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Question on perfect pitch
#2873319 07/27/19 07:21 PM
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Hi,

These questions has been nagging me for some time now and I have no clue in which section I should ask, however, I suspect that there might be more % of people with perfect pitch found among tuners than in any other category...unfortunately, I don't know anyone with perfect pitch in real life smirk

I heard that octaves on real piano are stretched, compensating for the imperfection of the human ear (correct?), imperfection of the real physical string (thickness, tension), whose overtones are not exactly integer multiples of the base frequency and impedance of the soundboard. One can google things like Railsback curve and I also read, that smaller piano suffer from the overtone imperfection more than big grands, so the Railsback curve would be more pronounced on such piano.

First big question: if we eliminate the overtone problem, I also heard that the human ear itself is imperfect, does that mean, that even with a perfect piano (perfectly integer overtones), our ear would still "feel an urge" to tune higher notes even higher and bass strings even lower? How much? Let's say A7, theoretically, has frequency 8*440Hz = 3520Hz. What's a typical frequency you would tune this note to, what pleases you? What frequency would a tuner show exactly? Conversely, if a computer generates frequency of 3520Hz, this doesn't sound like a note A but something different (like, G7?) for someone with perfect pitch?

Next big question: do different people feel differently about high/low notes, in terms of how stretched they would tune them? Would someone tune A7 to let's say (pulling this out of my arse) 4000Hz, but the other one would furrow their brows and tune it to 3900Hz?

Next big question for people with perfect pitch. You approach two pianos, one is a small spinet, the other one is a concert grand. They have different stretched tunings, what exactly do you hear when high notes (like A7) are played? I opened Pianoteq and played with stretched tuning and well, when I change the coefficient of stretching, the very high and very notes change. This must be confusing for people with perfect pitch, what do they hear? If it's stretched too much, can it happen one plays A7 and they heard B flat 7?

Also, how does this relate to string instruments? For example, what pitch would a violinist go for when soloing (I assume that they tune to the accompanying piano)?

I hope someone would be able to help me with this. Thanks.

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Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873322 07/27/19 07:52 PM
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Top octave on spinet sometimes can sound better than a concert grand imho.
I stretch the top octave just enough so that it don’t sound flat.
I do not know of anyone who has perfect pitch. And I don’t know that anyone can hear the second partial of A-7 or the 12 notes below it, it’s all fundamental frequency up there.
I know a few who believe they have perfect pitch but beliefs are not facts and subject to change.
How much to stretch, I don’t have a definite answer in cents.
I’ve tried to memorize one note: A-440 from a tuning fork but every time I put it to the test I’m off by 50 cents minimum, sometimes much more. When tuning A-4 it’s the fundamental friquency and the M3-17test is used to verify.
One example on a concert grand: me and my partner did a very careful master tuning (he is a certified tuning examiner) and record it. There were a couple incidents where an artist thought the top octave needed a bit more stretch.
So much of top octave tuning can be subjective.
But if it sounds flat, I’ll get a complaint.


RPT
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Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873325 07/27/19 07:57 PM
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In reality, "perfect pitch" is simply a highly developed sense of relative pitch. We tuners would go nuts if we had perfect pitch to the degree that we are bothered by small deviations in actual pitch reference. Everything in a piano is relative to something else.

Perfect pitch is in fact not "perfect" in that if the three strings of a unison (A-440 for example) are all tuned to slightly different frequencies (i.e. 439, 440, 441) and then the person who claims to have perfect pitch is asked to identify which string is "A" (when played separately), they will identify all of them as "A", however only one is "truly" A (440).

Your question about high pitches does not even apply (AFAIK) to perfect pitch since the final frequencies tuned will be relative to those below them. Still a person with good PP should be able to identify those notes without seeing them in relation to the keyboard.

Sorry, this may not really answer your question though.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Question on perfect pitch
P W Grey #2873335 07/27/19 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
In reality, "perfect pitch" is simply a highly developed sense of relative pitch. We tuners would go nuts if we had perfect pitch to the degree that we are bothered by small deviations in actual pitch reference. Everything in a piano is relative to something else.

