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Scott S

Can Perfect Pitch Be Learned?

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I was not "born" with perfect pitch but I have developed "good enough for me pitch". As a school orchestra player I had perfect time and technique. When challenges were made regarding time or technique I always advanced to first chair, but when tone became the issue I fell back to 2nd or 3rd from last chair. My invitations to Interlochen were never answered, where I'm sure the major emphasis would have been on teaching me better tone. Some of you who are teachers and accomplished players, what is your opinion or recomendations for learning perfect pitch or even just better tone? Are any of you accomplished players who also had trouble with pitch but found a learning technique that worked?

Interested in any opinions on this subject, Scott

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I was not "born" with perfect pitch but I have developed "good enough for me pitch". As a school orchestra player I had perfect time and technique. When challenges were made regarding time or technique I always advanced to first chair, but when tone became the issue I fell back to 2nd or 3rd from last chair. My invitations to Interlochen were never answered, where I'm sure the major emphasis would have been on teaching me better tone. Some of you who are teachers and accomplished players, what is your opinion or recomendations for learning perfect pitch or even just better tone? Are any of you accomplished players who also had trouble with pitch but found a learning technique that worked?

Interested in any opinions on this subject, Scott

+++++++++++++++

Just a matter of causal obervation, I think some can and some never.

What really important is the manner of pursuing perfection.

As the master once said " there is no top only a higher level to pursue"

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A buddy of mine at SFCM came up through the Chinese system where they do teach perfect pitch, and, yeah, it's teachable. He said something like 9/10 kids end up with perfect pitch. I don't know what their methods are, but I believe they're both strenuous and effective.

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Absolute pitch.

I have AP, apparently one in 10,000 people are born with it and it needs to be developed at a young age. Many musicians can give the impression of AP through relative pitch which is not the same thing. AP is the ability to name any pitch without previous reference to any other pitch. An exceptional memory feat of the brain.

There is a test from the University of California. The test involves hearing 50 random pitches in varying timbres at 4 second intervals.

If you look at the graph of test results it is clear case of have or have nots.

http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/

Further extensive research can be found on Daniel Levitin's website.

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A buddy of mine at SFCM came up through the Chinese system where they do teach perfect pitch, and, yeah, it's teachable. He said something like 9/10 kids end up with perfect pitch. I don't know what their methods are, but I believe they're both strenuous and effective.

Howdy,

In China, and in other places with tonal languages, a very high proportion ('sorry I don't have the stats) of folks have perfect pitch. So, indeed, it is learned.

It would appear to be much easier early though...

All the best,

A.C.

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Howdy,

In China, and in other places with tonal languages, a very high proportion ('sorry I don't have the stats) of folks have perfect pitch. So, indeed, it is learned.

It would appear to be much easier early though...

All the best,

A.C.

Hello again,

I should have added...

I recently heard Oliver Sachs mention that in most of the cultures represente here, we all seem to demonstrate "perfect pitch" with regard to another peceptual spectrum, "color."

At least in the U.S. one of the things we expect youngsters to know before they start school is the naming of "their colors."

Had we done the same with the naming of "their tones," no doubt, we'd all be playing like Heifetz (or Manco Sneed.)

All the best,

A.C.

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To be born with perfect pitch is an interesting concept. Does this mean that different people historically have had perfect pitch?

The frequencies for the standard A has changed quite a bit though the history and from town to town or even church to church. How lucky the musicians must be today that have aperfect pitch at A=442Hz and not at the 435Hz or another pitch standard!

Pitch is a relative concept, and I basically think that its an ability to remember the pitch we are talking about. Nobody can be born with it, besides the idea that we are born with a certain ability to remember certain things..

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To be born with perfect pitch is an interesting concept. Does this mean that different people historically have had perfect pitch?

The frequencies for the standard A has changed quite a bit though the history and from town to town or even church to church. How lucky the musicians must be today that have aperfect pitch at A=442Hz and not at the 435Hz or another pitch standard!

Pitch is a relative concept, and I basically think that its an ability to remember the pitch we are talking about. Nobody can be born with it, besides the idea that we are born with a certain ability to remember certain things..

