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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738187 08/22/11 08:46 AM
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I heard an interview once with a professional singer who sang Baroque music, and said she was glad she finally 'got rid' of her perfect pitch which she was born with (she didn't elaborate on how she did it) - singing with 'historically-informed' orchestras with varying pitches, it was a nightmare for her to hear everything sounding flat. And if she sang in some European cities, the orchestras there sounded sharp (e.g. Wiener Philharmoniker uses A=444).

So, those of us unblessed with imperfect pitch, let's count our blessings grin.

Though I believe that if you want to sing avant-garde contemporary music, it can be quite useful.....


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738211 08/22/11 09:21 AM
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I met one guy who claimed to have perfect pitch. . . and i definitely haven't met 10,000 individual people. laugh
I didn't get a chance to find out how painful it is in an orchestra for him (he was a timpanist at a county orchestra and it was break time). . . I also realized just how easy it is to fake perfect pitch as long as nobody around you has perfect pitch. . . I'm not doubting him or anyone, I just noticed that. Plus it would be really funny to mess with a string orchestra and tell them their D is actually an Eb. hehehe. . .


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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738215 08/22/11 09:39 AM
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I've read that perfect pitch (or as I prefer to call it: pitch memory) is much more common amongst speakers of tone languages, e.g. Chinese.

I also read that it's an innate, potential skill that everyone is born with, but that is not nurtured by everyone.

In my case, I remember being able to recognise notes, irrespective of the instrument, since my earliest memories. Only at 7 or 8 years old did I realise that this isn't true for everyone.

My pitch memory is certainly not perfect or constant. When I played on a piano that was 80 cents flat for almost a year, my pitch would often be off by up to 30 cents. And I really can't distinguish between a well-tempered or not so well-tempered F. I'll tell you whether a note is very flat, a little flat, more or less on pitch, slightly sharp, or very sharp. Also, it depends on my mood and frame of mind.

I can't enjoy so-called "historically informed practice", because it always sounds flat to me.

As a student I tested my ability to set a tone generator exactly on A440, while someone else watched things on an an oscilloscope that I couldn't see. I hit A438.


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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738221 08/22/11 09:53 AM
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Random Thoughts on this captivating topic:

Why does having perfect pitch make you more likely to be a musician*??? If it is a trait with a significant genetic component, it should be randomly distributed rather than prevalent among musicians. This speaks more of a trait that can be significantly nurtured in the right environment*.. or a trait that is linked to musical abilities, assuming one believes the latter to be genetic..
More intriguing to me are people who may actually have perfect pitch but do not know it for certain, because they never learnt to read music or even recognize note names.
Even more intriguing is the source of the "agony" that perfect pitch owners describe when faced with imperfect tuning situations.. really? The same kind of agony I feel when people misuse apostrophes or have a poor French accent? I can see it being irksome, but agonizing??? why?

* I know there are studies that support each theory and its opposite..

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
MathTeacher #1738231 08/22/11 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by MathTeacher
I've read various opinions on this and many say that either you are born with it or your not. So I say not too many.


I'm not sure I totally believe this. I have 2 kids - 1 is doing piano and 1 is doing violin. Both have Suzuki teachers, although piano kid has been at it for 5 years and his lessons look more traditional now. Anyway, Piano kid (age 10) has perfect pitch. But early on in his piano playing days he couldn't have IDed notes like he does now. He complains when the piano is out of tune and it sounds fine for me. He complains to the point I have to get it tuned ASAP and he points the individual keys out to the tuner that need work. He can now ID what key a piece is in if we go to the orchestra, or what someone is singing. It's actually a little freakish at this point.

Kid #2 (age 7) is 2 1/2 years into violin. Can now ID some notes on piano or violin commonly played in her pieces. She tells me when the violins are out of tune (I play too). Does she have perfect pitch? Hmmm ... I don't know. She can't ID any note played on any instrument. But she has a good start on it. Ask me in a couple more years where she's at with this.

Maybe you're born with the capacity for PP and maybe early music exposure helps develop it. My piano kid started at age 5 and violin kid started at age 4.

I'd also be surprised if it were really 1 in 10,000! Or if some race were "better" at it. Perhaps more Asian children start music lessons at an early age in a more focused way. I think it'd be interesting to know what percentage of kids who start lessons before age 8 develop it. And FTR, my kids aren't even close to prodigy material.


