Most Bad Singers Aren’t Tone Deaf

Despite what you may have heard, acoustical analysis suggests that (1) most people are not horrible singers, and (2) most horrible singers are not tone deaf – they’re just horrible singers.

In 2007, Isabelle Peretz and Jean-François Giguère of the University of Montreal, and Simone Dalla Bella, of the University of Finance and Management in Warsaw, tested the abilities of 62 “nonmusicians” in Quebec who admitted to being “occasional singers”.

The very act of testing proved more difficult than Dalla Bella, Giguère and Peretz had heard it would be.

They published a report, in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, called Singing Proficiency in the General Population. They complain, to anyone who will listen, that it is not easy to measure the goodness or badness of singing….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.