Friday, January 06, 2006

Tin Ears

I'm back from Florida, well rested and ready for the new year. I still need to finish unpacking in our new house, a new course to design and two courses to rejigger, a symposium to organize, and a book review to write. But for now, here's a test designed to determine your sense of pitch. It is sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the NIH. There are 26 fragments from very familiar tunes (Christmas carols, national anthems, children's songs, etc.) that may or may not have been played correctly. Your job is to say whether the tune was distorted or not. The only distortions in this test are changes in pitch, no rhythm or intonation errors. The chief investigator, Dennis Drayna, states that this test has shown 5% of the population to have tin ears. In addition, this deficiency is inheritable, as shown by studying over 250 pairs of twins.

Now the members of the bløgösphère can prove their chops, by revealing their scores. I got a perfect score, 26 out of 26 correctly identified. If you do poorly, at least you are qualified to take part in the NIH study. The answers are found here, but no cheating!

(via Mindhacks)


Anonymous said...

I got 26/26. Yay :)

Scott said...

Patty feels the test is too easy, at least for musicians. But the test is really to find those poor individuals who are tone deaf (by conventional definitions).

Lisa Hirsch said...

26/26. It is truly unnerving to hear some of those distortions.

Patty might be right. Would love to see a test of this kind geared toward, uh, people like us.

Anonymous said...

I also got a perfect score of 26 out of 26 and thought it was too easy, except for "Fuer Elise", which I listened to several times until I realized they were only playing the right hand!


Peter (the other) said...

Yes 26 of 26, I wonder that they didn't take any information. I would be interested in age (experience) as a factor.

Isabel Peretz in Montreal, has done experiments with dementia/altheimers patients who can hardly remember their names but still will notice wrong notes in an old song. She has a video of these tests and it is lovely to see the lights come on in the eyes, along with what looks like a slight indignation, "why would they ruin this good song like that?".

I agree with lisa, a little disconcerting, but fun. Thanks! Oh, and welcome back.

Terminal Degree said...


Sounds like a typical day in my studio.

(I teach all ability levels...)

Anonymous said...

26 of 26. You must have gotten your "ear" from your parents. Ha, Ha. Mom

Scott said...

Dad, the "Fur Elise" excerpt was altered more than by removing the accompaniment. The bottom note of the arpeggios was incorrect (if I remember correctly).

Peter and Lisa, there have been studies of melody recognition of more difficult levels. A great classic is taking a familiar melody and displacing the notes by octaves. If the contour is preserved, the melody is still recognizable. If the contour has been changed, it is nigh unto impossible to identify the melody. Here is an example.