tone deaf

Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy member Nicholas left this comment the other day.


“I was always told I am tone deaf. I don’t think that is necessarily true about anyone. It is just that they have got out of the habit or never used it. With practice it is amazing what you can achieve. I like the lessons Dan gives. It isn’t just “listen to this note and tell me what you think it is”. The exercises are fun and if you are as bad as I am you will improve it is a matter of practice.”


Being “tone deaf” is pretty rare and usually the result of damage.

“Tone shy” is more accurate.

That’s what I heard vocal coach Roger Love call it.

…And he knows a thing or two about this sort of stuff.

He’s worked with some very famous artists such as The Beach Boys, Gwen Stefani, and as a singing consultant on some big Hollywood movies.

…And, of course, to be a good singer, you cannot be tone deaf, and being “tone shy” is a no-no.


So, what is “tone shy”?

It’s basically when you know a note is “off” pitch, but you haven’t yet developed the skills to fix it.

Well, most people in my experience aren’t born with a wonderful sense of pitch.

Some people develop their sense of pitch at a very young age, usually if they are from a musical family or they do lots of singing.

People who lack confidence in themselves or come from not very musical or more reserved families tend to be more “tone shy” in my experience.

They’ve just not had the practice singing and training their ears much, if at all.

I’ve seen this time and again with students.


The students with the best sense of pitch were usually confident in singing around others (and often confident people too) and they often had more musical experience than others when growing up.

One thing that can destroy your musical confidence is this:

When someone calls another person “tone deaf”.

Often, it’s meant as a throwaway comment, but little comments like that can be damaging.

If you’ve ever had that said to you, it can hurt.

As can little comments like when others say: “don’t give up your day job” when they hear you play.

People can say mean things…

…But ignore those comments, realise you’re not alone, and every single musical skill can be trained.


Training your ears is a skill that takes time to develop, but as a musician, it is well worth it.

When you do, your guitar playing and sense of musicality will improve.

…And you may start to develop the confidence to sing and play – even in front of others, if you don’t already do so.

Keep at it.

I hope this email has helped give you a boost if you need it and I hope it’s dispelled a few myths around the topic of “tone-deafness”.

For more help with training your ears, you might want to check out the ear training and fretboard quizzes inside the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy below.

The Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy

These quizzes take practice, but they are fun and the more you do them…

The better you’ll get with this key piece of the guitar-playing jigsaw.


Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination


P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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