In the many years that I've worked with individual clients who initially believed they were tone deaf there is usually a little bit of history to review in order to go back and trace the source. Chances are it was a music instructor, parent, friend or sibling somewhere during a young life who labeled one as tone deaf. Unfortunately, because vocalizing and singing is usually very personal, an unfair critique at a young age will do its work. What's most unfortunate in my opinion is a school setting where music instructors, who may or may not have good intentions, will in the process of assembling a choir, simply reject those people who aren't matching pitch. This is often done under the label of 'talented' or 'untalented' which are stigmas that attach quickly.
I'll bet you can do these --
Do you feel or have you ever been told that you're tone deaf? I'll bet that despite feeling this way you can probably do at least one of the following:
Recognize the voice of someone you know quickly on the phone (without caller ID)
Identify the difference between the sound of a car that has just pulled into the street/garage. Or maybe recognize the difference in sounds of different cars approaching on your street -- friends, family, mailman, etc.
Discern the difference between a fan, humidifier, or air conditioning unit, operating at a distance and low volume -- all of which can produce relatively similar sounds.
Imitate the sound of something -- object, nature, machine or person.
Name that tune! Usually within a few notes or seconds, even when the song you know is being played on a different instrument and/or in a different key.
All of the above examples, including detecting subtle differentiation, identification, mimicry, are actually highly sophisticated abilities. They require having the ability to mentally process complex sounds, which we're all wired to do very effectively, in many cases more effectively than the most powerful supercomputer.
No Try, Just Do
What I've found with most people who have the most difficulty with matching pitch are issues of confidence which I can help you assuage -- there are no mistakes!. But, more than that, those that struggle the most are often just trying too hard. When someone tries to match the pitch of a specific note, very often in trying too hard they will skip over the fundamental sound and most commonly sing the 5th, 3rd, 4th, or in some cases I've heard the 6th interval (in the western music scale). This is actually advanced listening -- someone is trying so hard that they're skipping over the obvious (fundamenal) and identifying a frequency that is in the overtone series somewhere within the sound. Or, what also may happen, is that in the presence of a note/pitch (in reality, there is no such thing as a 'pure' sound or more specifically tone) given an overwhelm of frequencies someone may just give up and go for an approximation of the sound.
There are other potential causes of perceived tone deafness.
- One potential cause could be a physiological issue of selective deafness. I have personally worked with clients with these issues and the work-around is often very simple.
- Another cause of a disconnect between registering and vocalizing pitch could be a matter of the brain "shutting out" certain frequencies. There are a number of causes for this which I can help you identify. The process for resolving this is also fairly simple.
It's easy to learn!
In private sessions I can show you very quickly how to match pitch. Then, once your confidence builds we could move onward to expanding range, within your vocal range and comfort, and you can begin to experience the joy of chanting, toning, or singing. I believe there is a joy, even a life-changing quality of learning how to match pitch. Being able to identify and match pitch is to become "in tune" on levels that extend beyond the obvious physical level.
For more information, please feel free to call or email with any questions. I also offer private sessions.
Also, I have worked with people who feel they may be arhythmic, or unable to match a beat or rhythm. Just like pitch matching, there are a number of possible culprits and a unique set of exercises and practices we can use to help get the skill set and the confidence back.
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