can be mozart. just like not everybody in the right conditions can be einstein.

    it's not all just training and how hard you work at stuff.

    some in order to play music need to count they don't feel rhythm. they can't tell when the next break is going to come.

    you could say "well then music isn't music to them it's just a big mess" well, i can't say how others experience music, and i often wonder that myself, but i know that which i've had to train for, that which i've been taught, and that which is just as easy effortless and clear as day as opening my eyes and seeing the world before me.

    but whatever. let's just drop it. i don't want to argue with you.

    I know you like to think that anybody can do anything and that any human being can be the greatest of musicians or anything else, and you can go right ahead, itr doesn't bother me. but the fact remains, you are mistaken.

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    ?? that was a little random, with some undercover spam in between for something compeltely unrelated.... weird.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    http://www.yourdictionary.com/tone-deaf

    you misunderstand the definition of tone deaf. you might want to disagree on the owrds used to build the name of the thing, but tone deaf is something, it means something, and not what you were explaining.
    OK, I take it back. I accept the qualification "accurately".

    But my point is anyone can learn to differentiate pitch more accurately. There is nothing in that definition that says this is a physical condition that can't be changed. (Maybe in a few people it is. In most it isn't, in my experience.)
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    no you're wrong. tone deafness is not a lack of training.
    In your opinion.
    I would agree that some people find improving their relative pitch harder than others. (Same as some people find learning any musical task harder than others.) This doesn't have to be down to any innate incapacity.
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    the percussionist you're talking about didn't train to develop hearing, they trained to be able to play despite being deaf, using other senses and other techniques.
    Sure, but - admittedly - that's a different issue.
    Actual deafness is a physical condition. Tone-deafness is not. (At least not in the sense in which you - and that dictionary define it.)
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    this is what your tone deafness training is doing.

    it is a physical difference. i don't know why you don't see that.
    Well I do - perhaps we're misunderstanding each other. I was (to begin with) defining "tone-deafness" as a physical condition, which is extremely rare and not (AFAIK) open to change or improvement; it's known as "amusia".
    But I accept the general definition of it as an inability to "accurately" identify pitch difference - which is clearly a much more widespread condition (from which most of us suffer, I'd guess).
    But in most cases (if not all) this condition can be improved with training. After all, in real life, nobody needs to accurately identify pitch difference - why would anyone learn to? unless they wanted to become a musician?
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    there is a difference between being able to easily recognize pitch relationships, clear as day, you don't need to be able to name them all, but hear them all. a difference with being able to tune a guitar right away without any more training than someone telling you which frets should sound like which strings.

    one who needs to train to do these things is tone deaf. one who does not, is not.
    Right. But we all need to train to do those things. No one is born being able to recognise those things "clear as day". (Or if they are, we all are; and most of us lose it in early childhood.)
    This is the same argument as the "born with perfect pitch" one. Just because some people appear to have musical "gifts" with no effort or training, while others struggle apparently hopelessly, leads to an assumption that the former are "born with it", and the latter (therefore) have no hope.
    However, all the research and evidence I'm aware of points to musical "talent" being inculcated in infancy and early childhood, by environmental factors. It often seems (from that reading) as if it is something latent in all of us, which atrophies if not "switched on" at the right time (infancy) or in the right way.
    Childhood is really a process of jettisoning capacities we don't need in everyday life, narrowing down the focus of our minds to concentrate on stuff we encounter all the time, improving how our brains deal with the everyday nitty gritty. In the case of pitch perception, this will be one of the first things to go for most of us. Who needs it? Only those who find themselves surrounded by music most of the time, to whom music is natural as any other kind of playing. Those are the kids who grow up with "natural" musical "gifts" - including perfect pitch in extreme cases.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    saying different sounds ridiculous to me. that's like saying that you need to train in order to taste the flavour of orange or banana or something.
    Everyone's ears are built to be able hear different pitches - to be able to distinguish high from low.
    I think a better metaphor would be short-sightedness. That's (normally)something physical (even tho some claim it can be trained out of). I wear glasses. No matter how hard I try, I can't focus clearly on distant objects with the naked eye. My eyes are just the wrong shape, or my lenses just won't squash or stretch enough, or whatever. Had it all my life, about the same extent.
    I'm guessing this is how you see tone-deafness? That it's a matter of aural "focus" that some can simply never achieve, due to some (relatively common) flaw in the physical ear structure?
    I can't argue with this hypothesis - it makes a logical sense. I simply don't believe it's the case!

