Does anybody knows Sean Forbes? He is deaf, but produces music, like this. According to sources he can also play guitar and drums, how is this possible? Also check out the story of Patric Costello.

How is all this possible? Are they completely deaf, do they just feel the music (vibrating air) on their skin/stomach? Whats a meaning of a melody for them? Or of harmony?

  • 5
    Ask Ludwig, he did it.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 15:04
  • 1
    There are rules of music theory can provide rules to follow. Also, there are people that become deaf that have internalized aural training well enough that they can still "hear" it.... still i would have to image it would be unsatifying to compose a piece and not hear it for real Commented May 13, 2017 at 19:47

3 Answers 3


He seems to wear a hearing aid, so he isn't profoundly deaf. According to Wikipedia he's 90% deaf. His parents bought him a drum set after noting him react to music on the radio. (Just what the world needs, another deaf drummer :-)

Beethoven went deaf in later life. Whether profoundly deaf or not, I don't know.

And there's this lady, who as well as having a successful musical career, seems to have thoroughly enjoyed her personal life!


  • 3
    Isn't 'deaf drummer' tautologous?
    – Tim
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 13:23
  • 1
    Pardon? .........................
    – Laurence
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 13:35
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci - did it really need an explanation? It's a known and accepted fact that some drummers have their hearing affected by the volume they produce - and the viscious spiral of loudness that it often produces in some bands. Been there too often...
    – Tim
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 14:20
  • 1
    @Tim, given Laurence Payne's "Pardon?", I believed an explanation was warranted.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 17:16
  • 2
    @Dekkadeci - that 'Pardon.................' was probably because Laurence has worked with more than a few drummers...
    – Tim
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 22:14

The musician's ear worm Audiation might be what you are looking for. My brother in law can hear the music in his head solely by reading the score. I'm trying to develop that skill.


If you go deaf early in life you can't understand true melody and harmony. You can feel vibrations, but that's not an acoustic experience. I don't know about the guys you mentioned, but let me explain a composer's case.

Beethoven (and Faure) went deaf later in his life. A composer learns the harmonic and melodic patterns and just knows how they sound in their head. When they read or write music they don't need to hear it - they know how it sounds.

Try it yourself with a reading book - read the words in your head, you can actually "hear" them since you already know what they sound like. You are familiar with the sounds produced by the combinations of letters. A good deaf composer can write music just as well as a deaf writer can write word-based works. Depends on how proficient you are with music, come up with a melody in your head (don't sing or play it), take a sheet of paper and write it down. That's it. Deafness doesn't hinder you that much once you have a good image of how music sound.

Players on the other hand can't play if they are completely deaf. There are many minute pitch and tempo corrections your brain does "automatically" (to some extent) by hearing the players around you, or even the previous note you played. Don't know about drummers, but I have a feeling even they need to listen to what's going on around them.

So: (experienced) composers - yes, conductors and players - no.

  • "If you go deaf early in life you can't understand true melody and harmony. You can feel vibrations, but that's not an acoustic experience." Actually, harmony simply is the relationships between vibrations of sound waves; so harmony is just feeling vibrations, like the 2:1 relationship between octaves. You can feel the music plenty without the assistance of your ears in a way that's not intuitive, but very real none the less. Commented May 13, 2017 at 16:38
  • So you're telling Evelyn Glennie that she can't do what she does do, user1803551
    – Laurence
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 19:39
  • @LaurencePayne I wrote specifically that drummers are an exception, though I'm pretty sure it hurts them as well. Commented May 14, 2017 at 1:59
  • @SpiderShlong Both harmony and melody are just wave bundles, but feeling the vibrations with the body is not a substitute for the brain receiving them. Not practically, because you won't get the level of accuracy you need, and not neurologically. Commented May 14, 2017 at 2:03
  • User1803551 - I think that is entirely your opinion, and incorrect. There are those who say it is the same, and that in the brain it is the same. Have you got any references to support your assertion?
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 20:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.