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question regarding perfect pitch #2208964
01/05/14 09:55 PM
01/05/14 09:55 PM
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Hamburg-D Offline OP
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Hello.

People that have perfect pitch, is it really perfect are do some have more perfect than others?

Do some do an a4 at 439.8 and are there some that are able to get 440hz every time no problem.

Also, when they go to symphony in Europe, where they tune at 442, does it bother them?

Let me guess, my question is full of ignorance smile yes, I don't know anything about perfect pitch. That's why I'm asking...

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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2208987
01/05/14 11:08 PM
01/05/14 11:08 PM
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Mark Fontana Offline
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For me, the ability is more about easily recognizing notes and chords than it is about creating notes at the correct pitch myself by singing etc. When a recording is overall slightly sharp or flat, it is noticeable to me, though not really bothersome unless individual performers are off pitch relative to each other. Variations in concert pitch are not a problem. My brain knows when notes are within a reasonable tolerance.

I've known about my perfect pitch since about age 6. I've read that the ability diminishes a bit as one ages, though mine is holding up fine over 30 years later.

There are many online tests and games about perfect pitch... here's one.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Mark Fontana] #2208997
01/05/14 11:31 PM
01/05/14 11:31 PM
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Hamburg-D Offline OP
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Thanks for the response.

So if you hum an A4 for me, and record it, and I have it analyzed by software, do you think it will be 440.00? Or 441hz?
What is the +/- do you think it would be?

If I send you a note like 441hz, will you be able to right away say "that's an A4, and it's very slightly sharp"?

Just curious about how "perfect" is the perfect pitch.
Noam

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209008
01/05/14 11:45 PM
01/05/14 11:45 PM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Noam, it is not a dumb question. There is quite a bit of research on it you can find using a search engine.

My wife has it. A good friend who is a technician has it. Many of my customers do. I don't.

The usual kind some musicians have is not accurate enough to tune a piano. They simply recognize notes by name with no external reference. It usually fades with age.

There are some individuals who's pitch counting ability seems super human. They can count audio frequency of a single note to astounding accuracy. Sometimes these same individuals actually dislike music because there are too many notes at once. They usually also exhibit many of the traits we have come to call autistic.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209010
01/05/14 11:47 PM
01/05/14 11:47 PM
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Not directly related, but sort of. Ran into a writeup about people who speak "tone languages" have a greater chance of having perfect pitch. That being languages like Chinese-Mandarin and Vietnamese. Maybe I should get my daughters to start watching Ni Hao Kai Lan.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041114235846.htm

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209026
01/06/14 12:02 AM
01/06/14 12:02 AM
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Hamburg-D Offline OP
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Thanks for the info. That clarifies this for me especially ed's response.

I don't have perfect pitch, but sometimes when I haven't played for 4 hours or when I wake up in the morning go to play something and I already hear the first note in my ear. So I play a little game with myself and hum it before I even touch the piano, and about 75% of the time I am spot on! The other 25% I am not even close. Sometimes a 5th off!!!

I'm always playing music in my head, maybe I'm keeping the pitch in my subconscious?

Not claiming to have perfect pitch, I certainly do not! smile

Noam

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209069
01/06/14 01:48 AM
01/06/14 01:48 AM
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Some may have what an earlier piano teacher of mine called "a tape player in the head." It can easily recall some thing in the proper key and very accurate but perhaps not perfectly within 8 cents.


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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: BornInTheUSA] #2209070
01/06/14 01:52 AM
01/06/14 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by michaelh
That being languages like Chinese-Mandarin and Vietnamese. Maybe I should get my daughters to start watching Ni Hao Kai Lan.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041114235846.htm


I'm Chinese and speak the language and have nowhere near perfect pitch. I have pretty decent relative pitch though and can play by ear.

I think perfect pitch is more genetic than anything. I have some Chinese friends who have it, but probably the same amount of non-Chinese who do too.

