Over the years I’ve had lots of enquires from people who think they may be tone deaf but they’d love to learn to sing better. It is my believe that anyone who is genuinely tone deaf, (someone who has amusia), won’t be enquiring about singing lessons. Being tone deaf means you can’t appreciate music, so you won’t be wanting to learn to sing better. If you want to sing then chances are you’re not tone deaf, you’re just out of the habit of letting your voice express what your brain/ear wants to express. For an official definition of amusia CLICK HERE.
If you wonder how good you are at pitching then this test is a great place to start…
Do the Tone Deaf Test Online CLICK HERE
Then let me know how you did.
The singer who first inspired me to teach “newbie”singers
Liz was one of the first singers I worked with and she was the first singer who couldn’t match me for a single note when she started her lessons with me. I didn’t know about amusia, I just knew she really wanted to learn and that I really wanted to help her. By the time she stopped her lessons, because she moved cities, she had passed her Grade 3 in Music Theatre. That is one of my proudest achievement as a singing teacher.
I loved working with Liz. Her dedication and patience inspired me and is the reason that I love teaching singing lessons for beginners.
Struggling to pitch – tone deaf?
When Liz came to me I had been teaching for a couple of years. I had taught a few people who struggled to pitch but many of them were not self aware enough to know that they struggled to pitch. When they realised how much they were struggling that they were struggling, they stopped lessons. But Liz was different. She knew she had a challenge but she was totally up for taking on that challenge. Liz was in it for the long haul, she trusted the process and she trusted me.
Liz loved musicals and went to New York at least once a year to see shows. She knew so much about musicals. Liz had, (has), a prestigious job and singing was one of those, “frontiers to conquer” type things for her.
How we started out
For a while things moved really slowly. We did a lot of pitch matching. I learned very quickly that matching her voice to my keyboard was no use. So we matched our voices.
Rattle or Ring
We played a game called hunt the ring and avoid the rattle. This was my development from lock and ring which I learned about from Liz Garnet, a barbershop expert, (and definitely a different Liz).
I was taught by Liz Garnett when I was a member of Magenta Close Harmony and she was really inspirational. This is a photo of us singing at Birmingham Library and the only one I can find that I’m in!
Lock and ring is when all of the voices connect and you get so much more than just the note you are all singing. You get all sorts of amazing extra sounds, called harmonics. It’s like there are extra voices in the sound. When the voices all lock together you get an extra “ring.”
When the notes are very close but not quite in tune with each other then you get a rattle. It’s why some of us can hear a jarring sound and it can feel unpleasant. When I have my choir sing a note that clashes I like to call it dirty notes and encourage them to embrace the rattle. You can hear it and many of us can feel it in our bodies.
Having Liz Garnett’s direction really had a massive impact on how I conduct my choirs, and provided a lot of useful tools for teaching singing to beginners.
Back to teaching people who think that they are tone deaf
When working with my newbie singer Liz initially I joined her notes and she experienced the ring, and sometimes the rattle.
Then she joined me on the notes. I often found that pointing up and down helped her to find the note.
Patience and dedication meant that Liz smashed her goals. Her positivity really helped. For the first few months she wasn’t able to practice on her own as she didn’t trust her ears. Then she began to trust her ears and was able to self correct. Then the need to self correct became less.
By 2 years time Liz took her Grade 3 music theatre exam and passed. Bloody amazing.
I believe that everyone who loves music can sing and we just forget how to connect what we hear and what comes out of our mouths. Our inner critic tells us to be quiet and that we can’t do it so we get it our own way and block the process.
Other people who worry that they are tone deaf
Yes, I have a bee in my bonnet about this. I’ve blogged about a similar idea before.
Every one of these techniques I use with my newbie singers who are still understanding their voices.
I describe this journey because whilst Liz was the first person who told me that she was tone deaf when she started lessons with me. I have heard it so many times.
Your choir teacher at school told you to mime.
Your sibling was the singer and you’re not as good.
You were good at sports not music (I was the other way around).
You’re a quiet person and so you’re not used to being loud or letting people hear you.
I work with lots of singers who are starting out and who struggle to pitch.
I love to teach you if you think you can’t sing.
I love teaching beginners who struggle to pitch.
Everyone deserves to experience the joy of singing.