Someone asked me this week if I had any suggestions for training people who are considered "tone deaf". First we need to agree on a definition of what "tone deaf" is. I like this one from Webster's Dictionary-
"...relatively insensitive to differences in musical pitch."Other names for chronic pitch problems are: "being pitchy", "not being able to sing in tune", and "not able to carry a tune in a bucket". These are varying degrees of "tone deafness", with different sets of limitations.
- A session singer who is consistently 1/4 step sharp or flat can be considered too tone deaf to hire.
- A singer who can sing very well in tune in one key but can't find the melody if you change the key has a greater degree of tone deafness, and is prone to embarrassing themselves by singing a song in a completely different key than the band is playing. I've heard major stars do this. Really.
- A beginning singer whose pitch-matching ability is akin to "pin the tail on the donkey" is considered someone who can't sing in tune. Or in short... who can't sing, period.
As a vocal coach I have successfully trained people who were "tone deaf"- even with some hearing loss and breathing limitations - to sing in tune! Unless there is true organic (physical) damage to the ear which eliminates the ability to process sound signals, anyone can learn to sing. Being tone deaf is what I would call a "lack of aural education". Somehow you missed a natural training of your hearing abilities to distinguish differences in pitch.
The question is-- are you are willing to dig in and do some consistent target practice? Simply play a note on a keyboard, guitar, or listen to a note sung by someone else, and try to match it. At first you will need to have someone present (a vocal coach would be great) to tell you if you are right. If you are wrong tell they need to be able to tell you you that you are too high (sharp) or too low (flat) so you know which way you need to go. Then move up to target practice with patterns of several notes in a row, then notes in strange intervals, etc. Practice daily if possible because the more you practice, the faster you will improve your ability to hear and "sing in tune" or "on pitch".
You also need to be able to apply good breath support and control, to keep your throat open and flexible, to know how to listen well to pitch in music tracks, and to eliminate subtle sources of inappropriate tension, in order to sing the most accurately.
For more help, here are some articles I've written on pitch problems:
Pitch Problems In The Recording Studio - 7 Solutions
Do You Have Pitch Problems As A Singer? 10 Solutions
For information on my vocal training classes and products, comment or reply to this post or contact me through my website.
Anyone else have experience with tone deafness? What helped? What didn't?