I think I am tonedeaf... Can I do anything against it?

Peterquelle

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Hi, Ive been playing for quite a few years now. Learned everything from Youtube, tabs and chordsheets. I know my basic scales, I can hear when I am playing the wrong key, and I can figure out simple chord progressions by ear.
But I just cant figure out melodies on my own. I have a really hard time finding the first note. Hell I cant even tell if I am to high or to low, or even in which direction a melody is going. Can that stuff be trained, or am I damned to play everything by tabs/notation forever?
 

bricksnbeatles

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By definition you’re not tone deaf by your own description, so you’re in luck— you can learn to identify these things.

It’s really just a simple matter of practicing your aural skills. It’s a learned skill, so you just need to keep at it until you start to get it, and then when you’ve got the hang of it… well, you should still keep practicing no matter how good you get.

It’s all a matter of intervals. Practice identifying both harmonic (two notes at once) and melodic (sequential) intervals, both ascending and descending. As far as picking out the starting note goes, a unison is an interval too, and you just need to practice identifying unisons just like any other interval so you can pick out the note.

If a melody starts on a G, you can hum a unison of that note to keep it “locked in” while the song is paused or whatever, and then play a note— let’s say you go for a B: what you want to eventually learn is to recognize the sound that the B note that’s playing is a major third above the note (or a minor 6th below) that you locked in as the starting note of the melody, and from there you can recognize that the note must be a G.
 

Papanate

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Can that stuff be trained, or am I damned to play everything by tabs/notation forever?
If you are prepared to do the work - you can absolutely get ear trained - but it will take more than 20 hours a week to learn - and you will have to play with people and different styles to get you there. It's a matter of repetition and hearing the same phrases over and over till they become ingrained.
 

oldunc

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I've struggled some with the same thing due to an almost complete inability to remember music. I have no trouble hearing accurately- I can find the scale of a new piece pretty much instantaneously- but I can't remember a tune for more than a few seconds. I'm actually a lot better at telling what's coming next than what just happened. I practice at it some, by trying to sing back snatches of music from TV shows I'm watching etc., and it helps some, but I'm pretty much out of it as far as copying other peoples' stuff. Fortunately, I mostly like to improvise and am not that interested in copying.
 

nojazzhere

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Hi, Ive been playing for quite a few years now. Learned everything from Youtube, tabs and chordsheets. I know my basic scales, I can hear when I am playing the wrong key, and I can figure out simple chord progressions by ear.
But I just cant figure out melodies on my own. I have a really hard time finding the first note. Hell I cant even tell if I am to high or to low, or even in which direction a melody is going. Can that stuff be trained, or am I damned to play everything by tabs/notation forever?
The simplest test for "tone deafness" is.....can you match pitches? Meaning, if I give you a pitch, can you sing the same pitch back to me? Or, if a melody is played for you, can you follow along? Actual tone deafness means you cannot distinguish one pitch from another. My father was truly tone deaf....as a child I was embarrassed to sit next to him in church when singing hymns......he was literally all over the place. I never knew if he realized it or not, but I suspect he did. If, as you say, you can figure out chord progressions, and hear if you're in the wrong key, you just need more practice. For some people (like me, fortunately) it's a gift......for others, you just have to work a little harder. I truly believe everyone can improve, regardless of their starting point. Good luck! ;)
 

SixStringSlinger

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As has been made clear, you're not tone-deaf. The whole melody thing can simply be hard to get at first. In my experience the ability to pick out melodies by ear came pretty late into my guitar playing, and it's still not the best (I typically start with random major/minor pentatonic noodling till I'm reasonable sure I have the key and go from there).

In some ways being able to tell chords (which you can) is harder and more impressive, since you're identifying clusters of notes rather than a single note, but melodies tend to go from note to note much faster than progressions do chord-to-chord, and your average song will also have more notes than chords.

