A Bad Ear – And What to Do About It

Amusia is the technical term for tone deafness. Don’t worry… you probably don’t have it, no matter what you sound like.

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Singer and microphoneI’ve just been finishing up the draft to a new book for a British publishing company (Jawbone Press), and that has been the cause of a few days lately where I haven’t had an opportunity to write a blog article. I’ve sent the draft off, and now will start the probably lengthy process of editing and preparing it for publication. It’s a book about writer’s block, and I will keep you up to date with info about its publication date.

In one of the sections of the book I make reference to people who find it difficult to sing in tune, and I thought you might find it interesting to see an article about amusia, the technical name for tone deafness. Don’t worry, you do not have amusia, as it refers to people who cannot discern one musical pitch from another, and that’s probably not you. The fact that you might find singing in tune to be a challenge is more than likely due to some technical difficulties relating to using the muscles that control your voice.

People with amusia are rare – only 1 in 20 suffer from it. And mostly drummers (just kidding!) In all seriousness, if you find it difficult to sing in tune, there are some things you can do right away to help fix that:

  1. Confirm the problem by listening to a recording of your singing. It’s hard to hear what you really sound like as a singer because you hear it from an odd perspective. A recording will confirm if you have a tuning problem.
  2. Record yourself singing in unison to a recording. Research shows that singing to a recording of a good singer helps improve your overall sense of pitch.
  3. Practice singing to a piano’s pitch. As you’re getting ready to sing your song at a gig, do a fair bit of singing as you play the melody on the piano.
  4. Always do vocal warm-ups before you practice singing your songs.
  5. There is a technique to singing in a pop or rock style, and you should get the advice of experienced singers in the music business. Take lessons.

You can prove to yourself that you don’t have amusia by having someone play two different pitches, one quickly following the other. You should be able to say if the second note was higher or lower. If you miss one or two, that’s not an indication of a problem. But if you miss half or more, that may indicate something amiss. In any case, the fact that you have an interest in music and songwriting should set your mind at ease. Research indicates that amusic individuals show little interest in music at all.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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