Trying to explain that the multiple reasons of the inability to sing the right tone (to match pitch) I encountered two other terms: amusia and ton defness.

I wonder how far these two terms are meaning the same and what is the difference.

  • "Tone deafness" as "trouble with recognising pitch" might result in "melody deafness" as described here - but maybe not necessarily. Instead of "melody deafness" one might say "tune deafness" (as oppposed to "tone deafness"). Jan 23, 2020 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


Neither are particularly precise terms.

'Tone deaf' describes people who have trouble with recognising pitch. 'Amusia' would also include problems with other elements of music like rhythm or timbre.

Or that's what musicians would say 'tone deaf' means. The wider community might apply it to someone who just doesn't 'get' music in any way - appreciation or ability. Even wider, there's a non-musical meaning - someone who can't read a social situation.

  • originally I meant to ask how music teachers can differentiate the reasons of certain disabilities like matching pitch by singing from the inability to differ the pitch by ear. Oct 20, 2019 at 21:09
  • Good question! If you find a definitive answer - A causes inability to sing it, B causes inability to hear it - I'm sure music teachers will be delighted to know.
    – Laurence
    Oct 20, 2019 at 21:11
  • 1
    I'd argue that "tone deaf" is usually used for not being able to singing on pitch, less than trouble recognizing it. The latter is assumed, as it's presumed the singer would adjust until they were on pitch. But that's not necessarily the case, and people who think they are tone deaf often can actually distinguish pitches just fine.
    – trlkly
    Oct 21, 2019 at 6:54

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