And some were born in North America like myself, and speak English as a first language. They told me they just always had it, and learning instruments just put a key name to the sound. It's like how we know colors, blue, red, green. We see it and know instantly.

In the overall picture, pp isn't that useful. You still need to train hours at your instrument.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209169
01/06/14 07:51 AM
01/06/14 07:51 AM
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Last edited by Rerun; 01/06/14 08:03 AM.

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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: The Wind] #2209184
01/06/14 09:02 AM
01/06/14 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by The Wind
[quote=michaelh]

...In the overall picture, pp isn't that useful. You still need to train hours at your instrument.


I suspect that's true for pianists, who, after all, can't control the pitch of the notes they play.

For string and wind players, I suspect that perfect pitch can be more important, at least in practice and for soloists -- especially those playing fretless string instruments like the violin. (That's not to question your point that one still needs to train long hours at the instrument.)

Even still, I suppose that having perfect pitch as a member of a string ensemble would be of limited utility unless all the other members of the ensemble had equally perfect pitch.

I never had it, so I've never worried about. Now however, with the availability of Carter's Perfect Pitch Pills, who knows?


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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209236
01/06/14 11:16 AM
01/06/14 11:16 AM
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My sister has perfect pitch. It tended to hinder her more than anything. She discovered she could play her lessons without learning to read music properly and fooled her teachers for several years. After all these years, it has made little difference.


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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209299
01/06/14 12:44 PM
01/06/14 12:44 PM
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Rochester MN
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I don't have perfect pitch, but one of my friends and a colleague does. His has been tested, on numerous occasions, and verified. We have discussed the concept quite thoroughly over the years. Here are some of the things I learned from him.

At a young age, he thought he was like everyone else and it was no different than anyone else. At about the age of five, with no musical training, but as the son of a piano player, he went to the piano and played a note and asked his mother "what that sound was called?" His mom was confused by what he was asking and didn't know how to answer. After some time listening to different "sounds" (notes) she figured out what he was asking. That sound was called G and that sound was called D, etc. He was just asking what something was called like "toaster," or "shoelace," or "jackknife." At that age, he would sometimes forget the name of a note, just as any kid would forget what something was called. He became quite skilled at picking out melodies at the piano, but had yet to learn to read music.

At age seven, he began formal piano lessons and was thrilled to learn that there was a way to "read all of those black dots printed on a page." Of course, he had yet to develop finger technique, just like any young student. Not at all a prodigy, he progressed as other students with his playing skills, but his understanding of musical structure and different "names" of intervals was far in advance of other students.

Now as an adult, he can articulate how he responds to pitch.

There is nothing special, magical, or universal about A=440 Hz. It is nothing more than the "name" given to a certain vibrational frequency. It doesn't matter if it is 437Hz. or 442Hz, it is still within the range of what we call, in western music, "an A." Just as there many variations of 'blue,' the same applies to the identification of a "note." (Please don't equate this to synesthesia.)

Whatever the "A" is, is of less importance than the intonation of intervals. It is true that if an "A" is so sharp or flat that it is bumping into the adjacent half-step, then things are thrown out of kilter in terms of "the names of various pitches." But, it doesn't cause him any distress and he just refers to it as "poor" intonation. As long as the ensemble is in tune with itself, there is no problem at all. But, out of tune is simply out of tune when it come to intervals. Believe me, his thoughts about Equal Temperament would set the Tuner/Tech Forum into fits of rage.

As a professional musician, he doesn't really find it a plus or minus. "It just is." The one thing he notices is that his identification of less than standard intervals can be heard/identified within key context, so if the key is known, he will immediately be able to stage whether an interval is an augmented or diminished whatever. He does credit his pitch identification skills to have made his understanding of the circle of fifths and music harmony/theory to be easier.

He is a bit frustrated that in contemporary music, quarter steps are often called for, but there is no standard "name" for the individual notes. What on earth do you call a quarter step above C? It is an understood concept, but the terminology has not yet been standardized. Like a # or a b, we need a ^ and an opposite. (my keyboard doesn't have the inverse of the symbol.) We also need a simple word to name the term. (Sorry, I diverged from the topic.)