    In my own case, I used to be a lot more tone-deaf than I am now. IOW, I have certainly improved my own pitch discrimination enormously - through being a musician - in a way I have never managed to improve my optical focussing.
    I'm not saying it was easy. I was around bottom of the class in music at school. Nobody would have marked me out as having any musical skill at all. (I could follow a score; I learned to read music; but my ear for pitch was possibly the worst in the class.)
    When I started learning guitar, I tried transcribing songs, and had no idea to begin with - I made fundamental mistakes in hearing notes and chords. But I trained myself and improved. I'm not brilliant at it now (over 40 years later!) - but I'm reasonably good.
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    human beings are different. they are not the same. genetically different. it is not just learning and upbringing and age you started at.

    these things do matter though but one's musical ability versus another is not always explained by events in their lives.

    not every person under the right conditions can be mozart. just like not everybody in the right conditions can be einstein.
    That's a matter of belief, through general observation and common sense. Not fact.

    I agree that's how things look. But the more you look - and read research into this kind of thing - the more the idea of "inborn talent" recedes into myth.
    (Not totally, it has to be said. Genetics isn't ruled out. But it has no clear direct influence, in the way if often seems to.)

    In terms of my own experience as a teacher (and I know this is merely anecdotal), I can say with confidence that all the kids I've taught who show "talent" have a family background of music. That's more easily explained (IMO) by influence, not inheritance. They get good quickly, because it's a natural activity for them, as natural as kicking a ball around is for other kids; not some strange, arcane new discipline.
    Yes, I've had a few students who take ages to "get it". It takes them a long time to improve (years in some cases, where others take merely weeks). But improve they do. These - btw - are always older students, adults who have never played anything before.
    The older you start, the harder it is - that's one fixed rule, in my experience. You could almost map it mathematically to the person's age; almost guarantee that the older a person is when they begin, the slower their progress will be.
    Of course, other factors play a part (talking of adult beginners for the moment): personal attitude, self-belief and commitment, naturally. Family and social circumstances (time available for practice). Friends or acquaintances who also play.

    I think my main angle here comes from irritation at the mistaken belief - encouraged by the myth of "talent" - that musical pursuits are only for the lucky gifted few. The "untalented" may as well not waste their time. Musicianship is no more (or less, I guess) the preserve of an elite than is sport. Anyone can get out in the park and hit a ball around. Nobody says "I'm not very good at this, I'd better give up now." Some - a few - will appear to be "gifted" and get very good very quickly. But that's almost entirely down to obsessive practice and training - which itself comes from love of the activity and reward at small achievements along the way. But even if we believe a minority are "talented" and destined to be pros, that doesn't dissuade the rest of us from having fun on an amateur level. Music should be the same.

    I don't believe that everyone is the same. Even if we are all born the same, different environments soon create big differences between us, different characters, different attitudes, etc. In one sense, musical talent may as well be inborn, as the effect is the same come teenage years. It makes little difference whether we argue about how a genius came to be a genius. What does matter is that nobody needs to be told they have no hope as a musician. "Tone-deafness" (inability to accurately perceive pitch difference) is not immutable.
    That's NOT to say that everyone can be told they can be a genius! If you haven't started playing by your mid-teens, you can probably forget that ambition. But you can still reach a perfectly respectable level and - more to the point - have fun doing it.
    Personally, I started at 16 and reached professional level. It took me a l-o-o-o-o-ng time... but (largely because I suffered from the talent myth) I always treated it as a hobby and always had fun. I was in my 50s before I regarded myself as "good enough". I'm not bitter by any means - as I say, I had fun, probably more than if I'd had to earn a living doing it. But if it hadn't been for luck - my schoolfriends' example (they were in band, and asked me to join even before I played anything) - I'd never have started, and missed out on the whole thing, because I would have believed I had no hope; that music "wasn't for me".

