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Question on perfect pitch

Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Question on perfect pitch - 07/27/19 11:21 PM

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.
Posted By: Gene Nelson

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/27/19 11:52 PM

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.
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/27/19 11:57 PM

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
Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 12:45 AM

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
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 01:22 AM

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.
Posted By: RonTuner

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 01:43 AM

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
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 01:58 AM

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
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 03:15 AM

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.
Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 03:24 AM

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.
Posted By: RonTuner

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 04:05 AM



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
Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 04:40 AM

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
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 05:58 AM

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.
Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 06:03 AM

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.
Posted By: Vlad Ants

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 06:47 AM

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 ...
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 12:22 PM

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.
Posted By: AWilley

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 04:07 PM

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.
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 06:39 PM

Well, I guess you have your answer!

Thanks Anthony. I stand corrected.

Pwg
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 09:35 PM

Mozart's perfect pitch was 422 Hz. Late 19th century it was 435 Hz.
Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 09:52 PM

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.
Posted By: mimi9

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/28/19 10:02 PM

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.
Posted By: Bosendorff

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 12:33 AM

Originally Posted by mimi9
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.

That's for sure possible. In my case, I've developed "perfect" (I prefer to call it relative) pitch listening to music on a turntable which was going slightly too slow, about half a semi-tone. Nowadays, to find the pitch of a note by ear, I simply choose the one slightly above what I have in memory for the twelve tones. I've learned this stuff simply so I can figure out melodies or music pieces by ear when I'm not close to a keyboard. Using similar auditory memory patterns, I can tap at 60 beats per second and be off by a +/- 1 tap maximum after a minute. I'm pretty sure anyone can do this with some practice as well. This to be is useful to identify the metronome of a piano piece, etc.
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 12:40 AM

Originally Posted by AWilley
...
By the age a person starts tuning pianos it's too late to develop perfect pitch.


What you described as your own experience is very common. Though I’d disagree with your comment above. The reality is that no one knows with total certainty when and how absolute pitch develops (despite Rick Beato’s rather strong minded opinion on it!). It’s most commonly developed in youth, but there are people who developed it into adulthood who had no reason to think they had developed in youth but forgot it.

Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
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?


Absolute pitch is not absolute in terms of accuracy, it’s simply a way of saying that a person can know pitches without reference. A trumpet player with absolute pitch will often hear a Bb as C, or a french horn player an F as a C. And there are people who switch between instruments in different keys and adapt their sense of pitch based on the instrument.
Posted By: kpembrook

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 02:34 AM

Originally Posted by jsilva

Absolute pitch is not absolute in terms of accuracy, it’s simply a way of saying that a person can know pitches without reference. A trumpet player with absolute pitch will often hear a Bb as C, or a french horn player an F as a C. And there are people who switch between instruments in different keys and adapt their sense of pitch based on the instrument.


Well said. It works for quick note identification apart from any other reference. But it is not sufficiently accurate to produce the exact pitch. Owen Jorgensen, former piano technician at Michigan State U music department used give people who thought they had perfect pitch something to think about with the following exercise:

He would invite anyone who thought they had "perfect pitch" to come into a classroom that had a piano. He would de-tune a note and then identify what it was supposed to be (let's say B-39) Then he would ask people to raise their hands when they thought it was at correct pitch as he would move the tuning pin for that string. The response was like a bell-curve -- with a few students raising their hands sooner and then others. Eventually he would arrive at a majority consensus for that note. Then he would move on to the next until he had a full octave -- only playing each note individually until there was a consensus that it was at correct pitch. Then, upon playing chords it became clearly evident that although the notes were whatever letter they were supposed to be, they were nowhere nearly in tune to be musically useful.

My brother has perfect pitch (better known as "pitch memory") and also tunes pianos and is a music professor, now retired. He doesn't use his pitch memory capability to actually tune a piano -- although it would certainly be sufficient for pitch raising.



Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 03:00 AM

I suspect these people with PP also have VERY good memory for some other things as well.