I couldn't agree more. I don't believe anyone is born with what some call "perfect pitch" since the reference point of what an 'A' is has changed over time. What some people have developed is highly sensitive hearing and long term ability to retain a reference pitch. Like any sense, hearing can be trained, much like taste (gourmand), smell (oenophiles, police dogs), touch (Braille) and sight (where's Waldo? fanatics).

I think "perfect pitch" is a term that is used erroneously, much like when people refer to a young, gifted player as "talented". To me, someone labeled as "talented" is one that is very coordinated physically and can learn a skill with less repetition than others.

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I couldn't agree more. I don't believe anyone is born with what some call "perfect pitch" since the reference point of what an 'A' is has changed over time. What some people have developed is highly sensitive hearing and long term ability to retain a reference pitch. Like any sense, hearing can be trained, much like taste (gourmand), smell (oenophiles, police dogs), touch (Braille) and sight (where's Waldo? fanatics).

I think "perfect pitch" is a term that is used erroneously, much like when people refer to a young, gifted player as "talented". To me, someone labeled as "talented" is one that is very coordinated physically and can learn a skill with less repetition than others.

Ok to clarify.

When I began piano lessons at age five within a few months I could name any pitch from another room. If everybody had this ability equally then all people who learnt musical instruments at an early age would be able to do this.

Whether it was A440 or A430 is not the point. I learned my pitches from those early years and my fathers piano was tuned to A440.

According to Daniel Levitin the prevalence among Asians may have a genetic basis.

From http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/20...s-perfect-pitch

When Mariah Carey belts out a glass-shattering high note, it's impossible for most listeners to identify the tone.

Not for her. Carey possesses perfect or absolute pitch (AP), the ability to identify tones without any external reference. Just as most people recognize the colors green or sky blue, those with AP instantly recognize a C or E-sharp.

Although roughly 1 in 10,000 people are born with this talent, without musical training they may lose it. "At some point, they have to learn the proper terms—the labels—and then learn to associate those labels with sensory impressions of pitch," says Daniel Levitin, a psychologist at McGill University in Montreal.

That training needs to happen very early: Adult musicians with absolute pitch typically began music lessons around age 5. After age 9 it becomes virtually impossible to develop truly perfect pitch. The rare instances of late acquisition usually occur among the developmentally challenged—most often those with autism or Williams syndrome—whose cognitive maturation is delayed.

Specific languages facilitate absolute pitch. Conservatory students who are native speakers of tonal languages (languages like Mandarin and Vietnamese in which pitch conveys meaning) display perfect pitch more frequently than do their English-speaking counterparts.

Alternately, prevalence among Asians may have a genetic basis. Another study, which did not consider which language subjects spoke, found that 32 percent of Asian-American music students had perfect pitch compared with 7 percent of non-Asian-American music students. Regardless of ethnicity, people with perfect pitch are more likely to have similarly talented siblings.

The gift isn't always a blessing. Awareness of pitch can distract listeners from enjoying music, and playing a melody in a transposed key can be a downright nightmare. Even so, droves of wannabes enroll in courses on "pitch identification."

Of course, when it comes to musical greatness, absolute pitch is irrelevant. For every Mozart who has it, there are several Tchaikovskys who don't.

Perfect Pitch

Born With It: Leonard Bernstein, Stevie Wonder, Julie Andrews, Ludwig van Beethoven, Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Vladimir Horowitz, Michael Jackson, Yo-Yo Ma, Barbra Streisand, Brian Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Steve Vai, Shakira, Yanni, Paul Shaffer

And Those Without: Neil Young, Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Joni Mitchell, k.d. lang, Gwen Stefani, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner

Highlights:

The rare and ephemeral gift of perfect pitch.

Author:

William Lee Adams [1]

Perfect pitch, the ability to identify tones without external reference, disappears without music lessons.

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When speaking of so called "perfect pitch," are we talking about hearing a tone and knowing if the tone is an A or an E flat or an F sharp? that is a skill which can be developed. However it can also be lost. More importantly a practical use of perfect pitch would be to look at a piece of music and hear the piece in the head. This is a skill which takes greater learning than just being able to idenitfy tones by name. This skill is also a problem when a person with that ability reads an orchestral score where the printed pitches are not the actual sounding pitches. I remember in music school those who had that skill had a rough time reading orchestral scores.

