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#2102978 - 06/15/13 04:33 PM Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect'  
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Withindale Offline
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Suffolk, England
You may find this interesting:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22871651

Quote:

People classified with perfect pitch may not actually be as in tune with the notes they hear as they think.

Played a long piece of music, a study group failed to notice when scientists turned the tones ever so slightly flat. They then misidentified in-tune sounds as being sharp.

Researchers say it demonstrates the adaptability of the mind even for those skills thought to be fixed at birth.

They have published the work in the journal Psychological Science.

Last edited by Withindale; 06/16/13 12:41 PM.

Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
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#2102982 - 06/15/13 04:42 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Olek Offline
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France
Nobody is allowed to say I am not perfect , I have golden ears, no corrosion wink

(sometime missing the note by an exact semi tone, but stay true pitch wise - without being pretentious, only at the 440-42 level the precision is somewhat good, for the rest , note names, mostly)



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I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#2103049 - 06/15/13 08:58 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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David Jenson Offline
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I've always felt that it had more to do with pitch memory, and memory being what it is, it will be somewhat unreliable.

- Perfect pitch ... tossing a tuba into the dumpster and hitting an accordion. BDB - semipro tech


David L. Jenson
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Jenson's Piano Service
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#2103098 - 06/15/13 10:57 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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That Guy Offline
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Fascinating... Thanks for sharing.


Scott Kerns
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Lincoln, NE
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#2103100 - 06/15/13 11:05 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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kpembrook Offline
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This has been established in other ways before. One exercise that Owen Jorgenson (author of books about historical temperaments and piano technician for the music department at Michigan State) used to do is to ask people in a music class to identify themselves as having "perfect pitch". Then he would start tuning a note on the piano that was about 1/2 step off. He would announce the note name and ask the perfect pitchers to raise their hands when he had gotten the string to the correct pitch for that note.

It was kind of like a bell curve. Some would raise their hands earlier than others and rarely would anyone be right on. He would try to tune a temperament by "perfect pitch" and it was always horribly way off.

Perfect pitch -- better called pitch memory -- is an interesting phenomenon and possibly useful ability , but nowhere close enough to be sufficient to tune a piano.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
#2103104 - 06/15/13 11:20 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Very interesting. Thank you.

I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2103128 - 06/16/13 12:17 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Having "Perfect Pitch" is something that has been referenced by musicians for well over two centuries. Pitch standards only became more uniform in the last century. Thus the evidence that the "Perfect" part is somewhat flexible has been well established.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
#2103132 - 06/16/13 12:37 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Gary Fowler Offline
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I have only known one person who has ever had "perfect pitch". She was a blind, autistic teenage girl that I was contracted by the state to teach piano tuning to. She happened to be a high functioning autistic, and they needed to find a vocation(job skill) for her. They told me, this girl has perfect pitch, and I was skeptical. The first time I met with her, I asked her to take the tuning hammer and set A-49 to where her ears thought it belonged. She fiddled around for about 2 or 3 seconds with the pin, and said, "I have it". I checked the note and it was %100 dead on the money!


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2103136 - 06/16/13 01:23 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Supply Offline
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I pity people who have something approaching perfect pitch. With my relative pitch, I find it excruciating enough to listen to guitar players etc play (enthusiastically) on out of tune instruments. Same for other instruments of course.
Anyone with (real) perfect pitch would almost never come across music that they could listen to and enjoy.

#2103142 - 06/16/13 01:36 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Gary Fowler Offline
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It's almost annoying having new customers often asking me if I have "perfect pitch". In a way, I don't want to burst their bubble(since they probably think that if anyone should have perfect pitch, it is the piano tuner). But I am always honest and tell them I don't have "the gift". But more importantly, it's TOTALLY unecessary to have perfect pitch in order to tune a piano. More important is good hearing and great ear training!


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2103143 - 06/16/13 01:40 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Gary Fowler Offline
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It's almost annoying having new customers often asking me if I have "perfect pitch". In a way, I don't want to burst their bubble(since they probably think that if anyone should have perfect pitch, it is the piano tuner). But I am always honest and tell them I don't have "the gift". But more importantly, it's TOTALLY unecessary to have perfect pitch in order to tune a piano. More important is good hearing and great ear training!


