Perfect (Absolute) Pitch?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 30, 2008 4:13 AM GMT
    When I went away to university, I met for the first time a person who has absolute pitch, or perfect pitch.

    And I have to admit, it has fascinated me ever since. I am a psych major, so I know that it is not really a learned condition, but something that you are born with.

    I am just curious, does anyone here on RJ have perfect pitch??

    Thanks icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jul 30, 2008 10:59 AM GMT
    It is a learned technique. Some are just very good at it.

    Americans tune to A=440
    Europeans tune to different pitches, 336, 442
    and previous centuries had wildly varying numbers.
    If it was "inborn" to what frequency would we be inclined?


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    Jul 30, 2008 11:04 AM GMT
    surfsdown saidWhen I went away to university, I met for the first time a person who has absolute pitch, or perfect pitch.

    And I have to admit, it has fascinated me ever since. I am a psych major, so I know that it is not really a learned condition, but something that you are born with.

    I am just curious, does anyone here on RJ have perfect pitch??

    Thanks icon_biggrin.gif

    Hmmmmm....I take it we're not talking Horseshoes here.
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    Jul 30, 2008 11:10 AM GMT
    I don't know what we're talking about...>_<


    Time to google.icon_rolleyes.gif



    EDIT: And now I do. Sounds like a pretty rad ability, don't know anyone who has it though...icon_neutral.gif
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    Jul 30, 2008 11:26 AM GMT
    I don't have absolute perfect pitch, but relative perfect pitch. I can start singing a song without hearing any music beforehand, and it will be on key, and I can tell you if a note is flat or sharp, but ... I haven't trained enough to tell you what key something is in or what note you're playing. I did have a teacher with absolute perfect pitch. I think she's the only person I've ever met who has it.
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    Jul 30, 2008 12:44 PM GMT
    I've had classical music training for years, and have run across several people with perfect pitch. One of my friends had perfect pitch to about a sensitivity of 2 Hz differentiation, which is pretty amazing. It seems that its development is crucial to the age that the person is exposed to a fixed pitch instrument, such as a piano or organ. Usually it's around age 3 or 4 that the pitch memory starts to "stick." I have relative pitch and have honed it as much as I can for my training, but there was a brief period that I really focused on trying to develop perfect pitch. It worked for awhile, but since I was already in my twenties it didn't continue once I stopped training for it. Questions of nature versus nurture are still going on about perfect pitch--maybe it's a combination of both.

    Very interesting capability for someone to have, but it can be a detriment, such as when someone has to transpose written notes to another key (solfege work).
  • DiverScience

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    Jul 30, 2008 12:52 PM GMT
    I have perfect relative pitch and can discern about 1/16 of a sharp/flat difference when I've been training. Normally I really only hear about 1/8th.

    It's useful. If I was still a singer, I might be working harder on perfect absolute pitch.
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    Jul 30, 2008 1:35 PM GMT
    Fortunately my pitch recognition is relative. Those people I've known that have this skill of perfect pitch, it often is more of an impediment to their enjoyment of music than a help. This is particularly true in the examples that pecmansd gave.
    It is a learned skill since there are certain languages were pitch is so critical (one of the asian languages - Vietnamese (?)) that it is learned at a very early stages of development. If it were genetic, anyone in that culture would be incapable of adequately communicating were they not born with it.
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    Jul 31, 2008 9:22 PM GMT
    I have relative perfect pitch.

    I can also sing a pitch perfect middle C on command, but that's only because I have the note ingrained in my memory. I won't claim perfect pitch, though. People with perfect pitch should be able to accurately identify any note, and I can't do that icon_cry.gif. .
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    Jul 31, 2008 9:25 PM GMT
    bgcat57 saidFortunately my pitch recognition is relative. Those people I've known that have this skill of perfect pitch, it often is more of an impediment to their enjoyment of music than a help. This is particularly true in the examples that pecmansd gave.
    It is a learned skill since there are certain languages were pitch is so critical (one of the asian languages - Vietnamese (?)) that it is learned at a very early stages of development. If it were genetic, anyone in that culture would be incapable of adequately communicating were they not born with it.


