Weekend Fun: Are You Tone Deaf?

Jake Mandell, an aspiring electronic music producer and medical student at the University of Massachusetts, put together a Flash-based website for visitors to test tonedeafness.

While working at the music and neuroimaging lab at Beth Israel/Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mandell developed a quick online way to screen for the tonedeafness. In his research, Jake and his associates were looking for neuro-anatomical correlates of tonedeafness (called “congenital amusia” in the scientific literature. They gave several dozen subjects a high-resolution MRI scan and used a statistical package to analyze the images. This technique, called VBM (voxel-based morphometry), has been used to study the changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer disease and many other neurological conditions.

The test that Mandell developed was used as an evaluation to roughly characterize each patient’s pitch discrimination and musical memory abilities. Even though musical memory is strongly tested here, they have found that people who are tonedeaf tend to have normal musical memories. However, it actually turned out to be a good test to check for overall pitch perception ability. Jake warns that the test was purposefully designed to be very hard, so don’t feel bad if you don’t score that well. According to statistics that Mandell compiles after each successful completiton of the test, excellent musicians rarely score above 80% correct.

Interestingly enough, Mandell worked for Native Instruments while living in Berlin and “was involved with the Reaktor and Absynth instruments.” Which is apparent if you take the time to listen to the original tracks that Jake posted on the site. There is also artwork from his “kick-boxing” wife for visitors to enjoy.

Take Mandell’s Tone Deaf Test yourself and see how you compare to the other 60,000, and counting, people who have given it a go. It only takes 6 minutes. You’ll need to have Flash 8 or above installed for it to work.

Author: FutureMusic

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