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Deaf, Dumb or Musically Challenged?

Deaf, Dumb or Musically Challenged?
As It Appears to Be All of the Above!

Written by Diana Yampolsky

vocal cartoon - musically challengedI would like to tell you about a somewhat recent incident that I had that I believe is representative of a very real problem that exists in the music industry. An associate of mine introduced me to his friend, a record company A.R. Representative. He was a nice enough guy and seemed to genuinely care about his artists but there was one thing about him that struck me as peculiar. After my associate raved to him that I am an incredible vocal coach and could turn anyone into a singer, he responded that he believed I probably was very talented but that I could never teach him how to sing because he was tone deaf! My immediate response was shock. How can you be signing artists and helping them develop MUSICAL careers if you have absolutely no aptitude for music? Now he wasn't the first A&R I had ever met who was somewhat questionable when it came to musical ability, but he was the first to act like he was completely proud of the fact.

I figured out long ago that music industry "professionals" like him are definitely the norm rather than the exception and that this would partly explain why the majority of singers on the radio aren't very good to say the least. At this point you are probably expecting me to go into a rant about how the music industry is run by marketing people and accountants instead of musicians. Well I'm not going to. That is an established fact that has been written about many times by other writers. What I would like to talk about is how this type of environment is affecting the vocal development of the majority of singers.

The 1st, 3rd 1/2 and the 5th ? - To our shame, becoming our Musical Standards

Have you heard of the 1st, 3rd and the 5th? This is the standard of music that your piano teacher taught you as a child and this is also not likely to be what you hear on the radio. Instead you will most likely hear what I call the 1st, the 3rd 1/2 and the 5th 1/4 -- the standards of today's music industry - out of tune, off tone, through the nose, etc.

The majority of students who take me on as their vocal coach cannot sing when they first meet me. One reason for this is that they don't have the proper vocal training. Another and just as important reason is that they have been raised according to the standards of the 1st, the 3rd 1/2 and the 5th 1/4. It's not that they don't have the ear or basic musical ability, but they have been raised listening to mediocre singers who are singing out of tune and therefore they think it's the norm. The only standards they know are fundamentally flawed.

Remember the Walt Disney movie the Jungle Book? It's the story of Mowgli, a boy who is raised as an animal instead of a human being. When the other human characters meet him they are confused because he acts like an animal instead of a little boy. But really it made perfect sense because animals were the only creatures he had to emulate. The same is true of today's aspiring singers who are raised in the jungle of the 1st, the 3rd and a half and the 5th and a quarter -- they have been brought up by non-musicians for the most part.

Coming from Russia, where the level of music education is exceptional, I never cease to be amazed by the state of musical education in North America. It is truly sad that in such rich countries the musical talent is not nurtured with exceptional training and high musical standards. This is why I work so hard and invest so much time and energy into my students. I want to help them and raise the standards of both music and music education in North America. I strongly believe that the music industry should be the same as other industries such as medicine and computers, i.e ,certified professionals. You would not go to a doctor that did not have a medical degree would you? People in the music industry should have degrees and diplomas and be well educated for the position they are occupying. And A&R Representatives should never be tone deaf! If we could enforce even just that process then the world would be a more musical place and our children would not be raised to be deaf, dumb and musically challenged.