At the very least they certainly "wired" for it. Some people are equally "wired" for mathematics and can do amazing calculations in their head FAST.

Pwg
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 02:22 PM

Pitch perception is odd. I can fake AP single note tests (without using relative pitch), as each one reminds me of some piece of music or other.

That's not real AP of course. I know people with the real thing, and they can do all sorts of things.
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 04:01 PM

Originally Posted by johnstaf
Pitch perception is odd. I can fake AP single note tests (without using relative pitch), as each one reminds me of some piece of music or other.

That's not real AP of course. I know people with the real thing, and they can do all sorts of things.


Don’t count yourself out just because other people can do things you can’t. Rick Beato’s son can do what he does so quickly not simply because he has an unusual natural ability but also because he practises it. What you describe is not an uncommon thing to hear from people when they describe how they (or someone else) realised they had absolute pitch. It can get better with practise. You may very well have the very beginnings of it which so far haven’t matured any further. But I don’t know, obviously, since I don’t know you smile
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 04:25 PM

Originally Posted by P W Grey
I suspect these people with PP also have VERY good memory for some other things as well.

At the very least they certainly "wired" for it. Some people are equally "wired" for mathematics and can do amazing calculations in their head FAST.

Pwg


I have perfect pitch and, whilst I do have a good memory, it's not exceptionally special for pitches. PP is not a memory thing at all, as far as I understand the neuroscience of how it works. Contrary to what some think, absolute doesn't mean "accurate". You can think of the 12 tones of the western scale as buckets and the PP ability is being able to assign the closest bucket to the tone being heard - the frequency doesn't have to be exactly at the centre of the bucket, but close enough. If I hear tones that are in between, it can be confusing to know which bucket to use. It's the same thing with colours - when does a red-orange become orange etc.? I find for an in-tune piano, I can assign the buckets instantly for any of the 88 notes (even though they are stretched, they're not stretched so far as to approach the bucket boundaries). Finally, I don't need to practice to retain this ability - I can just do it.

Paul
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 05:48 PM

Originally Posted by jsilva
Don’t count yourself out just because other people can do things you can’t. Rick Beato’s son can do what he does so quickly not simply because he has an unusual natural ability but also because he practises it. What you describe is not an uncommon thing to hear from people when they describe how they (or someone else) realised they had absolute pitch. It can get better with practise. You may very well have the very beginnings of it which so far haven’t matured any further. But I don’t know, obviously, since I don’t know you smile


Thanks Jsilva. I'll look into it! Maybe I could try to build on it a bit.
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 10:48 PM

Here's a very long and interesting thesis on AP and anatomy (and it classifies AP into a continuum of ability): The neural correlates of absolute pitch

Paul.
Posted By: Chopin Acolyte

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/29/19 11:06 PM

Originally Posted by pyropaul
Here's a very long and interesting thesis on AP and anatomy (and it classifies AP into a continuum of ability): The neural correlates of absolute pitch

Paul.


DigiTool Stream Gateway Error: Cannot process request: null

Would you please make the link work? Thanks.
Posted By: David Jenson

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/30/19 01:00 AM

I always thought perfect pitch referred to throwing a baseball at 90 mph across the stage and seeing if the guitar player could be enticed to take a swing at it. wink
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/30/19 01:11 AM

Try this link: The Neural Correlates of Absolute Pitch

digitool.library.mcgill.ca/thesisfile21968.pdf should also take you there as the link seems to get mangled through some kind of viewer.

Paul.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/30/19 11:01 AM

The second link works for me.
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/30/19 01:06 PM

Yikes! It's 100 pages long. That's going to take me a while. 😊

Pwg
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 07/30/19 01:35 PM

Originally Posted by P W Grey
Yikes! It's 100 pages long. That's going to take me a while. 😊


I was able to speed-read it to find the interesting parts in about 10 minutes - though it all looks interesting!

