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Anyone ever have this particular type of tone deafness?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Norton72, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. Norton72

    Norton72 Tele-Afflicted

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    I've wanted to discuss this for years, but don't really know how to explain it. I've always had a problem understanding speech when background noise is present, and have become adept at reading lips. Although I've always passed hearing tests with no red flags, I think hearing tones through headphones is a bit different than discerning speech. But I noticed this other particular problem beginning about 25-30 years ago:

    Typically I'm in the car listening to the radio, usually when someone else is with me and the volume is rather low. I can hear the bass because (it seems) the low frequencies are easier for me to hear, the guitars I can kind of hear, and I'll be humming along with the bass line. But when the vocals come in, I realize that I've been hearing/humming the song in the wrong key. I could not tell you if I was a certain interval off, or what that interval may be, maybe a third.

    I've been in bands off and on through the years, mainly as a singer. My guitar skills are not on par with other musicians that would like me to sing in their bands, though I can hold my own on a keyboard. (So many people tell me, "If you can play piano/keyboard you can play anything, but that's a debate for another time.)

    The last band I was in, now defunct, I was a sometimes guitar player/full time singer. We had a July 4 gig with a brand new PA system that was leagues above our old system, and we were pretty excited. The drummer had recruited his neighbor to run sound, and he set up the PA. The board was set behind and to the left of the band -- weird yeah, but that did not have any bearing on what was to unfold. What did matter was that my onstage monitor was not the one I was accustomed to, but I didn't think anything about it at the time. We had a hired gun for bass, and he had rehearsed with us several times. He was a good fit and also sang backup very well. We did a soundcheck before show time and as far as we were all concerned, everything seemed fine. When the first set kicked off, immediately I knew something was wrong. All I could hear was bass, the guitar was right beside me, amp behind, no mix in my monitor and as usual, I couldn't hear the keyboard at all. (We were always on him to turn up.) No worries, I cut my teeth in bands with no monitor. In those days I just listened to the guitar, I could sing on key without having to hear myself to well. In this case I figured I would just key off the bass. But, as soon as I started singing, my voice blasted through my monitor drowning out everything else and although I could "feel" the bass rather than hear it, I knew I was off key. I tried moving closer to the guitar amp but I just couldn't pick it up. During a guitar solo I asked the keyboard player if he could hear that I was off key but he just stared blankly ahead.

    The entire first set was a disaster. No matter what I did I could not get with it. After that set was over we all went to the board to see what was going on. I don't recall how things were set up or if the band was even running through the board, but no one was happy, least of all me. At the last moment before the beginning of the second set, I discovered that my monitor had an attenuator on it, and it was set to 10. I turned it down to like 3, and although I could still not hear the rest of the band very well, at least I had a better point of reference than my own voice, and the rest of the gig went off well.

    So has anyone else ever experienced or heard of this happening? That is the only time I've ever had that happen playing live music, but it still plagues me when listening to music at low levels. I've never discussed this before and it feels better just getting off my chest and out to experienced and knowledgeable people.
     
  2. Red Square

    Red Square Friend of Leo's

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    You are not alone.
    I've experienced this on occasion with radio music at very low levels. Never in a live band setting though.
     
  3. unixfish

    unixfish Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I cannot pick voices out of a crowd. If we are at a show or somewhere with a lot of background noises, I cannot understand people talking to me. My wife always tells me "just ignore the background noise and just listen to me." I would if I could.

    I'm told most people can easily do this; this is just not an ability I have.

    I hear tone, not notes. I will be able to sing along to most songs I hear, but not really know what the words are - they are a "series of tones" coming out as words. For that reason, I often know all the words to a song, but not know what the song is about. To understand what the song is about, I have to read the words.

    If I do interval training, it has to be with a guitar / piano that I am familiar with. If someone plays intervals using a tone combo I am not familiar with, I am lost.

    I know exactly what you are describing.
     
  4. J-man

    J-man Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I am embarassingly bad at decyphering strong accents. I've had to ask people to repeat themselves multiple times, to the point where they sometimes think I'm taking the piss. :oops:

    Also, an actual form of tone deafness: I have real trouble finding notes with my voice, unless the vocal melody is exactly the same as what the instruments are playing. Or unless there are other vocals present to sing along with. It's weird because I have a pretty good ear for when something is out of tune and I can tune an entirely out of tune guitar to within very close to standard tuning with no reference whatsoever.. I can always hear that I'm singing out of tune, I just really struggle to make my voice get to the right note. It's not a range issue. (I can hit the notes just fine with a reference)
     
  5. tlimbert65

    tlimbert65 Tele-Afflicted

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    I've experience similar things (if I understand your post).

    I also have a heck of a time making out speech when there's background noise, or picking one speaker out of a crowd.

    I had one experience, particularly painful to remember, where I was playing with a band, and we're doing Suzy Q (Creedence version). It sounded like crap to me, for some reason, and I soon realized it was because the bass player was playing in the wrong key. I kept trying to get his attention, but he was not getting my signals. It got so bad, I couldn't stand to keep assaulting the audience, so I did the unforgivable and just stopped playing. The rest of the band followed suit, wondering what the problem was. I stepped back and asked the bass player what key he was playing in, and he confirmed the correct key. He's too good to have been mistaken about what key he was playing in. The rest of the band is looking at me like I'm Satan, and later told me they didn't hear anything wrong at all. Have always wondered what the deal was, there.
     
  6. Norton72

    Norton72 Tele-Afflicted

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    That's similar to what happened to me. I was hearing the bass in the wrong key, but he was playing correctly.
     
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