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2103144 - 06/16/13 01:42 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Olek Offline
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France
You can learn how to stop listening pitches but it can be terrible in some extreme cases indeed.

Does not cause problems with microcontonal music so it is more a reference and memory question probably, but some can get that sort of imprint and other no or not as early.
A tuner also recognise pitch different from what he is used to, also.


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I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#2103161 - 06/16/13 02:55 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: David Jenson]  
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Originally Posted by David Jenson
I've always felt that it had more to do with pitch memory, and memory being what it is, it will be somewhat unreliable.


This is where I am in this.

There have been so many times someone has tried to prove to me they have perfect pitch by using a piano as a reference.



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#2103226 - 06/16/13 09:27 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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I am not exactly sure why people still refer to "perfect pitch" as a gift. There are several researchers on the subject who are convinced we are actually all born with it but around 5 years of age we learn to unlearn it. When we begin to structure things like the alphabet and numerology/math, this structuring interferes with the very different process that perfect pitch requires.

More recent developments in Japan in the past few years indicate that several schools are teaching very young children under the age of 5 to become aware of their inherant abilities on perfect pitch and refine it to a degree where the structured learning that follows later does not interfere with it. They have a very high success rate and it is getting quite popular for parents to enroll their children in the programs.


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#2103307 - 06/16/13 12:33 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: bkw58]  
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[quote=bkw58]Very interesting. Thank you.

I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch. [/quote

There are some interesting and rare abilities out there. I know an autistic piano technician who can "scratch" a bass string and tell you all the partials and their inharmonicity.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
#2103311 - 06/16/13 12:42 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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France
The definition is not so perfect, but singing A 440 makes it. Then all other notes are in memory. What is strange is that I can miss a note name by half a steep.

But I could tune all notes in an octave at probable 10-20 cts near


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#2103312 - 06/16/13 12:45 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Gary Fowler]  
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rXd Online happy
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Originally Posted by Gary Fowler
I have only known one person who has ever had "perfect pitch". She was a blind, autistic teenage girl that I was contracted by the state to teach piano tuning to. She happened to be a high functioning autistic, and they needed to find a vocation(job skill) for her. They told me, this girl has perfect pitch, and I was skeptical. The first time I met with her, I asked her to take the tuning hammer and set A-49 to where her ears thought it belonged. She fiddled around for about 2 or 3 seconds with the pin, and said, "I have it". I checked the note and it was %100 dead on the money!


You were contracted by the state to teach her.... And the rest of the story?



Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


#2103637 - 06/17/13 01:48 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: kpembrook]  
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Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted by kpembrook
Originally Posted by bkw58
Very interesting. Thank you.

I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


There are some interesting and rare abilities out there. I know an autistic piano technician who can "scratch" a bass string and tell you all the partials and their inharmonicity.


Fascinating. Some really gifted folks out there.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2103668 - 06/17/13 03:41 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Supply]  
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Originally Posted by Supply
I pity people who have something approaching perfect pitch. With my relative pitch, I find it excruciating enough to listen to guitar players etc play (enthusiastically) on out of tune instruments. Same for other instruments of course.
Anyone with (real) perfect pitch would almost never come across music that they could listen to and enjoy.

Jurgen, does this mean that you have problems listening to music at "baroque" pitch?

#2103707 - 06/17/13 07:14 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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I'm not sure about Jurgen, but I have this exact problem. I once made the mistake of buying a recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concerti that were played at "baroque" pitch. The interpretation as such is beautiful, but the semitone pitch difference bothers me so badly that I can't listen to the recording any more.

If it's a piece of music I don't know, I just assume the key I hear is the key it's written in. But if I know the music (as I do in the case of the Brandenburgs), I balk at the "wrong" pitch, and my musical experience is completely spoiled. Mind you, I've really tried to "groove" myself into the recording and listen past the exact pitch, but to no avail. It's wrong in my ears.


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#2103728 - 06/17/13 08:16 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mark R.]  
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Mwm Offline
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
I'm not sure about Jurgen, but I have this exact problem. I once made the mistake of buying a recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concerti that were played at "baroque" pitch. The interpretation as such is beautiful, but the semitone pitch difference bothers me so badly that I can't listen to the recording any more.