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nobody can name yellow or red if they were not taught was yellow and red is before. once you learn then you instinctively compare what you see with you memory of what red and yellow are.

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nobody can name yellow or red if they were not taught was yellow and red is before. once you learn then you instinctively compare what you see with you memory of what red and yellow are.

However, if one is not trained by the females of our species properly, males will never learn that the 'violet' curtains just will not work with the 'lilac' couch :)

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Perfect Pitch

Born With It: Leonard Bernstein, Stevie Wonder, Julie Andrews, Ludwig van Beethoven, Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Vladimir Horowitz, Michael Jackson, Yo-Yo Ma, Barbra Streisand, Brian Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Steve Vai, Shakira, Yanni, Paul Shaffer

I'd like to see the documentation for this. The doctors testing their ears with their tuning fork, and reading out the response. I am not an medical expert, but I can ask questions. How do they document that a baby has absolute pitch at birth?

I think its easy to test reflexes, to test if the ears are working properly (otoacoustic effect, my former boss took his PhD on it) and to see that the baby is healthy. But test for "perfect pitch"? What would the survival benefit be for having that? Being a baby musician able to play with others in an orchestra?

Can the linvistics experts help us?

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I'd like to see the documentation for this. The doctors testing their ears with their tuning fork, and reading out the response. I am not an medical expert, but I can ask questions. How do they document that a baby has absolute pitch at birth?

I think its easy to test reflexes, to test if the ears are working properly (otoacoustic effect, my former boss took his PhD on it) and to see that the baby is healthy. But test for "perfect pitch"? What would the survival benefit be for having that? Being a baby musician able to play with others in an orchestra?

Can the linvistics experts help us?

I think more like linguistics experts. :)

Perhaps it's a language thing or you're being pedantic to the extreme.

I don't think he means it quite as literally as that.

'Born with it' is a turn of phrase. It means that from a very early age they could name pitches without reference to other pitches.

'Not born with it' means they couldn't name pitches without firstly a reference to another pitch.

Perhaps you would like a graph with a squiggly line to make it easier?

Attached a paper on the nature of AP and whether it is accessible to everybody.

AbsolutePitch.pdf

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I think more like linguistics experts. :)

Perhaps it's a language thing or you're being pedantic to the extreme.

I don't think he means it quite as literally as that.

'Born with it' is a turn of phrase. It means that from a very early age they could name pitches without reference to other pitches.

'Not born with it' means they couldn't name pitches without firstly a reference to another pitch.

Perhaps you would like a graph with a squiggly line to make it easier?

I could post the graphs or tables of the different pitches related to the tone A from flutes, organ pipes, curved conettes, traversos, recorders, clarinets and pitch pipes with frequencies ranging from 365Hz and up to 489Hz filling up 50 pages in the appendixes of the "A History of performing Pitch, The story of A" by Bruce Haynes. There is a good chance that any guessed pitch for A would fit one of these instruments.

I think many of these anecdotes are those from proud mothers, rather than anything else..

I think there Perfect Pitch is a myth, and that some are able to remember better than others. Pitch is a relative thing, nothing absolute.

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I think many of these anecdotes are those from proud mothers, rather than anything else..

I think there Perfect Pitch is a myth, and that some are able to remember better than others. Pitch is a relative thing, nothing absolute.

Not according to the University of California.

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

Try the test because I feel perhaps you don't quite understand what the phenomena of AP actually is. This is nothing to do with proud mothers. I believe it's called science.

http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/survey/page1.php

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Not according to the University of California.

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

Try the test because I feel perhaps you don't quite understand what the phenomena of AP actually is. This is nothing to do with proud mothers. I believe it's called science.

http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/survey/page1.php

No. I have stated my opinion and I think it is going to be quite hard to change.

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Not according to the University of California.

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

Try the test because I feel perhaps you don't quite understand what the phenomena of AP actually is. This is nothing to do with proud mothers. I believe it's called science.

http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/survey/page1.php

After reading this I think that it is quite clear that the study does not include people from cultures different from a western one with a differeent musical education than typical for our culture. This is also a study of quite grown up persons, not small children.

With persons from different cultures also from outside western ones, I think they would have found that "Absolute pitch" is also a cultural phenomenon.