Perfect pitch is in fact not "perfect" in that if the three strings of a unison (A-440 for example) are all tuned to slightly different frequencies (i.e. 439, 440, 441) and then the person who claims to have perfect pitch is asked to identify which string is "A" (when played separately), they will identify all of them as "A", however only one is "truly" A (440).

Your question about high pitches does not even apply (AFAIK) to perfect pitch since the final frequencies tuned will be relative to those below them. Still a person with good PP should be able to identify those notes without seeing them in relation to the keyboard.

Sorry, this may not really answer your question though.

Pwg



So are you saying this is fake?



I guess I need answers from people who really have perfect pitch like this, otherwise it's just guessing.

In other words, if we take people like Dylan to several pianos, some of them are small pianos with more stretched tuning, some of them are grand pianos with less stretched tuning, and we play note A7 and A0 on those pianos, would they say "A" on each of them or actually say a note farther up/down if the tuning is stretched more? I already get that an electronic tuner will show different frequencies and I guess will report a different note being played each time.

Note, that there is a video of Dylan in which his dad tuned a digital piano so that key A4 plays a note between A and Bb and Dylan could still correctly identify it, here around 4th minute https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxEmaBqjUmY

Re: Question on perfect pitch
P W Grey #2873339 07/27/19 09:22 PM
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Perfect pitch (absolute pitch) is not precise in the way Chopin Acolyte supposes it might be.

Absolute pitch is simply that someone hears different notes as having a unique character. Often it’s likened to colours. You can see colours as different in relation to other colours and you can see colours as specific colours without reference to other colours. People with absolute pitch hear pitches that way, as having a specific character without reference to another pitch.

It’s not ‘perfect’ in the sense of precision. Most people with absolute pitch don’t have it with a great sense of precision, in that their sense of pitch adjusts based on what is being heard (for many, if the pitch is slightly flat or sharp they won’t even notice). Kind of like relative pitch, but with the element of hearing a pitch character.

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873344 07/27/19 09:43 PM
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I've known plenty of people with 'perfect pitch'... I'd call it a well-develped pitch memory. The few that could really determine small shifts in tuning have been focused on "A" - one conductor and an oboist that gives the A for the orchestra all the time. None of the other notes of the scale were burned into their memory with the same precision.

Most that claim "perfect pitch" have only a rough sense when it comes to the precision of tuning. There have been a few demonstrations where instead of a 1/4 step like the video above, the pitch was slightly adjusted over time to end up with "perfect pitch" note identification being a full 1/2 step off...

As for high and low tuning on a piano, the best scales allow for less compromises when it comes to making all of the octaves work. Tougher on those plentiful pianos without a great scale! That means the individual technician or electronic device will favor some octaves over others when determining where to tune notes.

Ron Koval

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873346 07/27/19 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
Originally Posted by P W Grey
In reality, "perfect pitch" is simply a highly developed sense of relative pitch. We tuners would go nuts if we had perfect pitch to the degree that we are bothered by small deviations in actual pitch reference. Everything in a piano is relative to something else.

Perfect pitch is in fact not "perfect" in that if the three strings of a unison (A-440 for example) are all tuned to slightly different frequencies (i.e. 439, 440, 441) and then the person who claims to have perfect pitch is asked to identify which string is "A" (when played separately), they will identify all of them as "A", however only one is "truly" A (440).

Your question about high pitches does not even apply (AFAIK) to perfect pitch since the final frequencies tuned will be relative to those below them. Still a person with good PP should be able to identify those notes without seeing them in relation to the keyboard.

Sorry, this may not really answer your question though.

Pwg



So are you saying this is fake?



I guess I need answers from people who really have perfect pitch like this, otherwise it's just guessing.

