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Tone deaf child? (Y1)

(30 Posts)
curtaincall Wed 03-Aug-11 15:30:02

It was put a bit more diplomatically by his teacher at school but its true - he sings out of tune. Did some scales with him at w/e and if i sing a couple of notes slowly, he can copy quite well. If i sing 5 notes, the last 2 or 3 will be flat or sharp. DH does the same thing so is this inherited ? What is your experience of this? (I used to sing in choirs so (hopefully) its not 'in the land of the blind..' etc ).

I used to believe absolutely that any child can learn to sing in tune, but maybe this isn't true.

btw, he loves singing !

roisin Wed 03-Aug-11 15:53:30

Please, do not let him feel self conscious about it and don't let him realise you think there's a "problem".

Like you I absolutely believed that every child can sing.

ds1 was fairly musical as a toddler then suddenly - around the age of 4 or 5 just stopped being able to sing even vaguely in tune. "Happy Birthday" was barely recognisable shock

We didn't make a big deal of it, but didn't encourage him in the musical direction. ds2 had the piano and guitar lessons and ds1 accepted the label that he "just wasn't musical".

However, by the age of 10 or so, ds1 could sing beautifully. But he didn't have confidence in himself because of the way we had pigeonholed him.

[In the end it has had advantages, because it means ds2 gets to do things - like choir and choristers camp - that ds1 never did, rather than always following in his footsteps.]

DeWe Wed 03-Aug-11 15:57:02

In year 1 you can't possibly tell a child will be tone deaf. Dh has perfect pitch but couldn't sing in tune until he was 12 or 13. He said it drove him mad.
My brother and sister are tone deaf. My brother won't admit it and cannot carry a tune at all. My sister knows it, and can "learn" a tune with a lot of effort, but it sounds unnatural, a bit like a very early reader reading "ju-st.... l-ike.... th-i-s" if that makes any sense to you. They can both appreciate listening to music so they're not at the worst end of the tone deafness.

Out of my 3 dc, dd1 and ds sand in tune from about a year, you could tell which song they were singing by the tune. Dd1 (age 10) now has a lovely voice with a huge range for her age and often sings solos in concerts and stuff. Dd2 you could tell she was singing by that it was like speaking all on one note. grin. She's now (age 7) developing a lovely alto, which sounds as though it might be in the end a better voice, but she hasn't got the tuning totally licked, but it is definitely coming.

Elibean Wed 03-Aug-11 16:14:37

Agree with the others - please don't 'decide' he is tone deaf at this age! dd1 is now 7.5. She had trouble holding a tune in Y1, but has a lovely singing voice (when she isn't putting on an American accent/shouting/spoofing hmm) now.

Mumwithadragontattoo Wed 03-Aug-11 16:16:49

Just let him enjoy singing at that age. If you sing / play with him he will probably improve. The main thing is he enjoys music. It's not the end of the world if he's not a great singer; many aren't.

noteventhebestdrummer Wed 03-Aug-11 16:22:08

iI you can access a kodaly class for him that would be fun and enormously helpful - if you google Kodaly you will find lots of songs and games online as well, the great thing is that they start with a small range and with friendly intervals. So there are loads of songs that just use the soh-me pitches (like in 'rain, rain, go away' that by the sound of it he will have no problem copying. Then you can gradually expand the range.

teacherwith2kids Wed 03-Aug-11 17:32:21

Interesting one. DS could not sing in tune, and showed no sign of musical skills - but came back from school at the end of Year 2 saying that he wanted to learn the clarinet as there was some space with the peripatetic music teacher.

We went with it - and not only could he tell at once whether a note he played on the clarinet was right / wrong / sharp / flat (I know it doesn't vary much, but a loose pad or a soft uncontrolled air flow does vary the pitch a bit) and correct it, but also quite suddenly became able to 'tune his own voice' in the same way.

I came to the conculsion that there are two parts to 'singing in tune' - the 'hearing the in-tuneness' and the 'being able to produce a sound that is in tune using your voice'. DS could do the former but not the latter.