Paul.
Posted By: MomOfBeginners

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/06/19 03:42 PM

Thanks for the link to the article The neural correlates of absolute pitch. I've only read the first section and ran through the table of contents, but I'm interested in reading the whole article.

I have played piano all my life, and never developed absolute pitch. My daughter started learning piano at 6, and at around 10 years old, we suddenly found out she had absolute pitch when her little sister sang a song and we overheard my ten-year-old saying "J, that's very good. That's the right song. But it's supposed to be in G, not in F." We tested it on the piano and yes--- she was right. Her sister sang it on an F, and when we replayed the recording of the song back, it was in G.

My daughter learned the movable-do method too, and I see that the article has a section on using the fixed-do method in development of absolute pitch, so it'll be a very interesting read.

There was one time when I showed my daughter a video of a professor who played a recording of Mozart Sonatina in C on Mozart's original instrument. My daughter turned to me and said "But he's not playing it in C. He's playing it in B-flat." (Or maybe she said B, I can't remember) Three minutes later, the professor in the video explained that pianos in Mozart's time was tuned lower.

As for precision, I don't know how to measure how precise my daughter is with her pitch.
Posted By: Bill Bremmer RPT

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/11/19 11:10 PM

There really is no such thing as "Perfect Pitch". The entire subject amounts to no more than an old wives tale. The You Tube videos not withstanding. It looks to me like he is reading a chart of the responses he is supposed to give. Even if he isn't and he is a very exceptional person (the one in ten thousand they supposedly say "have perfect pitch") , the ability to recognize pitch is all upon a continuum where there is no defining point yet to be established which meets any kind of truly scientific standard. Most of the Piano Technicians, musicians including vocalists I know personally "have" what is commonly called "Perfect Pitch". I must know a whole awful lot of those one in ten thousand people!

Of the people I know who insist that they have perfect pitch (they must all be one of those rare 1/10,000 people), they all use what they think is special about themselves to draw undue personal attention, to create problems where there are none and to impose themselves in a matter, only to create a problem for which there is no solution. All of that just to create the illusion that they are someone very special, to be admired for some kind of super power that has no practical use whatsoever.
Posted By: David Boyce

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/11/19 11:19 PM

Yes. The question to ask, maybe, when a person claims to have 'perfect pitch' is "What do you mean by that".

To say "If you play a note on the piano, I can tell you what note it is", is a very different thing from saying "I can identify that the A you are playing is at 440.3 Hertz and not 440.00 Hertz.
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 01:44 AM

Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
There really is no such thing as "Perfect Pitch". The entire subject amounts to no more than an old wives tale. The You Tube videos not withstanding. It looks to me like he is reading a chart of the responses he is supposed to give. Even if he isn't and he is a very exceptional person...

Of the people I know who insist that they have perfect pitch ... they all use what they think is special about themselves to draw undue personal attention ... All of that just to create the illusion that they are someone very special, to be admired for some kind of super power that has no practical use whatsoever.


You seem to have a very big chip on your shoulder! smile There are some who desire attention and perhaps some who lie about it, but there are many who don’t want attention. I rarely tell anyone I have it specifically because I don’t want the attention. You may notice I said nothing about myself in any of my replies in this thread and I cringe saying it now. But I decided to say so perhaps you can see a different side.

My years of study and observation of those who have it don’t make me doubt what Rick Beato’s son does. I can do that, albeit a bit slower since I don’t practise like he does. There is a spectrum of ability and it can be developed and get better.

And it does have some practical benefits. One easy one for you to understand is that if I’m working on a piano and I need to know which string is what note and I’m not easily able to play a key I just need to pluck the string. Of course that’s very small but has been quite handy on rare occasion. A more complex example is in dictation—those with more developed absolute pitch can transcribe music more easily than those who don’t.

But no one should be considering themselves special because they have it (most of them did nothing to get it anyway!). Some great composers and musicians didn’t have it.
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 10:26 AM

Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
There really is no such thing as "Perfect Pitch". The entire subject amounts to no more than an old wives tale.



