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Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2838562
04/12/19 10:31 PM
04/12/19 10:31 PM
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The term used by the English neurosurgeon Dr. Oliver Sacks who worked in NY is "Amusia". Being tone-death has nothing to do with having a learning disability. It describes people who cannot distinguish between different sounds. To them, the sound of different notes & chords is just noise.

1 thing I was good at in high school was having a good ear. Back then I could only pick up an instrument to an intermediate level because of lack of practice. Otherwise my music teacher in high school would play just about any chord on a piano. As long as I can figure out the first note, the rest just fall into place. Back then I was playing violin. Even if my playing wasn't perfect, I could always rely on music theory tests to help me pass the music course. I tend to memorize music since my school days so getting the finger sequences in my head would help me get through a piece even without hearing the actual notes.

Even today if I hear a piece often enough I can pick out the Key Signature like Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5 is in D and I can relate that piece to the Orchestral Suites #3 & 4 which are also in D and so are movements from the Handel Royal Fireworks Suite.

A lot of people including myself don't have Perfect Pitch but have some sense of Relative Pitch. If you definitely feels your student is almost tone-death and may affect her future progress, the last resort is to talk to the parents to see a medical specialist like a neurosurgeon. For now she probably needs to do ear training exercises like you get another family member who is good in music to play notes at random on the piano / keyboard and get her to name them. Do this a few times a day and hopefully you can train her ears sufficiently enough to pick out a C when it is played.

When you play 2 of the same notes an octave apart like a D+D, can she tell they sounded in unison? If not, she may need to see a medical specialist.

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Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2838564
04/12/19 10:58 PM
04/12/19 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The term used by the English neurosurgeon Dr. Oliver Sacks who worked in NY is "Amusia". Being tone-death has nothing to do with having a learning disability. It describes people who cannot distinguish between different sounds. To them, the sound of different notes & chords is just noise.

Yes, I linked to articles on cognitive amusia, above.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2838574
04/13/19 12:36 AM
04/13/19 12:36 AM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416


A lot of people including myself don't have Perfect Pitch but have some sense of Relative Pitch. If you definitely feels your student is almost tone-death and may affect her future progress, the last resort is to talk to the parents to see a medical specialist like a neurosurgeon. For now she probably needs to do ear training exercises like you get another family member who is good in music to play notes at random on the piano / keyboard and get her to name them. Do this a few times a day and hopefully you can train her ears sufficiently enough to pick out a C when it is played.


You probably know this but in case anyone is unaware: The term ear training is quite misleading. There's little to do to train ears, they either work or not. Sometimes cleaning the ears or treating for infection may help, but there's surprisingly little doctors can do to actually cure the ear when it is damaged.

It is the brain that does the actual work in tasks like this. And that's where it gets complicated. It's no easy task to find out what's working and what's not. It's a mixture of comprehension (of what one hears), understanding (what it means) and remembering (to compare and analyze) and any of those can deficient. There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies. The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: outo] #2838577
04/13/19 12:50 AM
04/13/19 12:50 AM
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Originally Posted by outo
There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies.

That may have been true at one time with respect to cognitive amusia, but the papers I linked above show easier ways to detect cognitive amusia today.

Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2838630
04/13/19 06:54 AM
04/13/19 06:54 AM
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Boynton Beach, FL
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies.

That may have been true at one time with respect to cognitive amusia, but the papers I linked above show easier ways to detect cognitive amusia today.

Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.

I think true amusia ("Tone-deafness") is much rarer than the case of just not being able to match pitch as I spoke about. I have never encountered amusia in my teaching. It has always been a case of not having learned at an early age to match pitch, and with each student I was able to get them to match pitch. The more they stuck with it, the better they became. Or, perhaps these all had amusia, and this is the solution to that.

I've just not encountered someone that whatever they had couldn't be fixed. Not saying there aren't people like that out there, but I do think we should not condemn those that can't do this automatically by giving it a name that sounds like a disease and making it sound like there's no hope. With effort and the proper instruction, it can be permanently resolved. wink


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Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2838638
04/13/19 07:48 AM
04/13/19 07:48 AM
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It is much more likely that if a transfer student received poor instruction before coming to the present teacher, that the cause and solution lies here, and not some obscure thing that scientific papers gets written about.

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2838708
04/13/19 12:16 PM
04/13/19 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies.

That may have been true at one time with respect to cognitive amusia, but the papers I linked above show easier ways to detect cognitive amusia today.

I would not call amusia a slight anomaly, I was referring to problems associated with learning deficiences in case there's no amusia present. And while testing for amusia may be something the researchers can fairly easily do, these test are not commonly available to teachers, parents or sult students.


Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.