    Credited. Although we should note that having perfect pitch is an invaluable asset to any string player.
  • TexanMan82

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    Jul 31, 2008 10:51 PM GMT
    I heard a while back that perfect pitch is actually attributed to a gene. So it isn't something that can technically be learned. You either got it, or you don't.
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    Jul 31, 2008 10:54 PM GMT
    And here I thought this was about Baseball!!! Ooops!! icon_confused.gif
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    Jul 31, 2008 11:33 PM GMT
    TexanMan82 saidI heard a while back that perfect pitch is actually attributed to a gene. So it isn't something that can technically be learned. You either got it, or you don't.


    Some books lie. I'm inclined to disbelieve this. Now I have some research to do.
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    Jul 31, 2008 11:37 PM GMT
    I just did a test. I identified several random pitches correctly, but used my "ingrained" middle C to find them.

    I still don't consider this having perfect pitch. What do you guys think?
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    Jul 31, 2008 11:38 PM GMT
    a1972guy saidAnd here I thought this was about Baseball!!! Ooops!! icon_confused.gif

    LOL, well that was my second guess when I read the topic, won't say the first (mind in gutter) but I find it interesting just the same. I love to sing and yet can not just pull a note without some help. Guess that's why I belong in a choir! LOL
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    Aug 01, 2008 12:02 AM GMT
    I don't have perfect pitch, but I've got a good pitch memory. There's a certain song I perform, and I always can feel what the first note should be. I now know that it's a D, but it just feels right. I was in a choir with a guy who had perfect pitch.


    I was also with a guy who had very bad pitch ability, but was completely thrown off if we changed the key of a song.
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    Aug 01, 2008 12:03 AM GMT
    I definitely don't have perfect pitch.

    Every once in a rare while I can identify the key of a piece, but it's always a matter of association. I hear the first few chords of something new, and I associate them with the first chords of a piece I know, and I just happen to know the key of the familiar piece. But the thing is, the old piece just immediately pops into my head...there's no thinking involved.

    My relative pitch (which is the ability to identify the distance between two notes, or the quality and function of chords) isn't great, despite spending 20 years working in music. I started training as a musician late, so that might be part of it. It could also be that part of my brain is missing.

    I knew one person whose perfect pitch didn't work for very high or very low notes. She was a good violinist, so I was surprised by her problem with the high notes.

  • TexanMan82

    Posts: 893

    Aug 01, 2008 12:10 AM GMT
    BlkMuscleGent said
    TexanMan82 saidI heard a while back that perfect pitch is actually attributed to a gene. So it isn't something that can technically be learned. You either got it, or you don't.


    Some books lie. I'm inclined to disbelieve this. Now I have some research to do.


    http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/study/

    Interesting study. Apparently it's a combination of genetics and early exposure to music. You do need to have a genetic predisposition, but early exposure seems to be quite critical as well.
  • metalxracr

    Posts: 761

    Aug 01, 2008 12:28 AM GMT
    Perfect pitch can be learned, but it takes years and years of intense, sustained training. And, you must constantly work at it to keep it.

    I don't consider myself as having perfect pitch, but I'm pretty good. I'm right on a lot of the times, but not all.
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    Aug 01, 2008 12:37 AM GMT
    TexanMan82 said

    http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/study/

    Interesting study. Apparently it's a combination of genetics and early exposure to music. You do need to have a genetic predisposition, but early exposure seems to be quite critical as well.


    In reading these articles, the genetic component is entirely supposition. It's based on statistical example that is weakened by the argument that the majority of subject with perfect pitch come from music oriented families. There isn't a way (or no discerning criteria) to test those who show the propensity for perfect pitch from nonmusical families particularly when the subjects may have been exposed to music outside of the family environment.

    I would think that true perfect pitch would be the ability to identify with high accuracy the frequency of a pure tone regardless of the note on the scale, the pitch base the scale was tuned to (A440, A415) or if the scale is even tempered or not, or even the cycles of the pitch.

  • drakutis

    Posts: 586

    Aug 01, 2008 12:47 AM GMT
    BlkMuscleGent saidI just did a test. I identified several random pitches correctly, but used my "ingrained" middle C to find them.

    I still don't consider this having perfect pitch. What do you guys think?


