The Lament of the Musically Un-Talented

I grew up in a family of gifted musicians.
I remember my mother’s delight when we obtained a lovely old upright piano, the ivory plates missing from some of the keys. It didn’t matter, it didn’t keep her from drawing the most beautiful music from it.
My father has always been a great singer, serenading my mom by singing into a spatula while making breakfast, though his song choices are usually goofy parodies he makes up on the spot.
My older brother and youngest brother are great with guitar, my middle brother (Younger than me, but not the youngest) rocks the ukelele and bass.
My three younger sisters play piano and violin, though to be completely honest, I can never remember who plays what.
My husband plays guitar and sings, though he doesn’t sing as much as he used to, and only rarely for me.
And then there’s me.

My mother tried to instill music in me, and she did a great job of giving me an appreciation for the art form, but there was just no helping my lack of musical ability. As a child, my older brother and I took piano lessons. My brother excelled. My mother and my instructor insisted that I did fine, but I always felt like I struggled, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned why.
My instructor taught the Suzuki method, which teaches a budding musician to play by ear.
And I, my friends, am tone deaf.

I couldn’t tell you why it took me so long to figure out. I’ve tried a variety of instruments in my life, but now that I’m grown and I realize that I have no ear for music and can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I understand that I was just going through the motions. Not because it was expected of me, but because I was surrounded by all these amazing musically talented people, and I desperately wanted to share that talent.
I started with piano. I moved on to recorder. I tried to use my brother’s guitar when he wasn’t looking. Eventually my parents gave me an electric bass for my birthday – I’d asked for it specifically because if nothing else, I thought I could play it if I had tabs from the internet to go off of. Visual patterns instead of audible rhythm, numbered and lettered instructions instead of notes I couldn’t tell were flat or sharp or sour.
I can sort of play bass, if I have a tab for what I’m trying to play. Without them, well…
There’s a reason the bass mostly stays in the closet.

I am now okay with the fact I’ll never be able to play music, but I will never be able to forgive myself for lacking one skill I’ve always wanted: I wish I could sing.
Being tone deaf, whenever I’m alone in the car and therefore not embarrassed to sing along, it sounds great in my head. However, I’ve had the misfortune of hearing my own singing voice played back to me, and that’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone! This is frustrating to me, largely because I’ve always been a Jack of all trades. Or Jill, which I suppose would be more proper. I can learn to do anything – But I can’t learn to sing.
I will never woo my husband with the sweet sound of my voice. My future children will likely cry when I try to sing them lullabies. But that’s all right. Well, not all right for my poor kids, who are going to have to listen to me, but it’s all right that my talents lie elsewhere.

After all, I’m a writer – And at least in the written word, my voice will have a chance to be beautiful.

One Reply to “The Lament of the Musically Un-Talented”

  1. Your voice IS beautiful! I think you could probably learn to sing though… you might be someone who is truly tone deaf, but very, very few people actually are, and it's typically hereditary. So if your family is mostly musical, chances are you just would have to work a lot harder at it 🙂 My cousin teaches voice, and she has taught a few "tone deaf" (but very determined) people to sing. This website is really helpful in explaining it and ways to work on improving your pitch and basic singing technique: http://www.singwise.com/cgi-bin/main.pl?section=articles&doc;=ToneDeafness. Also, you could totally learn to play piano~ come over sometime; I'll teach you some basics (with sheet music, since that's way easier for beginners) if you are ever interested. 🙂

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