Too Deaf to Sing? With Mandy Harvey, Not So
June 7, 2017
Did you see the deaf woman singing the song she wrote, “Try” on #AGT? Who wouldn’t be inspired by #Mandy_Harvey, who had gone deaf from a disease in her late teens, then ultimately gets the gold button by Simon Cowell, the King of Snark, on “America’s Got Talent?” I had tears in my eyes by the time she finished her song, as the audience leaped to their feet and the judges were waving their hands in the air.
What is the likelihood of a deaf person being able to sing on pitch after going deaf?
Did she go completely deaf or was she still able to hear a small amount, enough maybe to get hearing aids and get a good sense of her starting pitch?
My experience with the hearing impaired goes way back when I was in a relationship with a deaf man for 3 years. I saw the struggles. We also got to sing together, which was always a challenge for me, as he thought he was singing on pitch. Here is what I learned from the experience!
I have worked with a few clinically deaf people (which actually means they were deaf enough for them to wear a hearing aid, but not completely deaf). Legally deaf can also mean that the person has just enough hearing loss to render him or her unable to easily comprehend speech. Each of my students was able to hear with the help of amplification from a hearing aid. Even these students were very tune deaf. Most of our teaching time was spent measuring the distance between the vibration of the piano compared to the vibration coming from their voices.
Some students were actually able to feel when the vibrations matched, which was the key to staying on pitch. Others simply were not. However, what do you think the likelihood would be of someone able to sing an entire song feeling and matching each pitch individually, when notes fly by so fast and fluidly? Not very likely.
My belief is that this young lady was blessed with what’s called perfect pitch before she ever had her hearing loss. Perfect pitch is when people can memorize pitch in their minds and recall the same pitch later. Most people, even me, after many years of playing and teaching music, has what’s considered relative pitch. This means that I can approximately figure out the note I would start on, but I may be slightly off by a few mega hertz, which is enough to make an entire song sound flat if you were this girl.
In other words, I could play this young lady a pitch today and tomorrow she would be likely to remember the pitch, just as if she were memorizing a new word in Spanish and her natural language were English.
People with perfect pitch are usually able to stay on pitch throughout a song, if they know the key in which the song is played. Since she probably tuned her Ukulele with an electric tuner, which tells her when A-440 is spot on.
Then she would be able to sing the song on the perfect A-440 she remembered before she went deaf, if her guitar were perfectly in tune. Detune her guitar, and, I bet she would be unlikely to sing the song with the band on pitch.
The other brilliant choice she made was to play the rhythm with her Ukulele. If you heard the performance, you noticed that her band began to play with her after she began to play, which means she dictated her own rhythm to the players.
This girl’s voice was special and the song she wrote was very catchy and emotional. All of this and her story made for a great moment for millions of people worldwide. I look forward to seeing how far Mandy can go in this process. In my estimation, she will continue to have to keep her songs simplistic to stay as brilliant as she was this first time.
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If you would like to listen to the singer in this blog, she is the second story on Facebook’s Talent Recap:
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