3 years on and he's really quite good at the clarinet, so I'm very glad that I never said 'you're not musical' to him.

pinkgirlythoughts Wed 03-Aug-11 19:06:34

As a completely tone deaf 25-year-old, I can honestly say that the only time it has ever held me back was in year 3, when I was the only child to audition for our school choir and not get a place shock. However, the teacher took pity on me when I re-auditioned the next year, so I did get in eventually!

EduStudent Wed 03-Aug-11 19:15:41

I am tone deaf, or perhaps just a terribly bad singer. It is astounding how awful I am. I even surprise myself when I decide to give it another shot.

Like pinkgirlythoughts I really can't say it has held me back. I even learnt clarinet for a while (not too unsuccessfully, either).

notcitrus Wed 03-Aug-11 19:39:39

My singing was atrocious - first child ever not to be allowed in school choir, etc.
Then in secondary school after being told never to sing in the whole-year concerts, my scary piano teacher decided she was going to give me a weekly singing lesson whether I liked it or not (and believe me, I didn't like! But my parents weren't going to turn down free lessons)

After two years I could sing in tune over a limited range if I concentrated hard. And we agreed to call it a day.
So I imagine any child would improve with a bit of practice - finding folk songs and stuff with a sensible range, rather than soaring pop, would help.

Was discussing this earlier as ds seems rather interested in music but has untalented parents - will try him on an instrument soon and take it from there.

curtaincall Wed 03-Aug-11 22:31:47

thank you for all replies. Its encouraging to hear stories of musical development over time but the one that struck a chord for me was DeWe's description of sister. My DH is just like that and about 85% in tune. Plus description of dd talking singing. Today he sang me a love song - "I love you, i don't just like you, i love you" over and over with lots of expression. ON ONE NOTE. It was dreadful and wonderful at the same time. grin

Through pregnancy and beyond I would sing to bump and baby, go to concerts - classical, rock, world music - and i thought it would all seep through. I took him to Monkey music and da Capo classes noteven However, I DO NOT and WOULD NEVER say anything negative in front of him and we do skat and and sing rounds and stuff together all the time.

He wants to learn keyboards and violin and drums. He's co-written a couple of songs which he's keen to perform to friends. I'm certainly not
writing him off musically and he's got damn good rhythm - so i really hope
he tunes in one day. As has been said though - its not everything and he's been given more than his fair share of gifts.

strictlovingmum Thu 04-Aug-11 11:32:16

Dear curtaincall no really such a thing as a "tone deaf", your son is very young still and his voice and tonality will change trough out his life.
As many said in previous posts children go trough various stages in their "singing", and as the child is growing and developing so is their voice box.
It will still be a while before his vocal range can be determined, and a real tonality of his singing.
As for learning to play an instrument, no problem there at all, in my piano teaching I had many children who could not sing beautifully, but could play, hence just because you can't sing(have no beautiful singing voice) it does not mean you deaf, or can't play.
And for all of you who were denied the opportunity to sing in choir on the basis of being "tone deaf", I would seriously question qualifications of choir teacher, "conductor".
Good singing teacher will be able to pitch right tonality to child's singing ability, some children struggle with high notes, and some with low, that is why it's important to find that perfect pitch for any voice,
boys: bass, tenor.
girls: alto 1 and 2
soprano 1 and 2 and so on.
Don't despair he will find his voice, it is often helpful to have the music, classical or any other in the home all the time, he will soon start to follow melody, and hopefully start to sing or whistle in the way he perceives it.

curtaincall Thu 04-Aug-11 15:32:40

thank you strictlovingmum I am now going to turn on some music. One of his favourite CDs is the Magic Flute so he must have a good ear !

ZZZenAgain Thu 04-Aug-11 15:36:25

don't know anything about singing but I could imagine he is not used to singing a note and hearing it and recognising whether he hit the right note or not.

It is just a new ball game for him. I would think about having him learn an instrument if he is interested - 3 years of "doing" music and I think it will all look completely different.

vvviola Thu 04-Aug-11 15:39:23

curtaincall as someone who was once considered tone deaf (my parents still talk about the 'concerts' I used to insist on giving) but who eventually found a half-decent voice and the ability to hold an alto line (solo on a few occasions) against a strong choir... the one thing I can recommend if you are concerned about it, is encouraging the learning of an instrument.