Aside from being patient (and keep learning stuff via TAB, you'll start to notice patterns by eye that will eventually begin to translate to ear), if you're able to pick out the chords you can go from there to finding what chord tones (literally just notes in the chord) are in the melody. Not everything will be a chord tone, but you might be able to make out a more simplified version of the melody that way, and from there "fill in the blanks". This is another way to figure out melodies that will also get your ears better at doing it themselves.
 

thunderbyrd

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Hi, Ive been playing for quite a few years now. Learned everything from Youtube, tabs and chordsheets. I know my basic scales, I can hear when I am playing the wrong key, and I can figure out simple chord progressions by ear.
But I just cant figure out melodies on my own. I have a really hard time finding the first note. Hell I cant even tell if I am to high or to low, or even in which direction a melody is going. Can that stuff be trained, or am I damned to play everything by tabs/notation forever?

if you can figure out chord progressions, you aren't tone deaf. i have a difficult time figuring out melodies much like what you have described. and i have always known that what i need to do is spend some time everyday working out melodies by ear. it is HARD but it is the only way there is to move ahead.

so for awhile, i would begin my guitar-playing day by getting out a church hymnal and finding a song that we sang in church when i was a kid. and i would spend an hour working out the melody. i wasn't reading the music, i don't read, the hymnal just reminded me of songs i wouldn't normally think about. i would work at it until i could put any three or four notes together right, then from there i could find the rest of it.


it's hard, but it's what you need to do, IMO.
 

Mike SS

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My father was truly tone deaf, but this did not prevent him from wanting to strum his out of tune guitar and howl along. If I managed to make myself listen long enough I could sometimes pick out the words to the song and figure out what he was currently mutilating. Eagle's were a favorite target. My youngest sister shares his tone deafness, as she once told me how much she liked listening to Dad sing. :(
His guitar only got tuned when I visited him, which was not very often.
 

Boreas

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Hi, Ive been playing for quite a few years now. Learned everything from Youtube, tabs and chordsheets. I know my basic scales, I can hear when I am playing the wrong key, and I can figure out simple chord progressions by ear.
But I just cant figure out melodies on my own. I have a really hard time finding the first note. Hell I cant even tell if I am to high or to low, or even in which direction a melody is going. Can that stuff be trained, or am I damned to play everything by tabs/notation forever?
What do you mean by "melodies"? Picking out a melody on the guitar, or trying to sing a melody?
 

telemnemonics

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When you say "I just can't figure out melodies on my own", you mean repeating a known melody you're listening to in real time?
As opposed to coming up with your own melodies?

So you put your fingers in the spots shown on youtube and can hear when it goes wrong?
But cannot hear a melody and find it on the guitar?

IDK, no clue.
I mean that sounds to me like a basic missing link?
Can you find a single note on the guitar that you hear in the room?
I have a hard time imagining note recognition being taught if after long term playing by finger placement still leaves you unable to find a single note from ear as opposed to from a picture of where to place your fingers?

Nothing wrong with that really, I can draw, my wife is a painter, and I am not nor will I ever be a painter.
She can recognize a tune and hum a few bars but will not become a musician any time soon.
Really a mystery what it's like inside other peoples brains.

Even what my wife hears when I play and she claims to enjoy it is a mystery.
A couple of days ago listening to a cell phone video playback, there was a moment when I grinned in the video because I did something musically funny.
At the other end of the room my wife laughed at that very moment.
That gave me a solid clue that she can hear music in a similar way as my own hearing.

Something like this though, damn, others say you can learn to hear and repeat stuff you cannot hear to identify?
That goes right over my head.
 

JL_LI

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I don't have that problem. I think I should say thank you Uniondale Public Schools. There's no better place to learn music than your public school system. I had nine years of it, starting with tubs in fourth grade, adding trombone and then baritone horn. I played tuba and third trombone in orchestra. Mr. Matthews, the orchestra director was a task master. "Play that again. Is that in tune? You're flat on the D. Play it again." I learned that band fingerings, typically for songs in Bb, F, Eb or Ab didn't always work for orchestra where music was more often in G, D, or C. To this day, tiny intonation errors drive me mad. I learned to hear melodies, counterpoints, intervals and such. I learned how my part fit into an arrangement. This learning is invaluable whether playing alone of in an ensemble. I'm going to suggest adult education. Music is highly structured, even rock and jazz. Learning in a structured environment can only help. Take a high school level theory course. It's all about scales, intervals, melodies, and harmonies. Do that and you'll be able to put the music you want to play into a context. That doesn't stifle your creativity. It releases it.
 

tweeet

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Pick any song that you like. Sing along with the lead vocal. Get the Mrs or a friend to tell you if you're in tune with the singer (providing of course they aren't tone deaf ! ). Slightly sharp or flat is ok....but if they say you're way out and all over the place then you are tone deaf. My old bass player was tone deaf ( he couldn't see it or hear it ) and insisted on singing backing vox in our band to the point where we used to say to sound engineers to put his vox in his monitor only, no one else's and definitely not out the front of house !
 




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