LOL Bill - you never give up on this. Did you even read the research paper I cited? You're far too hung up on what you think "perfect" means. FWIW, I have "it" - but, as I explained earlier, it's the ability to instantly throw a perceived pitch into a named note "bucket" - the more "out of tune" the pitch is, the harder it is to decide which bucket to throw it into. You're right in one sense, though, there is somewhat a continuum of ability, but, in that paper I cited, there is a clear difference between those that have it and those that don't. To be honest, I don't know why you're so vehement in your denial of this - especially when the neurobiology is pretty well established now.

Paul.
Posted By: Chris Leslie

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 12:46 PM

Paul, so you don't have perfect pitch. You have "bucket" pitch instead. 😄
Posted By: David Boyce

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 01:36 PM

Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
Paul, so you don't have perfect pitch. You have "bucket" pitch instead. 😄


Hah! That illustrates, I think, that part of the problem concerning the term in general usage, is the lack of any agreed definition.

To say "I can identify the fundamental frequency of a musical sound to within 0.1 Hz, within a range of 27.5 Hz to 3520.0 Hz" ties one down to a fairly specific, and testable, meaning. But that isn't, I think, what people generally mean.
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 02:01 PM

Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
Paul, so you don't have perfect pitch. You have "bucket" pitch instead. 😄


In all the peer-reviewed studies I read (including the once cited), perfect pitch is the ability to assign the named-note pitch bucket essentially instantly. It's the cognitive ability to assign the name - just as people can instantly assign a name to a colour or a smell. If I have to tune a guitar I can usually get very close to A=440 without any external reference - though it might not be exactly 440 - though this is a different trick compared to naming notes on a piano. FWIW I haven't read any studies that test people who don't use the 12T western scale - that would also be interesting as the buckets are in a different place and might be wider, or narrower, depending on the scale used.

I don't think any of the neuroscience researchers have any problems with the definition of the term since they already measure response time as an indicator (along with accuracy in terms of assigning the right bucket - look at the figures in that paper I cited).

Paul.
Posted By: AWilley

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 04:30 PM

Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT

...a very exceptional person (the one in ten thousand they supposedly say "have perfect pitch")

From Wikipedia: "The assumed occurrence of less than 1:10,000 is widely reported, but it is not supported by evidence.[5] However, a review of more recent and international studies indicates prevalence of at least 4% amongst music students.[6]"
Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT

...they all use what they think is special about themselves to draw undue personal attention

I don't dispute that you've encountered somebody like that, but I think it's unfair to paint everybody with that brush.
Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT

...some kind of super power that has no practical use whatsoever

I wouldn't call it a super power, but there are some practical uses:
1. Tune a string instrument when a pitch reference isn't available
2. Easy to play in tune (or at least know when you're out of tune)
3. Dictation and sight-singing are really easy in music theory classes. (Also helps sometimes with identifying songs in music history exams...it usually not So-and-so's symphony in A Major if the song playing isn't in A Major or a closely-related key.)
4. Quickly "chip up" a recently re-strung piano
5. Do a quick muteless pitch raise on a piano that's a whole-step flat, before doing the actual pitch raise and tuning
6. When I'm scheduling an appointment over the phone with somebody who has no idea when their piano was last tuned I'll often ask them to play a few notes on the piano if it's nearby. (They always play white keys.) If the piano is a half-step flat I know to schedule more time for the appointment.
7. Automatically recognize the difference between a 60 Hz hum and feedback in a sound system
8. Use a specific note as an unobtrusive cell phone ringtone. I use this as my ringtone...it plays an A6, which is really easy to pick out of background noise if you're attuned to it. (The downside is that ocassionally I'll be in Walmart or whatever and there's a toy or beeper with the same pitch and I'm constantly reaching for my phone.)

Most of these things could be done without perfect pitch; they're just easier or faster with.

