Establishing an empirical profile of self-defined "tone deafness": Perception, singing performance and self-assessment
Wise, K. J. & Sloboda, J. A. (2008). Establishing an empirical profile of self-defined "tone deafness": Perception, singing performance and self-assessment. Musicae Scientiae, 12(1), 3-26.
Research has suggested that around 17% of Western adults self-define as "tone deaf" (Cuddy, Balkwill, Peretz & Holden, 2005). But questions remain about the exact nature of tone deafness. One candidate for a formal definition is "congenital amusia" (Peretz et al., 2003), characterised by a dense music-specific perceptual deficit. However, most people self-defining as tone deaf are not congenitally amusic (Cuddy et al., 2005). According to Sloboda, Wise and Peretz (2005), the general population defines tone deafness as perceived poor singing ability, suggesting the need to extend investigations to production abilities and self-perceptions. The present research aims to discover if self-defined tone deaf people show any pattern of musical difficulties relative to controls, and to offer possible explanations for them (e.g.perceptual, cognitive, productive, motivational). 13 self-reporting "tone deaf" (TD) and 17 self-reporting "not tone deaf" (NTD) participants were assessed on a range of measures for musical perception, cognition, memory, production and self-ratings of performance. This paper reports on four measures to assess perception (Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia), vocal production (songs and pitch-matching) and self-report. Results showed that the TDgroup performed significantly less well than the NTDgroup in all measures, but did not demonstrate the dense deficits characteristic of "congenital amusics". Singing performance was influenced by context, with both groups performing better when accompanied than unaccompanied. The TDgroup self-rated the accuracy of their singing significantly lower than the NTDgroup, but not disproportionately so, and were less confident in their vocal quality. The TDparticipants are not facing an insurmountable difficulty, but are likely to improve with targeted intervention. ...