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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
kck #1738240 08/22/11 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by kck
Both have Suzuki teachers



What is a 'Suzuki teacher'?

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
Andromaque #1738242 08/22/11 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Andromaque

Even more intriguing is the source of the "agony" that perfect pitch owners describe when faced with imperfect tuning situations.. really? The same kind of agony I feel when people misuse apostrophes or have a poor French accent? I can see it being irksome, but agonizing??? why?

* I know there are studies that support each theory and its opposite..


Apparently, the agony of someone with perfect pitch when hearing music that sounds flat or sharp is much, much worse than someone saying 'its just in it's mind' wink. They liken it to listening to a turntable turning at 30rpm (when it should be 33 1/3 rpm for those of you too young to remember grin) while their brain plays the same music in their minds at 33 1/3 rpm: not nice. And transposition is well-nigh impossible, because they see a note on the score and know exactly what pitch that note should be.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
Mark R. #1738247 08/22/11 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark R.

I can't enjoy so-called "historically informed practice", because it always sounds flat to me.


I presume that, in time, you could learn to accept other tuning practices as normative. There's nothing particularly special about A440 ET, after all.

Whether you'd want to, of course, is a different matter smile

PS. Why does it sound 'flat' and not just in a different key? I suppose it depends on the tuning, but many historical performances I've heard are at least a tone below A440.

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
crescendo #1738254 08/22/11 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by crescendo
Originally Posted by kck
Both have Suzuki teachers



What is a 'Suzuki teacher'?


I hate to go to into it too much here, because this seems to bring up some strong emotions in some people! crazy Suzuki teachers will start young children learning by ear with heavy parental involvement in the early years. My piano kid was taught to read at the same time as learning by ear and has no problem reading at his playing level. Some teachers criticize this method because kids aren't learning to read. As with any method, there are bad teachers out there and there are kids who don't want to learn to read, and don't practice that part of it. I don't think you can stereotype Suzuki teachers any more than you can stereotype all teachers than use Alfred or any other method. There is also a Suzuki repertoire, which is sometimes criticized as being too narrow. My kid at his level is only working out of the Suzuki repertoire about 1/4 of the time. It's ultimately based on a philosophy about how young children learn best (see Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki).

My kid's piano teacher is PhD trained and has taught piano at a college level. I think he's qualified! grin My point in bringing it up in my original post is that my kid with PP was taught by ear from age 5. And other than me sitting in and taking notes at his lessons, his lessons look traditional. He uses Hanon, Czerny, sight reading books. He's learning things along the lines of the Bach Inventions, late sonatina/early sonata level. He's played Joplin, movie theme songs (Sherlock Holmes, Discombobulate is on the piano right now).


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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738262 08/22/11 10:57 AM
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UCSF was doing a study looking at links between a N. European gene and perfect pitch (I provided them with a saliva sample after passing their test for having it).

It made me more likely to be a musician because I crawled up onto a piano at age 4 and started reproducing everything I heard on radio and TV. I ended up doing other things for a living but still play. I love playing classical music but have thoroughly enjoyed playing by ear for fun.

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738266 08/22/11 11:00 AM
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I certainly do not have perfect pitch. I can only think of one person I know who has it. He's not asian, but he is a very talented pianist/composer.

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738314 08/22/11 12:17 PM
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Early musical training is one thing that's consistently found to be correlated with PP.

There is also a higher occurrence of PP in tone language speakers as MarkH pointed out.

So what percentage of the population gets musical training at 2-5 years of age? What percentage of that group then has PP? These might be more useful questions to ask (in conjunction with each other).

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
Damon #1738335 08/22/11 12:53 PM
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Darn, I said
D-flat



....I guess I get no credit.... ha ha

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738367 08/22/11 01:52 PM
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I know lots of people with perfect pitch. This is a topic I have obsessed about a little too much in the past. Thankfully, I've gotten past it.