It also has downsides. As I mentioned earlier, I can't play keyboard instruments that have been transposed (harpsichords in historical tuning or organs/electronic pianos with a transpose setting). I struggle playing the bass in "solo" tuning (transposed up a half step). I get annoyed when a choir goes flat, and it distracts from my enjoyment of the music.

Anyway, I think the main thing that prompted this long response was the suggestion that I see it as a "super power" to be flaunted as a party trick. That's not how I see it, and I rarely bring it up. Whenever it comes up in the context of piano tuning I always emphasize that perfect pitch is neither necessary nor helpful in tuning pianos. But at the same time it is useful for other things, and I can't choose not to have it, so I'll do what I can with the tools I've been given.
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 05:41 PM

As I posted earlier Mozart's "perfect" pitch was A4 = 422 Hz. So in this regard IMO the "perfect" word is debatable.
Posted By: pyropaul

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 05:48 PM

Originally Posted by Hakki
As I posted earlier Mozart's "perfect" pitch was A4 = 422 Hz. So in this regard IMO the "perfect" word is debatable.


No, not at all. You're missing the point. The "perfect" part is being able to apply the note-name label perfectly without any external reference. In those days, A4 corresponded to 422Hz. Someone with modern day perfect pitch would likely call such a pitch G# and would be able to do so virtually instantly without a reference. That's what it's about - it's nothing to do with some magical property of 440Hz - just like calling something red means that it has to be a wavelength of exactly 635nm (or 660nm for that matter).

Paul
Posted By: jsilva

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/12/19 08:40 PM

The misunderstanding over the term ‘perfect’ is part of why I prefer using ‘absolute’. Maybe as the English language has changed culturally we understand the term ‘perfect’ as something strictly relating to quality or that thing being free from errors, as where that’s not what it means in this context.

Relative pitch identifies and makes sense of pitches relative to other ones, and absolute pitch sees pitches as having a unique recognisable character not needing another pitch as reference. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in A440 or in a 12-tone western scale or whatever.
Posted By: David-G

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/13/19 07:53 PM

Originally Posted by Hakki
As I posted earlier Mozart's "perfect" pitch was A4 = 422 Hz. So in this regard IMO the "perfect" word is debatable.

This sounds interesting, but I do not understand this statement. I would be grateful if you could clarify:

1. What do you mean by Mozart's "perfect" pitch? Do you mean his preferred pitch - or the best pitch for playing his music - or do you mean that he had perfect pitch and this was it - or what?

2. Can you give a source reference for the figure 422 in this context?

Thanks.

Posted By: LarryK

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/13/19 08:35 PM

Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Hakki
As I posted earlier Mozart's "perfect" pitch was A4 = 422 Hz. So in this regard IMO the "perfect" word is debatable.

This sounds interesting, but I do not understand this statement. I would be grateful if you could clarify:

1. What do you mean by Mozart's "perfect" pitch? Do you mean his preferred pitch - or the best pitch for playing his music - or do you mean that he had perfect pitch and this was it - or what?

2. Can you give a source reference for the figure 422 in this context?

Thanks.




Without Googling it, my recollection is that Mozart had perfect pitch, meaning he could name any note played. This was demonstrated by covering the keyboard with a handkerchief and playing various notes.

There is a famous story about how Mozart wrote out a piece of music he had seen in the Vatican library, from memory, after seeing it only once. The Vatican would not let the manuscript leave the library but that did not matter to Mozart.
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/13/19 08:46 PM

In Mozart's time standard for A4 was 422 Hz.
There were other standards set until 20th century.
A440 was set as standard early 20th century.
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/13/19 09:01 PM

If the story about Mozart is true, that would suggest that he had a nearly "photographic" memory. I stated earlier that it seemed plausible that "memory" and AP are somehow related. I do not know.

Anthony,

Thanks for detailing both some practical benefits as well as some bummerfits of having AP. I wondered about that. You answered it.

Pwg
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Question on perfect pitch - 08/14/19 10:56 AM

http://www.mozartpiano.com/articles/pitch.php
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