Our expert says:
Actually, a very intersting question, which I think about whenever the Idols auditions roll around again. In the ol days, they used to say such a person has "a tin ear". At a simple level, some people would call them "tone deaf", but it's actually more complex --- some people cannot hear and distinguish different musical tones and notes, so their tuneless singing which sounds odd to us, sounds just as good to them as any sibnger's performance. This is presumably why some of the very worst and most excruciatingly awful performers in the Idols auditions are most furious when the judges reject them. Either what they hear when they sing sounds better than what you hear, or it sounds just the same as what they hear when somone else sings the song properly
But they may have the rhythm of the song correct, even though you might not notice that. Others cannot pick up the rhythm of a song to save their lives, even if they get the notes right.
Some don't get music at all, and could have congenital "Amusia" which is no at all funny, despite how it sounds.
Whether it can be helped is debatable. SOme experts claim they can indeed remedy this with intensive training, but I find their claims unconvincing. It could be like trying to train a severely colour-blind person ( who might see the world monochrome ) to recognize colours. They might at best recognize different shades of grey in what they see, but would still have no idea of the colours you see.
The ones that could be helped would be those on the edges of the major diabilities --- some, I suspect, have never really learned how to listen to music, to recognize that there are different notes, rhythms, and so on, and they could probably learn to perform much better than they otherwise do.
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