Tag Archives: tone deaf

Sharing Our Heart Song

28 Jan

This is really a continuation of the previous post at: https://debadler.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/one-heart-song-%E2%80%93-the-universal-connection/

As a professional singer, I’ve heard many people share with me over the years that they didn’t sing in public because they were told that they “didn’t have a voice” or “sang off-key” or “couldn’t hold a tune.” Some people have shared painful memories of teachers or church choir directors telling them to “stand in the back row and just mouth the words.”

I was privileged to have a magnificent music teacher in elementary school, Doralene Davis, then Miss McNally, who took her lunch hours to teach those interested advanced music theory, and who demonstrated that there was no such thing as a “tone-deaf” person.

I remember very clearly one day in music class when she had a boy whom we all considered “tone-deaf” to come to the front of the class. We thought he was in for a chastising, but quickly learned differently! She played 5 notes on the piano and told him to sing them. Of course he was way off key and the class laughed. Miss McNally immediately silenced us. She told us to listen again and tell her what we heard as she repeated the notes on the piano and told the boy to song them.

When he did so, she said, “Did you hear that?” Some of us caught on, some not.

She then played back the notes he had just sung and we made an amazing discovery. The boy had sung the notes in right relationship to one another, but had simply started in a different key.

Miss McNally taught us that day that there was no such thing as a “tone-deaf” person. She continued to work with the boy until he was able to reproduce the first note of the sequence accurately, and once he had that he already had the other notes in sequence, thus sang them correctly!

How I wish everyone could have had their own Miss McNally! She went on to sing with professional touring choirs once we left for junior high school, but then returned as we started into high school and brought a dismal music choir program up to an “A” and “A+” Rating in statewide competitions with Madrigals, Men’s and Women’s Choruses and Combined Glee Clubs. Our musical training with her was like going through a specialized program – mostly in extra-curricular groups!

Singing evokes the natural connection between the brain, voice and heart, which share a unique connection through the 10th cranial nerve, or vagus nerve. There’s a physical reason for why we feel good in our heads and our hearts when we allow ourselves to sing out in joy.

In my travels and studies with my spiritual mentor and Elder Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha, I’ve learned to appreciate that “pretty singing” is really a more recent development of human culture. Traditional chants of Indigenous Peoples are often sung in a very nasal tone, or so rapidly it can hard to distinguish the words, or in a form of chant.

“Perfect tonality” is one manner of execution that’s come to be popularized as in our pursuit if uniformity and “perfection” – but it’s hardly the only form of expression or the only “right” way to sing.

Singing out is an expression of joy. Music is a universal language, and singing is a universal healer. Singing “in tune” is grossly over-rated, as far as I’m concerned because more than sounding “pretty” singing promotes physical and mental health.

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.” –Dalai Lama

So to all those who think they “shouldn’t” sing – FORGET THAT! SING OUT!


Sing in the shower, sing in the car – sing in public. If somebody looks at you, SMILE!

Then choose to let go of doubt and fear you’ve harbored within you regarding your capacity to harmonize with the creative power-  a power that’s not only greater than your individual life, but is life itself.” –Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha

©2011 Deborah Adler. All rights reserved. (NOTE: All quotes remain the sole property of the original authors.)

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