Obviously, in the general population, there aren't many with perfect pitch. There is also a gradient in "perfectness"--and there's a researcher whose definition of perfect pitch is scoring 90% on his test. (or was it 80%? i forgot)

Apparently, early last century, perfect pitch tests are done on pianos. But having "piano pitch" does not equal perfect pitch--you need to be able to identify pitch from all different kind of sound sources. One of my teachers has piano pitch but not perfect pitch. I myself know there are some notes I can readily identify on the piano. For myself, the timbre of the piano helps out a lot. And I'm sure violinists can identify G, D, A, E pretty consistently :P

Age picking up an instrument has an effect on acquiring perfect pitch. There seems be be sufficient evidence on this. Some studies suggest that speaking tonal language also helps.

Is perfect pitch useful? I operated under that assumption for a while and I was trying to train for it (thankfully, didn't waste too much time in this fruitless endeavor). Now, I still think it's certainly useful in quite a few cases, but if I don't have it, I'll just figure out ways to utilize my other talents.

One of my teachers who has perfect pitch said when she was little, her teacher told her to practice with the piano lid down and try to hear the notes. She said because of that, she can read (not in the sight read sense) music very well. I don't know if this contributed to perfect pitch or the other way around.

The researcher I mentioned earlier did experiments on his 4 daughters. His first 2 daughters when they were like 3 or 4, he sat in front of a piano and trained them to identify pitches. His last 2 daughters, he didn't. Years later, he did his test on his daughters. His first 2 daughters scored higher--but nowhere near perfect. In any case, that's kind of a controlled experiment.

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738441 08/22/11 03:59 PM
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People often don't even agree what it means. I do not consider that I have perfect pitch, because I can't place a disembodied note away from the keyboard or tell you if it's an F or almost an Ab or anything like that. (Although I can hum a pretty good 440 A.)

However, I can definitely tell if a piece is in the "right" key. I arranged "Con rauco mormorio" (a Baroque aria) for piano and viola and absolutely had to put it in D or else I got completely turned around. It's originally written in Eb, but everyone who performs it does it on a Baroque A. Close enough to D to keep me properly oriented.

I'm also working on another Baroque aria from "Giulio Cesare" that's notated in Em, and I'm having to do it in Ebm or else I get disoriented.

When I was trying to get to sleep one night and kept hearing Journey earworms (I ADORE Journey), I had to get up at 1am and work out "Open Arms" on the piano. Because the last version I had heard had been pitched down a half-step for a live performance, I ended up flattening it.

And I can tune my viola cold, although not absolutely perfectly.

Again though, I do not consider myself to have perfect pitch or anything near it. I'm not fussy to within a gazillionth of a Hertz nor can I name any note cold. And I don't have a problem with Baroque music since I just internalize the music a half-step down. But play "Open Arms" in CM, and my eyes'll cross. I can transpose easily when I have to, but it never feels comfy, and I can only do it after I've worked a song out completely in its normal key.


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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
Andromaque #1738448 08/22/11 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
Random Thoughts on this captivating topic:

Why does having perfect pitch make you more likely to be a musician*??? If it is a trait with a significant genetic component, it should be randomly distributed rather than prevalent among musicians. This speaks more of a trait that can be significantly nurtured in the right environment*.. or a trait that is linked to musical abilities, assuming one believes the latter to be genetic..
More intriguing to me are people who may actually have perfect pitch but do not know it for certain, because they never learnt to read music or even recognize note names.
Even more intriguing is the source of the "agony" that perfect pitch owners describe when faced with imperfect tuning situations.. really? The same kind of agony I feel when people misuse apostrophes or have a poor French accent? I can see it being irksome, but agonizing??? why?


Is there any evidence that most possessors of perfect pitch are musician's. Did my misplaced apostrophe really cause you agony? If so, why doesn't ending sentences with multiple question marks cause you physical pain??????? smile

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
Damon #1738484 08/22/11 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by Andromaque
Random Thoughts on this captivating topic:

Why does having perfect pitch make you more likely to be a musician*??? If it is a trait with a significant genetic component, it should be randomly distributed rather than prevalent among musicians. This speaks more of a trait that can be significantly nurtured in the right environment*.. or a trait that is linked to musical abilities, assuming one believes the latter to be genetic..
More intriguing to me are people who may actually have perfect pitch but do not know it for certain, because they never learnt to read music or even recognize note names.
Even more intriguing is the source of the "agony" that perfect pitch owners describe when faced with imperfect tuning situations.. really? The same kind of agony I feel when people misuse apostrophes or have a poor French accent? I can see it being irksome, but agonizing??? why?


