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What's amusing about amusia?

Welcome to 4Amusia.com, a place to find out more about something called amusia. For those who are not familiar with the term amusia, here is what Wikipedia says about it: "Amusia is a musical disorder that appears mainly as a defect in processing pitch but also encompasses musical memory and recognition." (This is a "sticky post" dated in the future so it always appears first.)

Studies suggest that about 4% of people are born with amusia. This is referred to as congenital amusia, which has been described as "a deficit in fine-grained pitch discrimination" (Wikipedia).

I recently learned that I am one of those people and that discovery impacted my outlook on life in numerous ways, some of which may be hard for some people to understand (based on my initial efforts to describe them).

On this site I plan to blog about my own journey with amusia, while posting commented links about amusia. Those link posts will be brief posts and should not be taken as endors…

Individuals with congenital amusia imitate pitches more accurately in singing than in speaking: Implications for music and language processing

This study "investigated the impact of congenital amusia, a disorder of musical processing, on speech and song imitation in speakers of a tone language, Mandarin."

Individuals with congenital amusia imitate pitches more accurately in singing than in speaking: Implications for music and language processing | SpringerLink:


Amusia — SYNC PROJECT

Amusia — SYNC PROJECT: "there are individuals in whom the mechanisms function in a way that even normal processing of musical sounds is not possible...called tone-deafness or amusia, typically affecting around 4 % of the population."

Perception and action in singing - ScienceDirect

Unfortunately, this article costs over $50, but it does address "the work that has been done concerning singing among nonmusicians, focusing on pitch accuracy, which is one of the most important aspects of singing." Will review it if we manage to get a copy.

Perception and action in singing - ScienceDirect

Pitch Processing Sites in the Human Auditory Brain

This very detailed look at the brain as it processes pitch does not address amusia directly, but it may be of interest to amusiacs looking to learning more about how our brains handle music:

Pitch Processing Sites in the Human Auditory Brain

Prevalence of congenital amusia. - PubMed - NCBI

Here is the study that puts amusia at 1.5% of population, not the more commonly cited 4%. It does look like a solid study and I appreciate the point noted below; if there's one thing more frustrating than not being able to sing, it's being told that the reason for this is "you're not trying hard enough".

Prevalence of congenital amusia. - PubMed - NCBI:
"the deficit is not attenuated by musical training"

Can anyone learn to sing? For most of us, the answer is yes

Another article that glosses over the obstacles that congenital amusiacs face. Why not direct people to a suitable test so they can benchmark their ability? Also, the 1.5% figure cited might be low.
Can anyone learn to sing? For most of us, the answer is yes:
"Do you have a pair of vocal folds that can produce sound? Can you tell the difference between a higher note and a lower note? Good news! You and about 98.5% of the population absolutely can be taught how to sing."