I will ask him if he would be able to actually identify the Hz. of any given pitch. Nothing we have discussed has led me to believe that he listens to/for an absolute frequency, as does a very skilled tuner. It is an interesting question.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: ClsscLib] #2209324
01/06/14 01:13 PM
01/06/14 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Originally Posted by The Wind
[quote=michaelh]

...In the overall picture, pp isn't that useful. You still need to train hours at your instrument.


I suspect that's true for pianists, who, after all, can't control the pitch of the notes they play.

For string and wind players, I suspect that perfect pitch can be more important, at least in practice and for soloists -- especially those playing fretless string instruments like the violin. (That's not to question your point that one still needs to train long hours at the instrument.)

Even still, I suppose that having perfect pitch as a member of a string ensemble would be of limited utility unless all the other members of the ensemble had equally perfect pitch.

I never had it, so I've never worried about. Now however, with the availability of Carter's Perfect Pitch Pills, who knows?



I think perfect pitch and having a perfect relative pitch are different things.

The way I understand it, perfect pitch means you can hum a middle C without frame of reference.

I think I have perfect near relative pitch. I can hear violins being out of tune relative to each note, even when a famous violin player is playing. But I understand the basics of how a violin works. It's probably almost impossible to be perfect mechanically even if your ear can tell you are 2hz too flat or sharp. Maybe the best violinists adapt quickly on the fly when they hear that their finger position was is a bit off. Move their finger a few microns to the left or right.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209398
01/06/14 02:40 PM
01/06/14 02:40 PM
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Here's a cool real life example of perfect pitch, by the most famous cellist Yo Yo Ma. He's mimicking Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. Go to 6:15 for it. They do a call and response.



PP can be very useful when playing in a band or with others.


Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2209406
01/06/14 02:49 PM
01/06/14 02:49 PM
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A couple of thoughts here.

As I see it (and I've seen other more learned people write about this before) I think there are differing levels of pitch recognition, which really relates to the concept of pitch memory.. I have what I would describe as perfect pitch. If you play any note on a piano, I can tell you what it is, even if I haven't been listening to music for some time. If you ask, I can sing any note you ask.

For me, perfect pitch is associated with specific "reference "pieces. For instance, if you ask me to sing a D, I think of Kol Nidre, a cello piece by Max Bruch. The first note played by a cello is a D. I have other reference songs for different notes, most of which relate to cello pieces (a B is the Dvorak Cello Concerto!). The question is, if you ask me to sing an A, how exact will I be? I participated in a perfect pitch study when I was in college, many years ago. What I discovered is that I can sing a really close A, but I'm not dead on 440 every time.

I think there's a higher level of pitch recognition that I would call "Absolute Pitch." This is where someone can hit an A-440 dead on. I've met one person who can do this, and I think this is pretty rare.

On another note, I saw an article this weekend regarding perfect pitch, which I think was discussed in the Pianist's Corner forum. It seems that Valproic Acid (which is used as a mood stabilizer, among other things) can increase an adult's "learning elasticity", which is something we all lose as we age. In this article, people had better results improving their pitch memory when taking this medication. Perhaps someone wanting to improve this should find a way to con their doctor into prescribing this for them! smile

Steve



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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Steve Peterson] #2209425
01/06/14 03:12 PM
01/06/14 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Peterson

... I think there's a higher level of pitch recognition that I would call "Absolute Pitch." This is where someone can hit an A-440 dead on. I've met one person who can do this, and I think this is pretty rare.



FWIW, "absolute pitch" is the term psychomusicologists (and many others) use for perfect pitch, i.e. a preferred name for the ability, not for a different degree of the ability.

An ability that definitely comes in varying degrees. And as was previously mentioned, just as there are many different blues or greens, there are as many different As or Bbs. And just as with colors, some are better than others at sensing subtle differences.