Is there any evidence that most possessors of perfect pitch are musician's. Did my misplaced apostrophe really cause you agony? If so, why doesn't ending sentences with multiple question marks cause you physical pain??????? smile



Yesssss. Happy??? laugh

P.S. Go ahead and edit that apostrophe while you still can. It is really a shame to leave it. You have a pretty good "grammatical" record otherwise.

Last edited by Andromaque; 08/22/11 05:05 PM.
Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738488 08/22/11 05:11 PM
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i have perfect pitch.

here's how it helps:

1) memorize pieces almost instantly (although general smarts and memory are very important too)

2) hear anything on the radio and reproduce on piano instantly without having to practice at all (you could even blindfold me lol)

3) when i produce pop records, it comes in handy A LOT and i find it to be invaluable (examples: i can make sure the resonance of the kick drum or snare matches the key of my record; i can spot tiny imperfections in what the vocalist is singing or guitarist is playing that other people cant hear; when sampling or chopping up pieces of music, i instantly can tell the pitch and how much i need to transpose it if necessary which saves TONS of time; when drawing in harmonies in vocal editing programs, i know exactly what to program because i can hear the notes and harmonies in my head first; when i know an artist's highest note, i can instantly transpose the songs we are working on to fit their voice better and sit in a better range; and a couple more amazing time savers)

here is how it is annoying:

1) i would be WAY better at spontaneously transposing things if i didnt have perfect pitch (although with practice i notice i get slightly better at detaching myself from the pitch components)

2) i cant listen to or enjoy "period" performances where the tuning is different (for example, yo yo ma recorded the bach cello suites a semi-tone down and its too annoying to listen to)

3) squeaky things are very irritating like trains stopping, doors creeking, and wind chimes. its just too much going on and i dont wanna hear "g sharp" when a subway is stopping on the tracks

so, overall. would i rather have it or not have it? there is NO question at all. the benefits, for me at least, FAR outweigh the disadvantages. summing it up, the "pros" are absolute godsends whereas the "cons" are just really annoyances.

does anyone who has absolute pitch agree with me or have the same experience?

Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
Mark R. #1738535 08/22/11 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
I've read that perfect pitch (or as I prefer to call it: pitch memory) is much more common amongst speakers of tone languages, e.g. Chinese.

I also read that it's an innate, potential skill that everyone is born with, but that is not nurtured by everyone.

In my case, I remember being able to recognise notes, irrespective of the instrument, since my earliest memories. Only at 7 or 8 years old did I realise that this isn't true for everyone.

My pitch memory is certainly not perfect or constant. When I played on a piano that was 80 cents flat for almost a year, my pitch would often be off by up to 30 cents. And I really can't distinguish between a well-tempered or not so well-tempered F. I'll tell you whether a note is very flat, a little flat, more or less on pitch, slightly sharp, or very sharp. Also, it depends on my mood and frame of mind.

I can't enjoy so-called "historically informed practice", because it always sounds flat to me.

As a student I tested my ability to set a tone generator exactly on A440, while someone else watched things on an an oscilloscope that I couldn't see. I hit A438.


I'm not so interested in the perfect pitch phenomenon as I am developing our ears in general and so I must ask you if you can tell me where it is that you read that everyone is born with perfect pitch, but that not all of us nurture it.
I'm also curious regarding this statement from you: "In my case, I remember being able to recognise notes, irrespective of the instrument, since my earliest memories." What exactly do you mean by "recognise notes"? I ask because you say you recall this as part of your earliest memories and so I wonder how did you know what notes they were without some sort of prior knowledge. I mean one would not know that middle C is middle C unless he's been told so. It may be middle Z, yes?



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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Re: What percentage of people have perfect pitch?
toymachine198 #1738601 08/22/11 08:30 PM
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i remember my first year at curtis and everyone claimed they had perfect pitch. And half the students claimed they had synthesthesia. 70% were silly clothing that would fall under what one would draw if you wore to caricature a musician. One thing is certain , 80% of them had low self esteem and a dire need to be considered an artist of talent. These statistics are made up but you get the point.

I did meet one individual who had perfect pitch that was rather accurate. He could tell you within 25cents. I have perfect pitch although it was something I think that came from practicing as I don't recall knowing pitches when I was young. My girl friend is the same way although hers is more developed as I suppose as an Opera singer, you tend to use it more.

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