• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 9 1234 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 86

Topic: Perfect Pitch?

  1. #1

    Perfect Pitch?

    Hi everyone,
    Ive been wondering about the topic of perfect pitch for a while now and I want to see what you all think about the idea that perfect pitch recognistion (that is being able to tell which note is which by just hearing it) can be taught.

    I have always been told that you cannot train perfect pitch but rather only a certain small percentage of lucky individuals are born with it - a gentic gift if you may say. Could this view be wrong?

    Ive seen a few products on the internet boasting about being able to train people to develope perfect pitch, the leading product being David Lucas Burge's Perfect Pitch Ear Training Supercourse (http://www.perfectpitch.com/).

    It would certainly be a huge advantage to musicians if they could LEARN perfect pitch but i dont know if these bold claims have any worth.

    What do you's all think? Has anyone tried some of these courses or know of anyone who has? And if so, do you think it worth spending money on buying such a product?
    "The only stupid question, is the one that is not asked" ~ Anonymous

    "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

    "Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land, but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

  2. #2

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    I was researching this last year. I came across this guy's site:


    He has some interesting articles on the subject and some ear training applications.

    From what I've seen, there are three sides to this issue. There's side that think it's a genetic gift. There's the side that thinks it's an ability that only be developed when your very young. Then there's the side that thinks, with practice, that the ability can be obtained at any age.

  3. #3

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    I had a roommate, during my music college days, that had perfect pitch. He was correct 100% of the time in telling whatever note I played on the piano. (Ah. . . those college memories. . . LOL! )

    I always thought that "perfect pitch" was a genetic "gift". "Relative pitch", on the other hand, I thought can be learned. For example, I have B-Flat (1 octave below middle C) ingrained in my head. It's something that I "learned" when playing the trombone in high-school. As a matter of fact, I'm listening to that B-Flat sound right now in my mind.

    (Will it ever go away??!!??. . . Go away, you darned B-Flat!! Go! A-Way! ARGH!!! )

    I am usually correct in figuring out other notes from that one (reverberating) B-Flat note. Usually.

    Interesting topic. . .

    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

  4. #4

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    I don't have a perfect pitch hearing and its absence never disturbed me.
    In fact I think it would disturb me if I had it... LOL

    It's like having that dimple, you are born with one or not, but you don't really need it (or do you? )...

    It has nothing to do with musicality, that's for sure.
    The ones I knew who had perfect pitch hearing were,surprisingly enough, not really that musical...


  5. #5

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    I'm of the opinion that perfect pitch is something we could all have had. I think it's probably like colour recognition. As children we all learn to distinguish colours (or most of us), and then adults spend time ensuring that we can label them. I think we can probably recognise and distinguish notes too, but nobody askes us to label them, and there comes a point where it's too late to learn.
    Interestingly there is a condition that afflicts a small percentage of people, where they genuinely cannot distinguish between different pitches, a little like colour blindness. I don't mean tone-deafness; most people who say they're tone deaf just mean they're too lazy to try and sing a given note- but a genuine inability to even tell whether one note is higher than another. I think colour perception and pitch perception are probably more closely linked than we think.

  6. #6

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    As a child I remember the old TV testcard (no daytime tv in those days), broadcast with a concert A pitched tone. I can still recall this tone and reference notes from that.

  7. #7

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    I've never given much thought to the subject; I can't think of any reason why it couldn't be learned, though I'm not sure a really expensive training course would be worth it.

    I think when we name colors, our brains subconsciously compare the colors to colors we've seen before, so perhaps perfect pitch is a matter of memorizing pitches and comparing them to the ones you hear. (Is that even really perfect pitch? Isn't it just relative pitch with some of the pitches being ingrained in the brain?)

    If a person with perfect pitch can name what notes are what, doesn't that imply he's learned the names of the notes? And doesn't that imply he already has a mental concept of the sound of those notes?

    Piano keys are tuned at certain intervals, but in the real world sound frequencies wouldn't fall on exactly one pitch. It would be interesting to test people with perfect pitch (who have learned the names of the notes) to see how precisely they can recognize "in-between" frequencies, and how precisely they can recognize "mixed-up" frequencies (a bunch of different frequencies at once). These experiments have probably already been done, but I'm too lazy to try to look for them right now.

    In his book This Is Your Brain on Music (a very interesting book), Daniel J. Levitin also brings up colors:
    Most AP [perfect pitch] possessors can name the pitch of other sounds, too, like car horns, the hum of fluorescent lights, and knives clinking against dinner plates. As we saw earlier, color is a psychological fiction--it doesn't exist in the world, but our brains impose a categorical structure, such as broad swatches of red or blue, on the undimensional continuum of frequency of light waves. Pitch is also a psychophysical fiction, the consequence of out brains' imposing a structure on the unidimensional continuum of frequency of the sound waves. We can instantly name a color just by looking at it. Why can't we name sounds just by listening to them?