I improved dramatically once I started learning the violin (although, again, my parents have some lovely tales about the early years!). That in turn gave me the confidence to ask to join the local children's church choir - where I was well-placed between some very strong singers. The violin playing helped with the singing, and the singing helped with the violin playing.

Unfortunately, I've no real talent - but I was a solid member of the viola section of our youth orchestra for years, and I can hold a decent tune (and not make a total fool of myself when a session gets started and the Irish girl is asked to sing a tune grin)

ZZZenAgain Thu 04-Aug-11 15:39:32

btw my dd (who is 10 going on 11) and not keen on singing particularly (3 years of a great choir but she chose to quit, was never her thing really) had a trial singing lesson just before the holidays to see if individual lessons would be more her. Boy that was strange. Teacher was a little old granny. She had her throw her voice out the window (!) shouting hello over and over at the top of her voice. Then she told her to close her "arse". I am not a prude but I was taken aback by that and so forth, did a bit on the piano. Are lessons normally like that? Really I imagine singing lessons being completely different. I told dd I thought we wouldn't bother with it and she said "thank goodness you said that mum".


ZZZenAgain Thu 04-Aug-11 15:41:26

oh boy I hate those sessions when someone slams out a fantastic song in Russian or Spanish or whatever (they can all sing IME) and then they turn on you and say, oh sing us an English song Zen.

Nightmare. I so wanted my own dd to be more capable of this but she shows zero interest!

noteventhebestdrummer Thu 04-Aug-11 15:51:54

erm no, no singing lesson I have ever heard or taught was like that!!

ZZZenAgain Thu 04-Aug-11 16:23:55

what usually happens in a singing lesson? (sorry op...)

DeWe Thu 04-Aug-11 18:32:04

Dd1 singing lessons she sings mostly musical theatre and traditional songs. She does thing like sight singing, singing with/without accompanyment, duets, harmonies. They talk about things like where to breathe, projecting her voice etc. and then she has performances and does grades. She loves them.

An interesting one is my dh has a friend who teaches someone music who actually sees the notes as different colours. Apparently this isn't common, but does happen to a few people. Don't know how it works though.

ZZZenAgain Thu 04-Aug-11 18:34:48

I see thanks. That sounds more like what I had expected but this shouting hello over and over again to the tree tops went on too long for my taste. She said my dd has a voice, meaning I suppose a certain volume or something, so I presume that is what she was probing about to ifnd out? I found that "arse" thing unnecessarily coarse with a dc really. Other than that she was nice, like a bright eyed little perky bird.

noteventhebestdrummer Thu 04-Aug-11 19:41:34

Every child has a voice!

I always do some warm ups at the start of a lesson, small ranges first, work on vowel sounds, breathing, clear diction with consonant work, bigger ranges. Then songs to suit the kid - some classical, some folk, some modern, some solo, some work on small choir pieces that they all do. We talk about context, meaning, communication, expression and how to manage all that!

I would have CP down my neck at school if I told them to close their arse! It IS unnecessarily rude I think for kids. I might say it to a teenager I, I wouldn't!

ZZZenAgain Thu 04-Aug-11 21:25:46

but not scales? I have so many questions about singing and how you avoid getting one of those stagey voices, how you keep a natural voice, etc. Anyone know what I mean?

I'd better start another thread.

curtaincall Thu 04-Aug-11 21:41:55

Oh God ! Stagey voices ! Especially young girls with microphones eeuch

And no, I don't think you prudish zen about teacher's arse comment. Cringemaking and inappropriate IMO.

noteventhebestdrummer Thu 04-Aug-11 22:18:08

NO scales, whatever would be the point? They don't need scales for songs or for exams!
And no, not in my lessons, no stagey voices, they make me cringe. And they damage young voices and make adjudicators and examiners shudder, in my experience. The ABRSM online forum (, click on forums and see viva voice in particular) will give you lots of advice and a friendly place to ask for info!

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