Depends on the population I guess smile


Last edited by outo; 04/13/19 12:22 PM.
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: keystring] #2838710
04/13/19 12:27 PM
04/13/19 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I think true amusia ("Tone-deafness") is much rarer than the case of just not being able to match pitch as I spoke about. I have never encountered amusia in my teaching. It has always been a case of not having learned at an early age to match pitch, and with each student I was able to get them to match pitch. The more they stuck with it, the better they became. Or, perhaps these all had amusia, and this is the solution to that.

And this may be. I can't say I've ever knowingly encountered a person with amusia.

Originally Posted by keystring
...and not some obscure thing that scientific papers gets written about.

This is not so rare if 4-5% of the population has it, and therefore being dismissive of it is unwarranted:
Quote
In an attempt to quantify this disorder and to measure its prevalence, Kalmus and Fry administered a test that required the detection of anomalous pitches inserted in popular melodies to more than 600 participants in the UK. Approximately 4% of these subjects performed as poorly as 20 self-declared amusic individuals. Since then, a similar estimate (5%), based on the low tail of the normal score distribution has been obtained in the USA with a similar test (Drayna, pers. commun.). While these estimates are based upon performance on a single measure of musical ability, which may have poor validity, they are interesting for two reasons. First, they are consistent with the prevalence of other domain-specific disabilities, such as SLI (7%). Second, the estimates have been obtained with a test that has been recently shown to tap a genetically transmitted ability. The anomalous pitch detection test has been completed by 136 identical (monozygotic) twins and 148 fraternal (dizygotic) twins. Genetic model-fitting indicates that the influence of shared genes is more important than shared environ- ments, with a heritability of 70 – 80%. This suggests that the 4 to 5% of the general population that is amusic may suffer from a genetically determined defect in perceiving pitch structure in music.

On the other hand, I do not work in this area so I am not trying to stand behind these numbers - I only "know what I read" in this case. Just saying that if the cognitive amusia research is correct, this may be obscure, but not rare, which makes it indeed relevant to this discussion. There are certainly many disorders which we talk about that are rarer than 4-5%.

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.
Depends on the population I guess smile

The populations for the research cited above is UK and US. See quote above. The paper this quote comes from is also linked above. Again, I'm not standing behind this research or the numbers. Not my area of expertise. I'm just citing it.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2838712
04/13/19 12:33 PM
04/13/19 12:33 PM
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In the present circumstance, I think it is the wrong tack.

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: keystring] #2838720
04/13/19 01:14 PM
04/13/19 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
In the present circumstance, I think it is the wrong tack.

Well, three thoughts.

First, cognitive amusia is either "a real thing" or it "isn't a real thing." Neither I, nor probably most of those in this thread, would be able to say one way or the other if it is a formal disorder, not being researchers. Really out of the scope of this thread on whether it's real or not.

Second, if it does exist, perhaps as morodiene pointed out, there are solutions to it. It's a relatively new thing so just because researchers haven't found a solution doesn't mean that solutions don't exist, and it is perfectly plausible that a simple solution as morodiene suggested would address the issue.

Third, the issue of cognitive amusia though is absolutely relevant to this discussion as the OP has a case where a student has problems discerning the difference between two pitches - whether one is higher or lower than the other. This is actually practically a definition of amusia. If amusia is not relevant to this student example (not saying the student has amusia, just pointing out "relevance to the conversation" here), then amusia is really not relevant to anything, in my book.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2838806
04/13/19 05:27 PM
04/13/19 05:27 PM
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If you find certain people amusing, then it could be said that they...amusia (amuse-ya).

But seriously, why would this ability to hear, match, sing, relate to, discriminate or otherwise "get" pitch not be normally distributed across the population, with some people really good at it, some people really bad at it, and most people falling somewhere in the middle under the big part of the bell curve?


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Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: malkin] #2838829
04/13/19 06:12 PM
04/13/19 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by malkin
If you find certain people amusing, then it could be said that they...amusia (amuse-ya).

But seriously, why would this ability to hear, match, sing, relate to, discriminate or otherwise "get" pitch not be normally distributed across the population, with some people really good at it, some people really bad at it, and most people falling somewhere in the middle under the big part of the bell curve?

No idea... Because it's a disorder, perhaps? But fully speculating (without basis wink ) here, I suppose it could be a spectrum disorder where different people are on different parts of the spectrum? But even so, I guess there would still be people "on the spectrum" and people "not on the spectrum" like most spectrum disorders.

Anyways, without speculating wildly, the only thing I know about this (or think I know about this) are in the papers I've linked. It's possible that the researchers don't know a lot more than that either!


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2838840
04/13/19 07:17 PM
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Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."


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Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: malkin] #2838855
04/13/19 07:56 PM
04/13/19 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by malkin
Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."