    Well, most of us can identify sounds as effortlessly as we identify colors; it's simply not the pitch we identify, but rather, the timbre. We can instantly say of a sound, "That's a car horn," or "That's my grandmother Sadie with a cold," or "That's a trumpet." We can identify tonal color, just not pitch. Still, it remains an unsolved problem why some people have AP and others don't.
    [I don't think this means color and pitch perception are necessarily "linked" ... they are just similar.]

    Levitin also mentions a couple of experimints which might hint that perfect pitch can be learned:

    First, they gave non-musically-trained people a tuning fork and gave them a week to memorize its sound. When they came back in for testing, they were "overwhelmingly able to reproduce or recognize 'their' note."

    Second, nonmusicians were asked to sing well-known songs like "Happy Birthday" from memory on two different occasions. They "found that although people tended not to sing in the same keys as one another, they did tend to sing a song consistently, in the same key from one occasion to the other. This suggested that they had encoded the pitches of the songs in long-term memory."

    For something like language, any adult can learn a second language when they're older, but children seem to learn second languages faster. And it's been observed that it's very difficult or impossible for someone to learn a first language if they're too old. So I guess the question is: is learning perfect pitch like learning that first language, and if you don't learn when you're young, you never can? Or is it like a second language which you can learn when you're older but with more difficulty?
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  8. #8
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    California Redwoods

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    When asked to demonstrate, people that I knew that claimed perfect pitch proved that they did not have perfect pitch.

    To me, it is much like Pingu stated. We learn, but sometimes without trying, to identify the sounds. Some people can be very accurate. But that does not mean it is not a learned skill. I can explain how I learned to become quite accurate, and probably many others have done. It began when I was a child, and learning the piano, and hearing the permutations of c-d-e-f-g until I was bored sick. Then, came the A Major chord, which opens the Chopin Military Polonaise, and the A Flat major chord which opens the other well know polonaise. These I learned because my mother played them on our piano. Then, the A minor chord, learned from the Grieg concerto. Eventually, I became accurate enough to convince my tuning instructor, who would wait for me to be distracted on some repair problem, then sound a chord on a piano and demand that I identify it, which I invariably did. But this was not a genetic gift, it was definitely a learned skill.

    The matter of perfect pitch is probably refuted by such things as the adoption of the A 440 standard in 1918 or so. Previously, the standard was A 435. In earlier times, the standard was different, and somtimes non-existent. Recently, there has been some effort to raise the pitch standard.

    To further confuse the issue, a string player, for example, would not consider A flat the same as G sharp. Context is very important.

    In summary, what is an A, etc. is defined by convention and there is no law of physics that defines such a thing other than by concensus or agreement.

    If this does not draw some fire, I need some more French Roast coffee. Actually, I always need more French Roase coffee. My shipment from San Francisco is overdue.


    I just remembered an incident which occurred in Bavaria in 1963, where a group of church musicians was gathered for a seminar. A choral work was passed out to the assembled choir directors and organists, at least 200 strong, the downbeat was given, and all parts were sung, on pitch, the piece sung very well at sight. No pitch pipe or other tone was sounded. But I don't believe that all present had perfect pitch. I believe that that had good skills at hearing the pitch before sounding it, as most instrumentalists must have.

  9. #9

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    I don't think it has to be either learned or genetic; it could be a combination, some people might have brains more prepared to learn it. The brain is genetically structured to use language, but it still must be learned after being born. (Pretty amazing that the brain can do that I think.) But just about everyone has the ability of language... could be the same with perfect pitch?
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Re: Perfect Pitch?

    When I was in College(early 60's) there was an accounting of the top musical families in America. There were some family members who wouldn't listen to any music because of sensitivity to altered pitch.
    They had perfect pitch. The keen ability to clearly identify any pitch-not almost identify it. As to tempered pitch, they learn to adjust: without
    training, they can't identify letter names.
    I have a very good "relative" pitch ability. If I hear one note, I can identify any note I''m able to play on clarinet or sax. I can even identify most most notes on the clarinet by the individual colors of each note. Ability to recognize those notes was the result of playing the instrument for over 50 years. Relative pitch only needs a key of one pitch to identify the note. In music theory/sightsinging, solfedge creates a road to identity. Learning to recognize intervals can come from "tricks" like remembering 2 open notes of a song, i.e. augmented 4th-"Maria" from Westside Story.

Go Back to forum


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts