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If you're tone deaf at 6 will you always be tone deaf?

(38 Posts)
quail Thu 04-Oct-12 18:36:21

My 3 year old sings perfectly in tune, and as far as I can remember always has. My just-turned-six year old occasionally hits the note but mostly doesn't, and can't repeat a sequence of even two notes that I sing to her. It doesn't MATTER, of course, but is she going to be the one the music teacher tells to mime? Has anyone had a tone-deaf 6 year old grow into being able to tell notes apart?

bigTillyMint Thu 04-Oct-12 18:38:39

Well DS was dreadful at following/remembering a tune (and the words - he was quite pitiful really - just like his fatehr though!)when he was small, but with lots of singing at school, and learning an instrument (only to grade 1, but still...) is a lot better now at 11.

thewhistler Thu 04-Oct-12 19:01:04

I think I have read that only something like 0.5 per cent of the hearing population is actually tone deaf and you can train everyone else. Does she talk with no inflection? If she does, she may well be time deaf, but not otherwise.

For some children 6 to 8 is about the time that it comes in anyway. Though I have to say that in my family the later developers have a less precise intonation than the early ones.

It is a question of getting the person first to listen and then when singing getting the breathing right.

Does your 6 year old know any rounds? London's burning? Row row row your boat? After a few goes with you, sing them together then in rounds. Does wonders. Long car journeys too, children can't fight and sing, unless they are choristers. Hideous for the tuneful adult for the first times but prob worth the pain. Don't let her learn a woodland or brass instrument. It doesn't help (RL experience here).

bigTillyMint Thu 04-Oct-12 19:03:14

But, but, but, DS learned a brass instrument and his tunefulnes improved quite a bit. Maybe just coincidence?

piratecat Thu 04-Oct-12 19:05:55

dd is ten and was tone deaf till 6 ish, but can now sing in tune, moreso since about age 8, i thought she would stay tone deaf.

but she can't pick out a tune on the keyboard, she doesn't know whether the next note should be higher or lower iyswim, like her dad. I have always been able to sing in tune and improvise on guitar, keyboard.

there is deffo hope for him to have a better singing voice.!

thewhistler Thu 04-Oct-12 19:32:30

Just that brass and wood not so easy to get right as piano, and not so precise as strings. Their habit of changing with the temperature makes it much harder. But any instrument will help.

Some people have a poor memory for tunes.

ZuleikaD Thu 04-Oct-12 19:40:26

Genuine tone-deafness is extremely rare - what's more usual is that people simply can't sing.

DeWe Thu 04-Oct-12 19:47:52

No. Dd1 and ds sand in tune by about 15 months.
Dd2 didn't. She started a little bit of tune by about 5yo, and now at 8yo is very tuneful and showing signs of a very nice alto.

Although dd1 does a lot of singing including a fair amount of solo work, I wouldn't like to guess who out of her and dd2 will have the better voice by secondary age.

Dd2 started the trumpet last year.

Dh, who has perfect pitch (as I supect dd1 and ds have) couldn't sing in tune until he was about 13.

Iburntthecakes Thu 04-Oct-12 19:53:20

Don't worry - I couldn't sing in tune at 6 33 and my mother was convinced I wouldn't be musical but my grandmother who was a music teacher warned her not to write me off. By the time I'd left school I was playing in the local regional schools orchestra and had passed grade 8 on my main instrument and grade 6 on my second.

I still can't sing in tune but having talked to DP who is a professional musician I realise it's mostly about sound production rather than my ear if you see what I mean. I can hear in tune but it comes out wobbily as I've never been really had singing lessons. I'm now learning the violin which you really do need to be able to hear in tune and I don't have any problems with the tuning.

quail Thu 04-Oct-12 20:01:49

These posts are very encouraging! Hurray! Yes, she has a very inflection-y voice like little kids have, so I guess she is hearing tones, then. I'd just seen all those 3 year olds singing Adele on youtube and thought that was it, she'd passed the age. Thank you very much! (Not that it matters!)

thewhistler Fri 05-Oct-12 14:26:02

Perfect pitch is a pain unless you are a professional or saint. It makes school concerts and amateur performances unbearable.

But for the singing, get a couple of lessons for her to learn to breathe and pitch her voice.

