There are reasons why your buddy can sing like a bird and you yowl like a cat. But it’s probably not because you’re clinically tone deaf. It's possible that bad hearing might be the cause, but poor control of the vocal system is a more likely factor. In other words, you might hear the desired note, you’re just not able to hit it. A third factor may be an inability to imitate sounds -- you know what sound you want to reproduce, but can’t make the connection. A fourth reason may be that bad singers have a bad memory -- they hear a song but by the time they try to sing it, they have forgotten the notes. A 2008 study of perceptual tone deafness, or amusia, by neuroscientists Peter Q. Pfordresher and Steven Brown made these determinations after testing 79 college students on their ability to discriminate between musical notes and their ability to sing accurately.
Make a note of this:
- What bad singers seem to lack is the coordination between music perception and music production, the researchers said. They're like the batter who can see a pitch and swing a bat, but still strikes out.
- Congenital amusia, a music-processing defect present from birth, occurs in about 4 percent of the population.
- On the flip side, some people are born musical. Even before they are able to talk, some infants exhibit musical abilities and a sensitivity to musical scales and tempo.