Well then, you know more about this than I do!


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: malkin] #2838914
04/14/19 01:06 AM
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Originally Posted by malkin
Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."


This is true and it even applies to being blind or deaf. You may have a little ability left or none at all. "Normal" is sometimes easier to define, but it is usually never exact.

In this case however we do not know whether the person in question actually has amusia as defined in the research or not. Let me make an analogy: The reason a person does not understand your speech may be that he is deaf, but it could also be that he does not know your language, your sentences are too elaborate and complicated or while you speak a familiar language the content is just too difficult (trying to explain string theory to a layman for example). And there's also the possibility that he is simply not motivated to listen wink

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: outo] #2838915
04/14/19 01:27 AM
04/14/19 01:27 AM
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Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by malkin
Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."


This is true and it even applies to being blind or deaf. You may have a little ability left or none at all. "Normal" is sometimes easier to define, but it is usually never exact.

In this case however we do not know whether the person in question actually has amusia as defined in the research or not. Let me make an analogy: The reason a person does not understand your speech may be that he is deaf, but it could also be that he does not know your language, your sentences are too elaborate and complicated or while you speak a familiar language the content is just too difficult (trying to explain string theory to a layman for example). And there's also the possibility that he is simply not motivated to listen wink

All great points. As I said, I brought this up because it is clearly relevant to the conversation - "That person doesn't understand my speech. Could he be deaf?" But not to say that this is necessarily what is happening with the OP's student. It was just to say that according to certain researchers, this behavior the OP describes is also possessed by certain people that fall into a certain category to which the OP's student may or may not belong to.

Also as I said above, the research into that latter "certain category" is pretty new, so I personally don't take the remarks that it is impossible to train people in that category in something, as definitive. It may be the researchers just didn't try the method that would work, as was suggested above. After all, it was long thought that absolute pitch was not trainable either after a certain age, yet there are a few studies that have shown even this is trainable.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2838999
04/14/19 08:47 AM
04/14/19 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...as the OP has a case where a student has problems discerning the difference between two pitches - whether one is higher or lower than the other.

I have time to do more than a one-liner this time (sorry about that). I've gone back over the thread and have a list of what we know sitting there. In regard to the two pitches: That is a thing that the student can do. That is, when she is asked, with words if notes go up and down, or if two notes are different, she can do that. I have stressed "with words", because a person may have an ability, but not be able to show it per verbal command.

The picture:
Her first lessons were with another teacher, apparently poorish, and had consisted of imitation. We can assume that nothing was named or identified. I may write about this in a separate post. This in itself may muddy the waters for her. She now wants to do a test, and all this plays out in the context of preparing for a test, which throws together a bunch of concepts and terminology in a short time. This is pretty destructive to learning, and the OP isn't happy about it. If you bumped your shin, I won't suspect a rare blood disorder to be causing the bruise on the shin, even if blood disorders can cause bruises.

The problems themselves all have to do with named concepts: named chord qualities, named intervals - because these exams go after named things. Since she "argues semantics" she may have a problem in the naming area. Meanwhile, looking at the things listed.

* hearing a C major triad as being different from an E major triad

Depending on what you're listening for, they ARE different. The chord qualities are the same - they are both major. But the pitches are different. In fact, because of what influenced trained my first music-hearing, I have had to work hard to hear a G7 as being different than a C7 or Eb7 etc. because all I heard were quality and function. I heard from one angle, and not the other. She's got this in reverse; the part I was missing.

We're in the area of quality here, i.e. major vs. minor etc. This is a thing one learns to hear, and an angle for hearing things. There is also the "semantic" part - the name for the thing. There are two problems here.

* when asked how far apart an interval is, hearing m3 as far apart, and M7 as close together.

Intellectually I know that an C and the B above it are far apart. I can picture the spacing of two piano keys: I can I it as notation, and my mind can go. C,D,E,F,G,A,B and "see" all those notes in between. But in what I actually hear, I've often mistaken an m2 for an M7 because they both have that grating edgy vibrating quality.

Again, we're into concepts plus names, and a bunch of things that suddenly have to be crammed together because of an ill-advised wish to do an exam due to social pressure. Add to this the fact that the student doesn't study much at home, and I wager that even if she tried, she wouldn't know how to tackle it.

This is why I wrote that I felt other things were much more pertinent. I just didn't have the time to write out all of this. However, several piano teachers with experience teaching piano were also going in directions that made sense to me.

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2839028
04/14/19 10:10 AM
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Expanding more from the angle of personal experience. My exposure to music was without training, except for the brief stint with movable Do solfege in a primary grade, which the teacher probably decided on her own to do. I came into music without having names of anything, or concepts of anything, a bit like Helen Keller living in a world of her own without names until her teacher gave her language. This girl, if the version of Suzuki she got was of a lesser kind, seems to have had her own version of that.