If it's a piece of music I don't know, I just assume the key I hear is the key it's written in. But if I know the music (as I do in the case of the Brandenburgs), I balk at the "wrong" pitch, and my musical experience is completely spoiled. Mind you, I've really tried to "groove" myself into the recording and listen past the exact pitch, but to no avail. It's wrong in my ears.

A pianist friend of mine, who has perfect pitch, also sang in a baroque chamber choir for a while. She had to quit because she found it too difficult to sing well in tune.

#2103730 - 06/17/13 08:31 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2103733 - 06/17/13 08:36 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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Mark R. Offline
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If it ain't B'roque, don't fix it.


Autodidact interested in piano technology.
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1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.
#2103752 - 06/17/13 09:48 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: bkw58]  
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Mwm Offline
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Originally Posted by bkw58
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.

Yeah, well try singing Beethoven 9 at 440. It was bad enough to perform at 420-430, but at 440, the chorus and soloists just scream and make a truly ugly sound. The guy hated women, I think.

#2103753 - 06/17/13 09:49 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mark R.]  
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Mwm Offline
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
If it ain't B'roque, don't fix it.

Well said.

#2103759 - 06/17/13 10:10 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mwm]  
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Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted by Mwm
Originally Posted by bkw58
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.

Yeah, well try singing Beethoven 9 at 440. It was bad enough to perform at 420-430, but at 440, the chorus and soloists just scream and make a truly ugly sound. The guy hated women, I think.


ASO did the 9th once or twice, but I have no idea what pitch the Maestro ordered for the day. I understand his major was voice, so perhaps he knocked it down a notch or two? I don't know.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2103766 - 06/17/13 10:21 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: bkw58]  
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Originally Posted by bkw58


I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


Greetings,
There was an oboist here that could tell if the pitch on the piano was at 439, and demonstrated it several times. I have a lot of customers that can not only tell you what note you just played, but they can also tell you every one of the 8 notes you play in a big chord. Scares me, sometimes.
Regards,

#2103770 - 06/17/13 10:33 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Ed Foote]  
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bkw58 Offline

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bkw58  Offline

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Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Originally Posted by bkw58


I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


Greetings,
There was an oboist here that could tell if the pitch on the piano was at 439, and demonstrated it several times. I have a lot of customers that can not only tell you what note you just played, but they can also tell you every one of the 8 notes you play in a big chord. Scares me, sometimes.
Regards,


Thanks, Ed. If I understand you correctly, the oboist could do so by listening to the piano alone. This is amazing.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2103787 - 06/17/13 11:11 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]  
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rysowers Online content
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Olympia, WA
I have this discussion with people on a regular basis. I tell people that the idea of "perfect pitch" is a sloppy use of the word "perfect". I also tell them that as a piano tuner I don't believe in perfect pitch. Every piano tunes a little bit differently inharmonicity. If different pianos have slightly different pitches for middle C, which one is perfect? Still, some people are skeptical. Many people seem to enjoy the idea that some individuals can do impossible things.


Last edited by rysowers; 06/17/13 11:12 AM.

Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
#2103852 - 06/17/13 01:32 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mwm]  
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Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted by Mwm
Originally Posted by bkw58
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.

Yeah, well try singing Beethoven 9 at 440. It was bad enough to perform at 420-430, but at 440, the chorus and soloists just scream and make a truly ugly sound. The guy hated women, I think.


I was the tenor soloist for a performance of the CPE Bach Magnificat last fall here locally. Having never done it before, I listened to a couple of recordings, and, while it was still at the limits of my range, I found it singable for me. I get to orchestra rehearsal, and it's nearly impossible for me (what a difference a half step makes!). The conductor was running it at A440, and the recordings were 1/2 step down; the way it's mostly performed, according to the conductor.

In the end, I surprised myself at my ability at singing lyric Baroque tenor...


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
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New Topics - Multiple Forums
removing key cover on Mason Hamlin model 50
by jbclem. 09/24/17 08:10 PM
Women composers I admire
by GillesJ. 09/24/17 08:08 PM
Hailun H-5 Piano opinion
by DesertFox. 09/24/17 07:57 PM
Grotrian Studio 118
by plumpfingers. 09/24/17 07:03 PM
What are you playing at the moment ?
by Moo :). 09/24/17 06:46 PM
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