Not all science is good, I think this is an example of not so good science.

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1alpha... Absolute Pitch is a fairly easy concept to grasp. I don't think you need to go around suggesting that one or more of us "don't quite understand" it. Also, that paper you posted, though interesting doesn't really have much to do with the topic at hand (except that perhaps it suggests a way that some people are "born with it"; those people with whatever inhibition the rest of us have turned off). It certainly isn't a paper about whether AP is "accessible to everybody" as you suggested it is.

The fact of the matter is that this is a musician's board. To talk about 1/10000 possessing absolute pitch is a little strange here. Among musicians I've worked with, I'd put it at closer to 1/15, and, as I previously mentioned, when it's taught at an early age, as in China, the rate is much higher.

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There is a fine chapter on Absolute Pitch in Murray Cambell and Clive Greateds book "The Musicians Guide to Acoustics"

I enclose scans of the sides on the subject. I think the references given here can be taken serious. There are some interesting information, e.g. that some with AP may have a drift in their pitch perception.

The chapter also deal with the question the tread started with and comfirm it with references to literature on the subject.

post-25136-1260910477.jpg

post-25136-1260910488.jpg

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Without being pedantic, I think "absolute perfect pitch" must have a special meaning. Do people with this ability identify tones by frequency, e.g. "That's 423 hz"? Or do they say "That's a flat A"? If they say the former I would say they have absolute perfect pitch. If they say the latter then I'd say they have relative perfect pitch. The reason is that the second declaration is relative to some image of what A should sound like, while the first is in terms of an absolute unit, hz. I seriously doubt whether people would be able to identify tones by hz. People with absolute perfect pitch would likely be very unhappy musicians since they would be unable to tolerate any deviation from perfection in intonation. Relative perfect pitch should be fairly easy to learn because there would only be twelve basic references to learn, plus adaptation for octaves.

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I think that "absolute pitch" has both genetic and cultural components. In my culture growing up, I rarely ran into other people who could reference tones based on a distantly remembered 440. At the same time, I heard something like 6 hours of piano practicing per day while I was still in the womb. This was reinforced by early piano training during which pitches were assigned to note names.

So having "perfect pitch" (which by the way isn't infallible... I've made major screw ups, but mostly been able to correct the oboe during orchestra tuning) I"ll vote in favor of it being learned, with the assistance of the right supporting circumstances.

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I think it is pretty much like languages. For example: When you learn a language at an early age, you usually learn it better than if you learn a language later in life. (Even if you can speak and understand the language properly, it just doesnt feel as natural) I think as a string instrument student you have to develop something similar to absolute pitch but not as developed. (you need to tell if a note sounds off pitch or not as quickly as possible)

One of my friends has perfect pitch and I asked him about it a few times. Let me explain, when you have perfect pitch, you are able to tell the note and if it sounds a bit off. The important thing is to remember that even if it an uncommon and amazing skill, it is still a human skill and it cant be as precise as a computer or tunner.

Lets imagine you ask a violinist with perfect pitch to tune to A 440 several instruments. He would bring the violin's strings pitch up until hes ear tells him it sounds like an A. (the right A, not lower or higher) If you take a tuner and check the tunning of instruments, you would probably find certain variables or ranges of mistake. (I think it would be something like 437 to 443). So in short words, a very short range close to A440 would sound ok to the musician; if you go higher or lower, they would sound odd.

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I can tell with 100 percent accuracy when the note I am playing sucks....is that perfect pitch? How to correct said note....I usually need to hear some open string resonance if possible for the note or a tuner or a piano. But I have met people who can correct it solely from internal reference....even obscure sharps and flats. When I was in high school I worked at a summer camp for retarded children. There was one girl there who could not say more than a few words but she would sing the scale perfectly in tune (always starting from C) and another counselor who was a music major at Oberlin said she had 'perfect pitch'.

The fact that we tune to A but people always learn the scale starting from C or Do suggests to me that perfect pitch is essentially a very refined pattern matching skill somewhere in the brain. I have often thought that the brain actually works in frequency space rather than in the time domain or the spatial domain. So perhaps some people are born with a better FFT or a better frequency lookup table.

Tom

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