    I think it's a tricky and confusing thing. One of my best friends and former roommate of mine (bless his soul and he will never be forgotten!) was a classically trained opera singer (baritone). He taught, played piano and wrote also.

    He said that I had perfect pitch and that my voice was "pure". He loved to get me to sing with the church groups that he worked with and during his vocal lessons for his students.
  • drakutis

    Posts: 586

    Aug 01, 2008 12:51 AM GMT
    [quote][cite]BlkMuscleGent said[/cite]I have relative perfect pitch.

    You also have relative perfect everything else too!!icon_wink.gif (that's my flirt o' the day!!)
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    Aug 01, 2008 1:31 AM GMT
    I'm a conductor and I can tell you a few things about intonation...

    One, it is learned, period. There are genetic predispositions to being musically inclined, but you won't find anyone with perfect pitch who wasn't exposed to some fixed pitch instrument at an early age. Its no different than identifying shades of color with your sight, but you're doing it with sound instead. We only know a C is a C because we labeled it such. A440 is just that because we called it so. You only know red is red because someone told you it was, and you only know the difference between red and maroon because you've seen it enough to discern the subtle difference.

    Two, it is a blessing to a soloist and a curse to an ensemble player. Instrumentalists do not play in absolute pitch, we play relative to the bottom of the chord which is present, otherwise even if we were all "in tune" it would sound like HELL. Thus, you're constantly evaluating where you should be playing pitch-wise and making minute adjustments to make things sound "in tune." To further complicate things, chord intonation is a fixed interval (DISTANCE), not a fixed pitch. The 5th of a chord is tuned slightly sharp, the 3rd slightly flat, so a G in a C Major chord is going to be slightly higher than a G in a Eb Major chord. And that's just two intervals, lots of chords are stacked far taller, especially in jazz and modern compositions. You can see how this would being to really screw with someone with perfect pitch.

    Third, and this is the real kicker, even though there are fixed numbers that represent the number of vibrations per second in a note, those numbers don't apply to real pianos and organs. They tried that when those instruments were first invented, and they had to adjust the tension on the strings of the keyboard every time they changed keys. Not fun and completely impractical for a performance.

    Thank GOD, J.S. Bach (Baroque composer) established a tuning series called "Equal Temperament" which makes each note equally "out of tune" from all the others so that every key is close to in tune. Remember the differences in chord tones I was talking about before? Apply that to 88 piano notes that span 144 Western scales and key signatures. It doesn't work, so they have to all be slightly out of tune so that you don't have to retune all the strings every time you change keys. Now before you get all concerned, no worries- you've been listening to it out of tune all your life and you've never noticed. Very few people can.

    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? That means the pitches that a young person learned their perfect pitch from are flawed, yet the sense develops nonetheless.

    Quite a mystery, isn't it? =) That was more than most of you probably ever wanted to learn about intonation in music I bet *lol* icon_lol.gif



  • CincyBOJ

    Posts: 306

    Aug 01, 2008 1:57 AM GMT
    I have a firend that has 'perfect pitch' and it just ticks me off (lmao, just kidding). I've tried to test his ability over the phone with mutations on the organ and he was able to name the notes every time. He does not have any training just simply experience all his life. The whole family is into music performance. When I asked him how he refrences to determine pitch he states that he mentally pictures a familiar song such as "The Rose". "The Rose" is in the key of C. Here is his MySpace page where you can listen to music that he has recorded performing all parts and backup vocals.
    http://www.myspace.com/justinelias1
    I think that his backup vocals are hard to believe that they were not created digitally but I have sat there in person and witnessed him do these recordings. Using no music, he seems to just pull it out of the air and record one track at a time.
    I sure hope someday his talent will be shared with the whole world.
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    Aug 01, 2008 2:03 AM GMT
    BlkMuscleGent saidI have relative perfect pitch.

    I can also sing a pitch perfect middle C on command, but that's only because I have the note ingrained in my memory. I won't claim perfect pitch, though. People with perfect pitch should be able to accurately identify any note, and I can't do that icon_cry.gif. .


    Same thing. I will forever be able to do a GDAE on command thanks to playing bass in orchestra in secondary school and after.