Larry.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2210253
01/07/14 02:54 PM
01/07/14 02:54 PM
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Oliver Sacks' book "Musicophilia" has a good chapter on PP as well as other topics relating to music and the brain.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Minnesota Marty] #2210269
01/07/14 03:15 PM
01/07/14 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty

He is a bit frustrated that in contemporary music, quarter steps are often called for, but there is no standard "name" for the individual notes. What on earth do you call a quarter step above C? It is an understood concept, but the terminology has not yet been standardized. Like a # or a b, we need a ^ and an opposite.


Quarter tones are supported in Persian musical notation. I believe MuseScore may by now have added the symbols.


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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2210386
01/07/14 05:44 PM
01/07/14 05:44 PM
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Hi John,

I'm not familiar with MuseScore. Is there any way you could copy them and show us what they look like?


Marty in Minnesota

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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: The Wind] #2210399
01/07/14 05:57 PM
01/07/14 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by The Wind
Originally Posted by michaelh
That being languages like Chinese-Mandarin and Vietnamese. Maybe I should get my daughters to start watching Ni Hao Kai Lan.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041114235846.htm


I'm Chinese and speak the language and have nowhere near perfect pitch. I have pretty decent relative pitch though and can play by ear.

I think perfect pitch is more genetic than anything. I have some Chinese friends who have it, but probably the same amount of non-Chinese who do too.

And some were born in North America like myself, and speak English as a first language. They told me they just always had it, and learning instruments just put a key name to the sound. It's like how we know colors, blue, red, green. We see it and know instantly.

In the overall picture, pp isn't that useful. You still need to train hours at your instrument.


Well I'm Chinese and I do have perfect pitch. But I guess I'm in the minority.
There is a trait in which a person with PP can memorize music by ear and play it the next day. Can anyone do that? I think I can, but just not very well. I personally think it is hard.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: iObsessed] #2210415
01/07/14 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by iObsessed

... There is a trait in which a person with PP can memorize music by ear and play it the next day. Can anyone do that? I think I can, but just not very well. I personally think it is hard.


That's a good one. I've heard a lot of "perfect pitch" folklore over the years, but never that one. Setting aside the piano technique aspects of the problem, it would be analogous to a person being able to listen to a short story, and then recite it from memory the next day. How common would that ability be? Certainly unusual, but not impossible.

Larry.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2210501
01/07/14 07:59 PM
01/07/14 07:59 PM
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So I was reading this thread, and decided to test my daughter (6yrs old, 2 year of piano lessons). Hit notes on the piano and she could name each one with 100% accuracy, impressive! Then start hitting two note chords, and she can name both notes! Three note chords, and she can usually pick out two notes in the chord. Get out the iPad piano, hit random notes, and she can hit each one on the piano.

She never practiced this or demonstrated this before, so I am really impressed, and call over the wife. She however thinks that any musician can do this, and it is not a one in ten thousand thing.

Daughter can get it right from the first random note, so it seems more than just relative pitch. However she cannot get the sharps/flats, even if I play other notes as a reference, and even after we practiced for a while. Ask her why she thinks that is and she logically says, because the songs she learned until recently don't have many sharps/flats.

So is this signs of perfect pitch, or rather how most musician can play from ear? Should I do drills on the sharps and flats, before it is too late as per the articles stating it can only be learned at an early age?

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: stevecay] #2210603
01/07/14 10:50 PM
01/07/14 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by stevecay
So I was reading this thread, and decided to test my daughter (6yrs old, 2 year of piano lessons). Hit notes on the piano and she could name each one with 100% accuracy, impressive! Then start hitting two note chords, and she can name both notes! Three note chords, and she can usually pick out two notes in the chord. Get out the iPad piano, hit random notes, and she can hit each one on the piano.

She never practiced this or demonstrated this before, so I am really impressed, and call over the wife. She however thinks that any musician can do this, and it is not a one in ten thousand thing.

Daughter can get it right from the first random note, so it seems more than just relative pitch. However she cannot get the sharps/flats, even if I play other notes as a reference, and even after we practiced for a while. Ask her why she thinks that is and she logically says, because the songs she learned until recently don't have many sharps/flats.