    (Sorry for the rant )

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    With regards to actual singing i think JonR really had a point when he said "You have to be able to hear your vocal pitches accurately and control your vocal chords".

    Maybe thats the problem with a lot of people who struggle to sing. The problem isnt so much with WHAT they hear it's controlling their vocal chords to accurately reproduce what they hear.

    I'll assume most of us have here have a 'normal' sense of pitch and, say, timing. But most of us probably own guitar tuners and metronomes. But we'd all know if something was of pitch or sped up or slowed down wouldn't we? So why would we need to practice with those. Yep, it's that 'practice' word again.

    In the first series of Gene Simmons Rock School the kid he chose to sing was the worst in the class. One of the worst i've heard for sure. He couldn't hit a note hardly and didn't even know when to come in on each line of the song. But by the end he'd improved enough to perform in the band. He may never be a great singer sure. And most people would have considered him a lost cause and 'tone deaf' from the start. But he did it. So i'd agree that anyone can significantly improve - with practice of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Timestorm
    In the first series of Gene Simmons Rock School the kid he chose to sing was the worst in the class. One of the worst i've heard for sure. He couldn't hit a note hardly and didn't even know when to come in on each line of the song. But by the end he'd improved enough to perform in the band. He may never be a great singer sure. And most people would have considered him a lost cause and 'tone deaf' from the start. But he did it. So i'd agree that anyone can significantly improve - with practice of course.
    That's an interesting example. It was a very surprising choice, and baffled the other kids (some of whom could sing pretty well). But Simmons knew it was attitude and image that mattered for a rock singer - at least for the project he was planning. That kid had that in spades, and the others didn't. The only downside was that the kid acquired a falsely inflated sense of his abilities... he did improve, but not as much as he thought he did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Timestorm
    With regards to actual singing i think JonR really had a point when he said "You have to be able to hear your vocal pitches accurately and control your vocal chords".

    Maybe thats the problem with a lot of people who struggle to sing. The problem isnt so much with WHAT they hear it's controlling their vocal chords to accurately reproduce what they hear.

    I'll assume most of us have here have a 'normal' sense of pitch and, say, timing. But most of us probably own guitar tuners and metronomes. But we'd all know if something was of pitch or sped up or slowed down wouldn't we? So why would we need to practice with those. Yep, it's that 'practice' word again.

    In the first series of Gene Simmons Rock School the kid he chose to sing was the worst in the class. One of the worst i've heard for sure. He couldn't hit a note hardly and didn't even know when to come in on each line of the song. But by the end he'd improved enough to perform in the band. He may never be a great singer sure. And most people would have considered him a lost cause and 'tone deaf' from the start. But he did it. So i'd agree that anyone can significantly improve - with practice of course.
    i'm sure this is often the case. but if it were the only case then there would not be terrible singers on american idol that think they can win the whole thing.

    so i still say that if you can't hit the right notes and yet know you can't and hear you can't, then your x hours away from being able to sign using whatever timbre you have which can be matched imo to at least some kind of music in existance and if not you could invent something new that matches and that could be even better.

    but if not, if your problem is your ears, your hearing, then i don't think you'll be able to practice your way out of it and become a successful career singer.


    as for the gene simmons kid, i'll admit there are some rare cases where artists can get by with bad signing either due to magic in the studio, or because it fits with the attitude of the genre.

