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Old 31st August 2013, 09:23 AM   #1
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Default Golden Ears - a blessing or a curse

I recently read an article in New Scientist about the sense of taste. It turns out there are a number of genes that give people a greater or lesser ability to distinguish different flavours and smells. So, much as you might wish to become a distinguished wine taster, if you don't have the right genes you won't be able to do it.

So, I wondered whether something similar applies to the 'Golden Ear' brigade. You can hear a lot more than the man in the street simply by training but is there an ultimate limit to what you can distinguish audibly that is defined by your genes?

Cheers

Ian
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Old 31st August 2013, 03:33 PM   #2
M Gregg is offline M Gregg  United Kingdom
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Well,

Here is a thought. Can women hear better than men?
Ie can a woman hear a child cry at a distance.

Can people that play an instrument be different?
Ie some guitarists I know are VERY touchy about their guitars strings (They sound different) I thought an "E" was just an "E".
But we are just kidding ourselves surly a 10 "E" string must be the same as an 8 right.. they just make them to fool us!
How can an E note be different through transformers it wouldn't be an E would it?
And a High E couldn't be distorted more than a low E could it through the same transformer.

The person that can tell a plank of wood from a violin etc.
Perhaps the ability lies in the ability to retain mental images or sounds for longer duration. ie compare one to another.

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M. Gregg
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Old 31st August 2013, 03:45 PM   #3
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I think there is a bit to be said for training the ears. I don't think that you can train bad ears to be good, but you can definitely train good ears to be bad. Some people choose to be tone deaf. The argument that my Hi-Fi is better just doesn't wash because they don't want to hear any difference.
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Old 31st August 2013, 03:50 PM   #4
Pano is offline Pano  United States
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I suppose there could be some genetic basis for better hearing, or a limit. Certainly most of the difference has to come down to training and experience.
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Old 31st August 2013, 03:52 PM   #5
M Gregg is offline M Gregg  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pano View Post
I suppose there could be some genetic basis for better hearing, or a limit. Certainly most of the difference has to come down to training and experience.
It took a while for me to tune a guitar by ear. comparing the notes on the scale.
Now I can tell if its to high or low.

That was just training.
But it doesn't make you/me an expert.
Its interesting that even without training you know when a guitar is out of tune. The difference is with training you know why.

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Old 31st August 2013, 03:53 PM   #6
SY is offline SY  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Gregg View Post
Ie some guitarists I know are VERY touchy about their guitars strings (They sound different) I thought an "E" was just an "E".
But we are just kidding ourselves surly a 10 "E" string must be the same as an 8 right..
Why would anyone expect that? Basic physics tells you that the loudness and overtone structure will be different, and it's easy to feel the difference when playing, which is yet another variable.
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Old 31st August 2013, 03:56 PM   #7
M Gregg is offline M Gregg  United Kingdom
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Originally Posted by SY View Post
Why would anyone expect that? Basic physics tells you that the loudness and overtone structure will be different, and it's easy to feel the difference when playing, which is yet another variable.
Agreed,
So is it sensitivity to the overtones?
some people more than others?
A bit like if you smoke and quit, people that quit find it more offensive than perhaps others.
You become sensitised to something.
Is it a blessing or a curse..probably a curse. Like when some people can hear the line time base on a CRT Tv and can't use it!
Or the whistle on an inverter PSU. When others in the room think they are making it up.
The GPO had hand held dog chasers using HF, some people can hear it others can't.

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M. Gregg
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Old 31st August 2013, 04:21 PM   #8
brig001 is offline brig001  United Kingdom
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A sense of pitch is definitely a curse. A slightly out of tune piano or guitar on a recording, or worse a singer off pitch. Can't stand to listen to Alicia Keys because it's blinding obvious to me that she can't sing. Most people seem to think she is in tune though - very strange.

Brian
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Old 31st August 2013, 04:33 PM   #9
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We all have the genes. It is just a matter of whether the genes are turned on or not(see epigenetics).
When someone becomes blind, they do not suddenly get new genes.
They do usually gain better hearing.
Why, because the genes necessary get turned on.
Beyond that, there is also training.
As you hear a sound over and over your mind gets adjusted to the sound and notices more.

I teach people to have "perfect pitch"
It can be taught.
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Old 1st September 2013, 11:23 AM   #10
davym is offline davym  Scotland
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I remember getting the then UK standard hearing test in school, a not so nice woman with a very nice Stax rig told me that I had exceptional hearing and that I should aim to become a musician.

Sadly however my inherent laziness did not show up on her tests, I gave up on the piano, cornet and finally the guitar over the next 30 or so years.

Never gave up on the hifi though
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