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May 25, 2015 AT 11:00 am

What is Tone Deafness? #MusicMonday

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By Tom Scheve for How Stuff Works:

The tone-deaf also have perfect hearing when it comes to music. However, what they perceive when they hear music is the sound of a perfect mess. Some tone-deaf people describe listening to music as something akin to listening to pots and pans clanging about. While the rest of us may wince when a tone-deaf person grabs the microphone, the tone deaf can’t enjoy anyone else’s singing at all. In that sense, karaoke night for the tone deaf is marked by a perfect reproduction of what music sounds like to them.

So what’s going on?

Most people can’t name a note after they’ve heard it — you don’t hear someone sing and think, “Oh, that’s an E.” But if you heard another note, you’d be able to tell which note was higher and which was lower. Tone-deaf people, however, can’t differentiate between two different notes, unless perhaps they’re radically different.

Read more or listen to Stuff You Should Know‘s Tone Deafness episode.


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