There are things that I heard readily, in the framework of what I was exposed to, and things that I had to work to learn to hear. For those things that I had always heard, studying theory was a breeze because it was just a matter of attaching names to old friends. The book of sonatinas I was given as a child (mostly Clementi) goes hand in hand with movable Do solfege. The I IV V I "hears itself" readily as Do Fa So Do. When it modulates to the Dominant key or relative major, there's a bit of "twiddle-twiddle in the transition" and suddenly G "stops calling itself So" and "starts calling itself Do" ... you're in, in a heartbeat. That was my world.

I've had to overcome blind spots to my hearing, and am still doing so. I can hear V7-I readily. C7-F; G7-C; B7-Eb .. instant. But if you play various V7-I chords in a row, I would not catch that they were different chords ... they were all the same; the opposite problem of the OP. I had to learn to hear C as C as a pitch: G as G as another pitch; then I could hear that C7-F, then G7-C, were not the same thing being played twice. This wasn't amusia. This was trained associations.

Chord qualities: major and minor I could hear. But if I heard a diminished chord or a dim7 played as a block chord, I might call it a minor chord, because my hear honed on on one of the m3's, and was probably "unpacking" the chord as though sung melodically. Learning to hear an harmonic interval or chord, was a different hearing skill than the one I had. The dim7 now has an "edginess", a unique personality that it alone carries, which I can hear. But there was a time that I could.

Also, there was a time when I could differentiate between things .... hear a difference .... but not to the point of recognition and naming.

I could go on.

Hearing; and then naming; and also concepts; are learned skills.

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: malkin] #2839056
04/14/19 11:02 AM
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Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,774
Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted by malkin
If you find certain people amusing, then it could be said that they...amusia (amuse-ya).

But seriously, why would this ability to hear, match, sing, relate to, discriminate or otherwise "get" pitch not be normally distributed across the population, with some people really good at it, some people really bad at it, and most people falling somewhere in the middle under the big part of the bell curve?

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that were are all born with an instrument inside of us - the human voice (unless you cannot speak). This means that not only is speaking, but singing as well is a part of the natural human behavior. I believe all cultures that we know of have some form of singing.

In order to sing, one must first internalize a note - they must "sing" it in their head before trying to make the sound, so that their vocal cords can go to the appropriate pitch. Many of us learn to do this around age 3 or so, when the larynx starts to be able to control pitch and has a wider pitch range. Children who sing with others during these formative years of learning to speak as well learn to internalize the pitch without even realizing it. However, if a child is not sung to as a baby and doesn't have others to sing with when they are capable, then that ability lies dormant.

With work, that ability can become easy. The older the student, the longer it will take, but I've worked with a 7 year old who could do i in a matter of a month, and a 40 year old who it took roughly a year, although the first 6 months were more difficult, and over the remaining year or so it became more accurate. It's a process, and so the desire has to be there to overcome it.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf [Re: AZNpiano] #2839124
04/14/19 02:23 PM
04/14/19 02:23 PM
Joined: Sep 2017
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Toronto, Canada
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Joined: Sep 2017
Posts: 607
Toronto, Canada
Rather "amused" just reading the discussion posts.

A number of years ago, a family member was scheduled to go to a Gr. 1 violin exam. The piece was "Minuet in G" from the Anna M Notebook. Back then the Internet wasn't around so she had to rely on listening to the teacher play and correct her mistakes during the lesson. The week before the exam, she made a few audio recordings to hear her mistakes. The exam came and she barely passed. After a few years of violin lessons she quit. Coming from a non-musical family nobody we know mastered an instrument to a high level. Every time you ask her about her music playing abilities she would say the whole family is "tone deaf".

A lot of people I know don't come from musical families. Their parents or grandparents never picked up an instrument. If you practice the right way like being focused on your mistakes instead of playing from the beginning to the end of a piece most of the time with the same issues, your problems have nothing to do with being tone deaf.

There are a few people in the family who passed their piano exams and they don't have good ears. They learned to play by reading notes. In my younger days before I got into piano playing, I was able to recall the melody of various TV theme songs and reproduce the notes on a piano. Back in 1977 a popular tune "Feel So Good" by Chuck Mangione on flugelhorn was on radio for weeks. I could reproduce the tune easily on a piano although lacking any piano training. Having a good ear is 1 thing but it would be another few decades before I got into playing piano. I don't know if having a good ear is the prerequisite for learning to play an instrument as long as someone is a good reader. I can play some version of "Happy B-day" on piano but nobody in the family who took piano lessons can reproduce some version of the melody on piano. If you put the sheet music in front of them, they can probably play.

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