    but it's much more risky, and you really need the right attitude, and imo you will be limited in your greatness, to little more than a short lived fad.

    but it's true the studio magic folk can have more longevity, but if you think like me that's more plausible still because you believe that a certain portion of the population can't tell the difference anyways.
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 07-20-2009 at 11:13 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    i'm sure this is often the case. but if it were the only case then there would not be terrible singers on american idol that think they can win the whole thing.
    That doesn't disprove the point. It simply shows that those people have never been told how bad they sound, or that they need to have lessons. (Maybe they've never sung in front of anyone before, only in their bedrooms.)
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    so i still say that if you can't hit the right notes and yet know you can't and hear you can't, then your x hours away from being able to sing using whatever timbre you have which can be matched imo to at least some kind of music in existance and if not you could invent something new that matches and that could be even better.

    but if not, if your problem is your ears, your hearing, then i don't think you'll be able to practice your way out of it and become a successful career singer.
    Yes, it is indeed a problem if you can't hear that you're out of tune. But still not an insurmountable one, IMO. (Tho I would like to see stories of singing trainers confronted with such people: are they all literally hopeless, or is there sometimes hope for some of them?)

    Speaking personally (again), as a teenager I had no idea how to pitch my voice at all. I had no idea what "singing in tune" might mean, never mind how to do it. Now (with only self-teaching) I can do it. I'll never be a great singer, but good enough to perform easy rock songs in public.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    That doesn't disprove the point. It simply shows that those people have never been told how bad they sound, or that they need to have lessons. (Maybe they've never sung in front of anyone before, only in their bedrooms.)
    Yes, it is indeed a problem if you can't hear that you're out of tune. But still not an insurmountable one, IMO. (Tho I would like to see stories of singing trainers confronted with such people: are they all literally hopeless, or is there sometimes hope for some of them?)


    ok, well, not being able to hear yourself and whether or not you are signing in key, sounds like tone deaf to me. you shouldn't need someone else to tell you, you're the musician, you're the one that should be able to tell.

    what do you mean some hope? we're talking about successful career signers here. if that's the case, then maybe you train to hold the right tune, but your perception was not change only your aim if you know what i mean. so your improvisation and stuff like will be lacking. you could maybe get by in a jimi hendrix kind of way although he was a great guitarist and certainly wasn't tone deaf, which imo is also a requirement of becoming a truly great guitarist.

    so maybe you could replicate some stuff, play for your friends, if you've trained to not go off key then play in your local pub or whatever, i like it when people learn music and i think they can all learn it to a certain extent, but some need to be more the play the music you read type, and others the improvise and write great songs type. and honestly i think i preferred it before there was the invention of musical recording devices that way all those that learned music were more revered than they are today because we are spoiled, and all the cash of entertainment that music provides to humanity is all channelled towards relatively few.

    Speaking personally (again), as a teenager I had no idea how to pitch my voice at all. I had no idea what "singing in tune" might mean, never mind how to do it. Now (with only self-teaching) I can do it. I'll never be a great singer, but good enough to perform easy rock songs in public.
    well if that's the case, then i hate to say it, but i think you're at least to some degree tone deaf.

    because for me, ever since birth when notes have certain relationships between them that's unmistakable for me. i've never had anybody tell me what's right or wrong, i just know, i feel it. it feels right or it feels wrong, or i guess sounds right or sounds wrong and on pitch sounds so good, and you can feel it like you've found the resonance frequency of something.

    like if you and someone else are holding a table cloth at 2 corners each, one flaps it fast and the other slow, it won't feel "right" but if you both go at exactly the same rate, then you'll feel that, being just a little off you will feel as friction, something working against you and throwing you off. whereas at the exact same rate it's more effortless like someone is helping you along.

    this is what it's like for me, idk if that's what it's like for you, but for me that's unmistakable and was something i could notice with the same training and ease as noticing the color blue, ever since my memory kicked in.
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 07-21-2009 at 05:17 PM.

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