No, it's not important like being good or whatever, but it does do a lot for the esteem, or rather it's the reverse, being told to mime singing with the other kids is humiliating. And singing is great hence the success of The Choir.

Tiggles Fri 05-Oct-12 15:06:16

DS1 has perfect pitch but he couldn't sing in tune until he was 8 or 9. As a baby he used to cry if people near him sang out of tune!

thewhistler Fri 05-Oct-12 17:33:24

Ds started singing beautifully in tune until he went to his childminder who is profoundly deaf. His intonation and pitch became awful. It has taken years to get it back and he still changes key mid tune. But it is better now. You can just about get there. But playing brass has not done what strings did for me.

YokoUhOh Fri 05-Oct-12 17:50:49

I've got perfect pitch and it's always been a good party trick but an annoyance at the same time. I used to get teased for singing perfectly in tune (!) and everyone I did A-level music with resented the fact I could do aural dictation on first listen. I think singing out of tune is partly linked to poor breath control rather than poor pitch perception, so breathing exercises could help...?

thewhistler Fri 05-Oct-12 20:21:24

Yoko, agree breathing essential but the ear needs to be trained too.

How do you put up with school concerts?

YokoUhOh Fri 05-Oct-12 21:16:38

Tbh whistler, I've become immune to poor intonation over the years although I've been known to shoot across a room to turn a peg or two... It used to annoy me more in pop music e.g. Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack, where the sample is out of tune with Shara Nelson's vocal. And I'm a huge reggae fan/collector, but part of the charm of those records is their slight wonkiness.

thewhistler Sat 06-Oct-12 08:27:09

Somehow intentional slight wonkiness is fine, or eg Arab music with many more sliding notes.

But listening to old recordings of early 20th century opera singers in eg Buenos Aires, or school performances, oh God. I have to focus my mind a long long way away. And I don't even have perfect pitch, just what I would call decent pitch ie I can sing an A and keep in tune.

thewhistler Sat 06-Oct-12 08:29:22

And yes, I got teased too, and for being able to pick up an apparently difficult passage. Aren't kids stupid.

AngelaMerkel Sat 06-Oct-12 13:38:43

Well...I would say she will be like me...completely tone deaf. One of my children takes after me (lucky her) my other younger children seem to have a tune, most of the prople in my family are musical and can sing well, and they agree with my assessment.

AngelaMerkel Sat 06-Oct-12 13:39:53

...I was THE ONE the music teacher told to mime, and to be honest it isn't somehting to be flippant about.

thewhistler Sat 06-Oct-12 14:05:28

Angela, sorry you were that person and yes I know several. And know how miserable it was and how it has continued

but some of them have since joined choirs and discovered that with practice they can sing. Unless they speak in a monotone. Even a deaf friend. So there could be hope yet. There is a London choir set up for the growlers.

totallynaive Sat 06-Oct-12 14:24:19

I'm asthmatic and I'm sure that's the main reason I was hopeless at singing for most of my school career. I was lucky to have a music teacher who plonked my forehead on the piano when I was 14 and made me sing a scale up to top A - to show me I could hit the high notes if I focused and breathed properly. It took me years of singing to Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgerald to become the diva I am now. But, seriously, I can actually sing in tune because my asthma is a lot better. In fact, when I'd just had my baby and my lungs were super-big (didn't last) I sang amazingly well. I'm sure that in time your child will learn. It's about breathing, practice, confidence and having an interest in making the sound right, which will come. In the meantime, play her lots of songs she likes to sing along to, if you can bear to hear her joining in.

YokoUhOh Sat 06-Oct-12 21:17:22

The only tone-deaf person I know is also arrhythmic and slightly dyslexic/possibly dyspraxic. If I see a child move well, or clap rhythms accurately, I'll generally consider them musical, even if their singing's a bit growly.

MelangeATrois Sat 13-Oct-12 23:29:59

My cousin is a professional pianist, has CD's out, is on Radio 3 etc but he can't sing in tune at all.

lljkk Sun 14-Oct-12 20:42:07

I bet tone-deafness is a spectrum, & I'm about 98% on it. I have a simply appalling sense of rhythm, too (or so I've been told, quite bluntly). No dys-anything else, though, well, a lack of sense of smell, I guess. Wish teachers had let me mime!! Much better than giving other kids extra excuses for ridicule.

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