In other words, if we take people like Dylan to several pianos, some of them are small pianos with more stretched tuning, some of them are grand pianos with less stretched tuning, and we play note A7 and A0 on those pianos, would they say "A" on each of them or actually say a note farther up/down if the tuning is stretched more? I already get that an electronic tuner will show different frequencies and I guess will report a different note being played each time.

Note, that there is a video of Dylan in which his dad tuned a digital piano so that key A4 plays a note between A and Bb and Dylan could still correctly identify it, here around 4th minute https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxEmaBqjUmY


I would say that the second video pretty much proves my point.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Question on perfect pitch
P W Grey #2873355 07/27/19 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
In reality, "perfect pitch" is simply a highly developed sense of relative pitch.

...

I would say that the second video pretty much proves my point.


I think that most of what you said is correct. However, I’m curious about your sentence quoted above. Maybe I misunderstood what you meant?

Absolute pitch and relative pitch are not related. Relative pitch won’t lead to hearing a different tonal character to different notes no matter how developed that relative pitch becomes. In fact I’ve known people with perfect pitch who have poor relative pitch (granted they can easily fake a lot).

It’s been theorised that absolute pitch usually develops during early childhood. Note B ‘sounds like’ a B in the same way that an apple tastes like an apple, etc. It has nothing to do with precision or a developed sense of pitch.

Last edited by jsilva; 07/27/19 11:18 PM.
Re: Question on perfect pitch
jsilva #2873356 07/27/19 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by jsilva

It’s been theorised that absolute pitch usually develops during early childhood. Note B ‘sounds like’ a B in the same way that an apple tastes like an apple, etc. It has nothing to do with precision or a developed sense of pitch.


EXACTLY! So can we please address my original question? I guess this actually answers it kind of? For someone with developed perfect pitch, a high note played on piano with different stretched tunings might then actually fool them, because it will feel different...if it's frequency is actually different.

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873362 07/28/19 12:05 AM
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Different levels of precision. Think of a note identified by someone with "perfect pitch" as a zone. Like, "you live in Illinois" or " you live in Wisconsin". Where exactly in Illinois?.... well that's not so clear, because anywhere in Illinois is still called Illinois.

For tuning or stretch, we need to determine where in Illinois - do you live in Springfield or Chicago? Maybe in Joliet or somewhere in between? Any of those locations would still be recognized as "in Illinois" in the broader focus.

Ron Koval

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873367 07/28/19 12:40 AM
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Okay, I redownloaded Pianoteq Standard Trial version which allows for adjusting stretching and I exported 5 various amounts of stretching with the same chords.

Does the top note sound still like A in all recordings?

https://vocaroo.com/i/s1rt82GbeVVC
https://vocaroo.com/i/s1UUUbIu3DWb
https://vocaroo.com/i/s1OUugnvWor4
https://vocaroo.com/i/s1ExJVhZyjYc
https://vocaroo.com/i/s0sQozYv7srz

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873370 07/28/19 01:58 AM
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IMO, A7 would be tuned around 25 to 32 cents sharp on most pianos (about 3571 Hz to 3586 Hz for A4 440 Hz). The theoretical frequency of A#7 without any stretch is 3729.31 Hz.

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Hakki #2873371 07/28/19 02:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Hakki
IMO, A7 would be tuned around 25 to 32 cents sharp on most pianos (about 3571 Hz to 3586 Hz for A4 440 Hz). The theoretical frequency of A#7 without any stretch is 3729.31 Hz.


Why? Shouldn't the frequency be 2^3 * 440 Hz = 3520 Hz? 8 is the factor between notes 3 octaves apart, isn't it?

Edit: never mind. I get what you're trying to say. That B flat 7 is too high to be mistaken with however much stretched A7 anyway.

Last edited by Chopin Acolyte; 07/28/19 02:04 AM.
Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873373 07/28/19 02:47 AM
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The interval of a semitone, in fact, is very wide, and never, varying the height, you cannot get beyond a semitone. Everything else - the details ...

