Tone Deaf?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by JWC, Jan 28, 2001.

  1. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    I was wondering. I have been playing music for several years and have played in a handful of bands, both cover and original. My technique, composing skills, music theory knowledge, playing skills, and all that other good stuff has gotten 100 times better than when I started. But, I cannot play any better or worse by ear than I could many years ago? Why is this? I cannot tell one chord from the other on guitar without being told or getting lucky. I can't even tune my bass by ear either. Am I tone deaf? I really think so.
  2. Dragonlord

    Dragonlord Rocks Around The Glocks

    Aug 30, 2000
    Greece, Europe
    So,it's not only me!
  3. I know exactly what you mean, and my friends always say that musicians can play by ear, so I just kinda have to agree, but I dont mean it.
  4. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    I don't even pretend to play by ear. A guitarist starts playing and I look at him and say, "dude, just tell me what the f*ck you're playing".
  5. virtual.ray


    Oct 25, 2000
    Although some folks have an easier time of it than others at first,I believe it can be learned.After all,you get the meaning from the strange bursts of sound that come out of the mouths of the people who talk to you every day,right? IMHO the only difference in most cases is that process of language has been going on longer and more frequently than that of consciously trying to recognize musical notes.Just like the word "cat will always make sense to you no matter who says it,a Major Third always sounds like a Major Third no matter the context/instrument.
  6. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    I have beeen playing bass for more thant 10 years (as an amateur), with a bunch of guitarists, keyboardists etc ... I'm not that experienced but I don't consider myself as a beginner anymore and I still can't play or tune by ear, pick up quickly new tunes/compos etc ... I'm sorry about that.
    I also believe you can learn it ... well, a little bit ... but I'm convinced that we are not all equal in front of that. Some are naturally better than others.
    I may have fall in the wrong side of the edge ;)
    But I've encountered people who can ... and DAM' they can be a pin in the ... when they don't understand that you can't get/pick/learn things as fast as they do.
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    True confession: When I was in the third grade (1951), I tried out for a seat in the free county music training program. I longed to get this because I loved music so much that sometimes it just hurt. Well, lo and behold, the music teacher told me I was TONE DEAF and did not have talent for music. So, of course I did not get the seat and I was devastated.

    I never lost the love of music and listened to it every chance I got. When I got to junior high, (1955), I tried out for the choir and agian was turned down and again was stricken because I wanted that so badly. How I envied the kids that got to sing in the choir! But the condemnation of being "tone deaf" haunted me, though I often asked, how can I love music so much if I am tone deaf?

    Then when I was forty five I saw a music teacher on the Today Show who made the statement that no one who is not hearing impaired is tone deaf and there is no such thing as tone deafness. It was her belief that anyone can be trained to hear the sounds in music.

    Her words set me free. At least I was free of the onus of the label tone deaf. A few years later when I had the money and the time, I got up my courage, bought a bass guitar and started taking lessons.

    My point is...that "tone deaf" is such a negative label. I suspect it may have been invented by those gifted folks who have perfect pitch. You don't need to have perfect pitch to
    be a musician. But those blessed with perfect pitch may have little patience with others who take longer to "understand" what they hear. However, that has nothing to do with appreciation of music. One can appreciate music without being able to sing A (la) perfectly on command or any other note, either.

    There are ear training courses and books. Gary Willis has an excellent one for bass guitar. The key is to work at identifying intervals. Once you can do that with single notes, move on to triads, then seven chords, then inversions of those chords. Be prepared to work at it a long time. But your time table will not be the same as Joe's or Jean's or Jack's. Each person takes his own path.

    jason oldsted

  8. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    JasonOlsted : GREAT POST !
    That's exactly what I was trying to say ...
    Obviously, not having the "perfect pitch" certainly doesn't mean that you can't play music, neither compose original music. If it was, there won't be so many stars-wannabe on earth ;)
  9. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Ear Training!!!
    I've been told that I have perfect pitch, but I know what I have isn't perfect. I also know that at a very young age 12 or 13 I taught myself how to hear notes by playing along with records. Not just bass lines, vocal lines, sax, trumpet, etc. Start slow and keep at it. Also basic music theory helped to tie it all together. See if you can get in a music theory class at your area junior college. They should also offer ear training classes. You can also go to and try their ear training. Slow and steady wins the race.