So is this signs of perfect pitch, or rather how most musician can play from ear? Should I do drills on the sharps and flats, before it is too late as per the articles stating it can only be learned at an early age?


As you relate the account, it sounds like a case of perfect pitch to me. And no, not every musician can do it -- very few can.


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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2210643
01/08/14 12:14 AM
01/08/14 12:14 AM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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I have had several experiences with musicians who have PP where they start to be seduced by tuning to a higher A. At the higher pitch everything sounds "brighter" and more "potent" to them. After some time this feeling fades and they begin to wonder if a higher yet pitch might be better.

Reminds me a bit of a drug addict who needs to up his dose to regain the high.


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According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Minnesota Marty] #2210711
01/08/14 04:01 AM
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Alas, our IT department won't let us download the newest version, but you can get it for free from MuseScore.org. Check out the accidentals palette from the column on the left side of the screen.


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Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2210804
01/08/14 10:43 AM
01/08/14 10:43 AM
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Minnesota Marty  Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Thanks John!


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: stevecay] #2210814
01/08/14 11:01 AM
01/08/14 11:01 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 539
Chicago
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iLaw Offline
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iLaw  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 539
Chicago
Originally Posted by stevecay

... However she cannot get the sharps/flats, even if I play other notes as a reference, and even after we practiced for a while. Ask her why she thinks that is and she logically says, because the songs she learned until recently don't have many sharps/flats.



White key absolute pitch has been reported and although I have not seen research specifically directed to it I agree with your daughter that it's the result of the notes she was taught. Here's the picture I like to use to suggest another favorite theory on white key absolute pitch:

[Linked Image]
Originally Posted by stevecay

... So is this signs of perfect pitch ...?


Yes.

Larry.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: ClsscLib] #2210827
01/08/14 11:13 AM
01/08/14 11:13 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
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Chicago
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iLaw Offline
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Chicago
Originally Posted by ClsscLib

... And no, not every musician can do it -- very few can.


And here's the funny thing about it. There's a solid line of research that indicates that infants generally have absolute pitch. So every musician could do it, they just lost it (before they started music lessons or otherwise learned that particular pitches have particular names).

I subscribe to the line of research that suggests that, during language acquisition, our brains learn to discard absolute pitch content in favor of the relative pitch content, thus helping us better understand what we are hearing (particularly language) regardless of the absolute pitch at which it is presented.

Larry.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: iLaw] #2211009
01/08/14 04:55 PM
01/08/14 04:55 PM
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 539
Chicago
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iLaw Offline
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iLaw  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2010
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Chicago
Originally Posted by iLaw

... White key absolute pitch has been reported and although I have not seen research specifically directed to it ...


OK, I couldn't resist and had to go take a look. There has been a fair amount of research specifically directed to white key absolute pitch, including Annie Takeuchi and Stewart Hulse's "Absolute-Pitch Judgments of Black- and White-Key Pitches" published in Music Perception, Fall 1991, Vol. 9, No. 1. This quote from the abstract needs to be the caption for my picture above:

"Another possible explanation is that absolute-pitch possessors may learn absolute pitch for only white-key pitches in development ..."

Larry.

Re: question regarding perfect pitch [Re: Hamburg-D] #2211023
01/08/14 05:31 PM
01/08/14 05:31 PM
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wouter79 Offline
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty

What on earth do you call a quarter step above C?

c-half-sharp?

I think it's notated with a half-dash, like a = and a / through each other.
The half-flat I can't remember, was it a b with a / through it?


Originally Posted by stevecay
Hit notes on the piano and she could name each one with 100% accuracy


Yes, if you do that point blank, without having heard any known notes for hours, the first note would be PP

Subsequent notes, I don't know, I think it can be argued that it's relative pitch

You need to have only perfect pitch for 1 note. If you always know eg the C, you can always hear the relative pitch of any given note relative to that C you know





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