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873410 07/28/19 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte

EXACTLY! So can we please address my original question? I guess this actually answers it kind of? For someone with developed perfect pitch, a high note played on piano with different stretched tunings might then actually fool them, because it will feel different...if it's frequency is actually different.


It would have to be severely stretched to ‘fool’ them. The normal stretch applied to high notes wouldn’t be noticed by the vast majority of those with perfect pitch. Ron Tuner gave a decent explanation.

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873462 07/28/19 12:07 PM
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I can speak from personal experience, as I've had perfect (absolute) pitch as long as I can remember. I don't experience tones as colors or tastes, but I can see how those are good analogies for perfect pitch. It is as easy to tell the difference between an E and an A as it is to tell red from blue.

In my experience perfect pitch is definitely not a highly developed sense of relative pitch. With perfect pitch you can identify a note any time, any where, without any reference notes. For example, I didn't listen to any music or tune any pianos yesterday or today. In fact I went camping last night and the only thing musical I heard was train whistles. While I was reading this thread another train went by blowing its whistle and I was able to identify the notes as roughly D, F#, a flat A, and a sharp C. Later, as a test, I opened up my ETD app and without looking pointed my phone's screen at my wife while singing an A. According to her I was 5 cents sharp.

In fact my sense of relative pitch will often interfere with or override my perfect pitch. If I've been listening to an orchestra tuned to A=444 that will throw me off for some time after, or if I'm singing in a choir that's gone flat it's not too much trouble to just ignore the absolute pitch and sing along. On the other hand I find it nearly impossible to play pianos or harpsichords transpose tuned 100 cents flat.

Getting back to the original questions, I also like Ron's analogy. If a note is within +/- 30 or 40 cents of an "A" I identify it as an A that sounds sharp or flat. If it's close to 50 cents off I get confused and can't tell what note it is.

Pitch perception in general gets less accurate as you move away from the center of the piano. At the top of the keyboard I can still easily tell the difference between B7 and C8 but if I were tuning blindly without a reference I'd be lucky to hit within 25 cents of the pitch (as opposed to 5-10 cents in the center of the piano).

On the psychoacoustic effect that causes us to want to hear high notes sharper, I think the natural stretch from the piano's inharmonicity largely satisfies this. It does affects other instrumentalists. Violinists tend to play sharper the higher they go. Some, for me, go uncomfortably sharp. But I couldn't say how sharp in relation to a piano without a side-by-side comparison. You can take this back to the color analogy. You can look at a sunset and identify a color as orange, but you can't say whether it's darker or lighter or redder or yellower than the orange color from yesterday's sunset.

Re the % of people with perfect pitch, I would expect a higher percent in musicians than piano tuners, and higher in string players than piano players. By the age a person starts tuning pianos it's too late to develop perfect pitch. Which is just fine, since piano tuners don't need it anyway.


Anthony Willey, RPT
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Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873526 07/28/19 02:39 PM
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Well, I guess you have your answer!

Thanks Anthony. I stand corrected.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873571 07/28/19 05:35 PM
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Mozart's perfect pitch was 422 Hz. Late 19th century it was 435 Hz.

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Hakki #2873578 07/28/19 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by AWilley

...


That's amazing! Thank you very much for your answer, I appreaciate, it's really helpful smile

Originally Posted by Hakki
Mozart's perfect pitch was 422 Hz. Late 19th century it was 435 Hz.


This is also interesting, how the standard pitch of a went up and up throughout the history.

It makes me think: if someone like Rick Beato had another kid now and only played for him music on a totally beat-up, terribly out-of-tune piano, would that kid have later a totally crooked sense of pitch? Would he assign pitches precisely (according to his childhood piano), but totally incorrectly, when compared to a properly tuned piano? That would be....pretty devastating.

Re: Question on perfect pitch
Chopin Acolyte #2873581 07/28/19 06:02 PM
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Yes, I did hear a story about a woman who played on an out of tune piano as a kid and, yes, developed perfect pitch based on the tones of the bad piano. It certainly wasn't helpful to her.

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