Tone Deaf Test

Here's a test to measure your tone-deafness. It plays two sequences of music and asks you whether the two are identical. There's 36 sequences and it is purposefully very difficult. Over 85% means you have potential as a world class musician - although I wonder why you'd have to score less than 50% to be 'tone-deaf' - a tone-deaf monkey randomly pressing the buttons will score better than 50%, 50% of the time. Maybe using a 'don't know' button here would help to improve the accuracy.

Posted by Alexander at November 10, 2006 10:47 AM

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Hi Alexander,

I made the tonedeaf test. In principle, I agree with your criticism: 50 percent doesn't make much sense as the cutoff for being tonedeaf. In reality, however, people with pitch perception abilities tend to score worse than 50%. I can't explain why this is.

The descriptive cutoffs were based on data from our lab of about 50 subjects of varying musical abilities: some professional musicians, and about 25 "tonedeaf" individuals. We used a 2 hour standardized test to confirm tonedeafness. Even though the correlation was not perfect, people with severe tonedeafness tended to score below 50% on this little screening test. For our research, in order to make sure that there were no monkeys, we reviewed the answers to every question. There are about five "very easy" comparisons which even a tonedeaf person should get right: If 4/5 of these cues were correct, we counted the test as valid even if the total score was hovering around 50%.

In a perfect world, I would have made the test easier so that a tonedeaf person could score about 60 or 70% - but that would mean redoing most of the musical phrases, and it would mean that most "normal" people would score in the high nineties.

Anyway, thank you very much for featuring the test in your blog, I really appreciate it.

Take care!


Posted by: Jake Mandell at November 10, 2006 01:36 PM

I think you're right to go with what you've observed rather than what you might expect statistically. However it's an interesting effect if it's not just a random effect - some people might get a better score by entering the opposite of what they think is the correct answer!

Posted by: Alexander McCabe at November 10, 2006 02:45 PM

I took the tone deaf test and got 91.7%, with no guessing (I knew i would get a high score, i seem to have a photographic memory when it comes to music). I think it has more to do with memory than musical training, i've had no training, but have an excellent memory, I play most instruments by ear (I can read music but i figure if i can remember how the tune goes, why bother). Just makes me curious as to whether someone with little or no musical ability, and an exceptional memory could score highly.

Posted by: Brooke at July 4, 2007 04:56 AM

This is a very great tool.
I made over 90% but for me it more easy because of my perfect pitch. So I saved the notes into my brain and made the compraision.
Best greetings to the USA

Kay Tokner

Posted by: KayTokner at April 28, 2009 06:27 PM

I am 17. I've had no musical training and I don't have an exceptional memory and I got 89.98%. I didnt guess.

Does that mean I have the potential to be a great musician.

Posted by: Osman at July 11, 2009 07:14 AM

I wonder if you can help me? I have just come back from a guitar lesson where the teacher pronounced me tone deaf (it was quite a crushing thing to hear since my endeavour is to play and sing a song!). I can hear differences in the tone of music, but I do battle to replicate the song once having heard it being sung. He also says that as I cannot replicate the sound of a guitar string being plucked indicates that I am tone deaf. I scored over 80% on your tone test and now am confused. I can hear music, but i just can't seem to hum or sing it well back. So many of the people above take it for granted that this is so easy from memory. Perhaps I have a memory problem? Although I am a qualified engineer and was a business analyst for some years... so what is this mysterious deficit in my system? and more importantly what can I do to improve my situation? or is it that I must simply forget about singing as he puts it?
Please email your response as well to me as I am not regularly on the web. many thanks!

Posted by: Jo at October 27, 2009 02:50 PM

Jo I think I'm in the same boat you are.

Posted by: ron at December 29, 2009 07:21 PM

omg!! i got like over 70% taking this test!! not good not bad? o.o
but i was really nervous taking this test cuz i already kinda now i dont have perfect sense of tone. this just saved me like forever in denial xDD.
i know practice would make it perfect, but it really is hard if you cant remember the tune x]. oh well i have "normal" results so at least i know i dont have some weird disease where i cant listen to the tone of music o.o

Posted by: Momoko at January 3, 2010 07:57 AM

i scored over 90, i have been pronounced tone deaf by non professionals that have heard me singing, and it is true i can not control my voice box well enough to be anywhere near my 93 on this test... but i was pronounced to have almost perfect pitch because i can identify notes if i hear them earlier and i can copy if i knew how to play an instrument, i am a dancer, son of two dancers and also step son of a dancer who is also a musician. i told my step dad to try the test he got lower than 50% but he is a little old and he wanted to repeat the notes but could not this is why he failed

Posted by: yevgeniy at January 14, 2010 02:50 AM

Just took the test. Got the same as Alexander, but I'm really smart, so I'm wondering if you think that might have anything to do with it. Also, I read somewhere that people under 16 don't have a fully developed ability to recognize pitch, so do you think that could affects someone's scores?

Posted by: Anonymous at February 15, 2010 02:09 PM

I also scored above 90, but as a college music student I spend everyday developing my ear and studying ways to hear wrong notes in an ensemble as well as other applications. From what I have understood from professors is that if someone was truly tone deaf they could not differentiate voices of a man or woman and music would sound like a wash of nothing. In a test such as this one, which a similarly formatted test was given at my college audition, really what your are being tested on is quickly being able to internalize and compare musical lines. This is a skill that can be developed and a "normal" person would not have much experience with this skill other than voice recognition. What this test really ends up testing is your progress in a developed skill, and with all developed skills some natural talent and other physical variations in people has a profound effect on that. By that if your were to continue to take tests such as these, which I have two years into a music degree, your score will increase over time as this skill is developed. Your score will not leave you simply tone deaf and destined to give up on any musical endeavors in your lifetime.

Posted by: Beard at February 27, 2010 06:11 PM

Ahah this was so hard, I couldn't do it for anything. Pretty much every single track sounded the same to me except for 2 or 3, hence my answer being the same on every question >>. All in all doing that i managed to score a 58% on the test, so yeah. statistically i'm not tone deaf, but I just couldn't tell the difference for the life of me. BtW im 17, and when I was young in 4th grade I did have mandatory music training.

Posted by: TopherC at April 4, 2010 07:41 AM