Now available in paperback from House of Anansi

What happens when a bad singer pursues his dream to sing in public only to discover he is scientifically tone deaf?

Tim Falconer always wanted to make music, but soon after he starts his singing lessons, he discovers he’s part of only 2.5 percent of the population afflicted with amusia, or tone deafness. Many people with this disorder are indifferent to music, or even actively dislike it, but for Falconer, it’s a life-long passion.

Bad Singer offers a thoughtful and entertaining chronicle of his quest to understand music’s role in human evolution, the science behind tone-deafness and how to retrain the adult brain. Falconer visits a series of labs where the researchers who test him become as fascinated with him as he is with them. Throughout this scientific and psychological journey, he continues lessons with a vocal coach to achieve his goal: a public performance.

But Bad Singer is about much more than hitting the right notes. By trying to understand why we love music and what we really hear when we listen to it, Falconer unlocks a surprising secret that helps explain the emotional power it holds over us. By the time he belts out his final tune, you will think differently about your favourite music.

• Finalist for the Lane Anderson Award

• A Globe and Mail Top 100 book


“It’s a remarkable story of dogged determination to prove his own body wrong and, as such, is one of the more illuminating cultural studies of modern times.”
— “Tim Falconer’s Bad Singer is a treatise on understanding our bodies and their true limitations” by Vish Khanna (The Globe and Mail; July 16, 2016)

“Over the last decade there have been a number of books published about the science of music—such as Daniel Levitan’s This Is Your Brain on Music, Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia, and David Byrne’s How Music Works—and Bad Singer is a doubly successful effort because it doesn’t retread the same ground of these books, with Falconer couching his subject in a personal journey that’s enjoyable to follow.”
— “Is it possible for those who are tone-deaf to appreciate music or become better singers?” by Jay Hosking (National Post; May 17, 2016)

“While he may be a bad singer, he’s a thorough researcher and gifted raconteur. What Falconer lacks in pitch he makes up for in curiosity and passion.”
— “What makes a Bad Singer?” by Patricia Dawn Robertson (Toronto Star; May 28, 2016)

“Falconer eventually has the courage to stand in front of a group of friends and some strangers, tell everyone he’s tone deaf, and belt out ‘Blackbird’ once again. It wasn’t good, but the journey was great.”
— “Confessions of a bad singer” by Aaron Hutchins (Maclean’s; May 9, 2016)

“A spirited, even adventurous look at the mysteries of how the human brain perceives and processes sound—and even, on occasion, manages to make beautiful music.”
Kirkus Review (Kirkus Reviews; December 15, 2016)

“Falconer’s naive layperson narrator functions especially well as a bridge; we do not feel intimidated by the scope and depth of the various academic fields he dives into, as Falconer himself takes the plunge and asks the questions, silly or otherwise, for us.”
— “Blue Notes: In true tone deafness, an answer to why we sing” by Emma Hooper (Literary Review of Canada; September, 2016)

“Written in an engaging, self-aware and often self-deprecating voice, Bad Singer is an odyessy musicians and amusics alike can appreciate.”
— “Bad Singer” by Kate Sheridan (McGill News; Spring-Summer 2016)

“As a reader you can’t help but empathize with Falconer as he struggles through his singing lessons, learning to control his voice even though he can’t always hit the pitches. And you cheer him on when, at the end of his quest, not exactly cured of amusia, he finally faces his audience-and the music.”
— “Hitting the pitches” by Shelley Pomerance (Montreal Centre-Ville Magazine; June 1, 2006)

“It is a fascinating book and one comes to really root for Falconer who is so determined to understand his weakness and to become a more proficient singer and ultimately, to sing on stage for an audience. I won’t ruin the ending for you but I will highly recommend this informative and highly entertaining book which can lead one to a better understanding of why some can sing arias on the stage and others can sing their hearts out (but perhaps only should when they are in the shower.)”
Review by Angela Meady (Thunder Bay Public Library, August 31, 2016)

“In his journey to understand why, exactly, he can’t hold a tune — while having the ears and taste to appreciate great singing and songwriting — Tim Falconer takes us on a deeply absorbing journey into the worlds of brain science, singing coaches, music psychologists, ethnomusicologists, and into his own keening, music-loving heart. Bad Singer is a fun, fascinating, beautifully written, and strangely moving tale of a melodically-challenged man who yearned to sing. And it has much to say about the mystery of how music moves all of us, good and bad singers alike.”
— John Colapinto, author of Undone and member of The New Yorker staff band