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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you have perfect pitch?

September 19, 2009 at 2:36 AM

I do not have perfect pitch. I can't identify the pitch at which the doorbell rings, nor can I tell you what key an unfamiliar piece is in, from listening to a few bars of it. When I sing, I read things intervalically, I can't pick specific pitches out of the sky.

Well, sometimes I can. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different, had I played the piano. More and more, I find myself with the correct pitch in my head, when I test it. But officially, I have relative pitch, and this has served me just fine as a professional musician. I'm not even concerned about cultivating perfect pitch, though it sounds like it's possible. Friends with perfect pitch say that it actually drives them bananas, at times, when the pitch out in the world doesn't match the pitch in your head.

Still, it would be fun, and convenient, most of the time.

Do you have perfect pitch? What are your thoughts about it?


From Catie Rinderknecht
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 2:45 AM

 I have it; it's a blessing and a curse.  

From Michael Divino
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 2:51 AM

I said no because I tend to hear things sharp, which leads me to tuning my instrument FLAT~!

From Hayasa T
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 3:05 AM

I do have perfect pitch (thanks to Suzuki haha), however it makes some things a pain to listen to like Baroque music which isn't a=440ish :P

From Kelley Johnson
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 4:06 AM

I do not have perfect pitch but there have been times in my life that I feel if I just pushed the envelope a little more I could  really  assign absolutisms to pitch levels like when I am visualizing (seeing the notes) of the music I am playing while I play it.   Of course that is like wishing and dreaming of eating cookies verses actually doing it.

From Paula Bird
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 5:10 AM

 Yup, I have it and my sister too. For anyone interested, UC Berkeley is conducting a genetic study to determine if there is a gene responsible for perfect pitch. Google it for more information. I believe that perfect pitch can be cultivated, that it is just a way of listening more deeply. Low pitch (Baroque) music doesn't bother me. I just slide the perfect pitch "scale" to the appropriate pitch and take it from there. The Berkeley study actually tested piano pitches and computer pitches (which are flat at the extremes). As a Suzuki teacher, I have noticed that students who sing a lot (church choirs, school choir, family singing) tend to have much better pitch overall.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 10:43 AM

I have it, for better or for worse.  I don't enjoy listening to, or playing to, low As.  On the other hand, back in college days, melodic dictation in Fright Screaming 101 was a breeze. 

I don't think someone can train or will themselves into perfect pitch.  I could be wrong, as I'm not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.  My ears have gotten keener over the years, but that is due to experience and development as a musician, not because I paid a lot of money to the guy that hawks his wares in The International Musician.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 12:06 PM

I don't, and I feel a bit like you do, Laurie, that it would be cool if I did. 

However, I don't think my relative pitch is as good as yours or as that of most if not all professionals.  I can hear intervals played slowly on a piano (or on a violin by my teacher), but when I was taking music theory in high school, I mixed up 4ths and 5ths some percent of the time.  My father claims to be tone-deaf, which might be true (I've heard him sing).  I've read that being tone-deaf is genetic, like having perfect pitch.  If he is tone-deaf, I'm working with only one set of good pitch genes.  So I don't feel guilty about using the electronic tuner occasionally. 

From Royce Faina
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 1:52 PM

I don't have perfect pitch.  I have Relative Pitch.  Choir in High School realy helped develop my ear, thanks to our great teacher Mr. Craig Jones at Richard King HS.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 2:29 PM

I don't think it is to me to tell if I have it perfect or not but I am known to have a very good ear and have good comments on this.  I always know if I play out of tune and it hurts me very much!!!  I suffer much from beeing conscious of my wrong notes... But I think (from what people told and my experiences) that this was born. As I said, my father who is the most non-musician one could not find had much ear to sing and remember anything he heard on the radio and tv.  This is genetic...   But with ear training when I began my late (well 14) musical adventure, I learned to put names on things. Instead of instinct, I learn the specific names and patterns that they wanted me to learn by heart.  


Posted on September 19, 2009 at 4:16 PM

I said NO

Sometimes I am right on...other times I may be off by a fifth;and Buri, I don't mean a fifth of PJ either

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on September 19, 2009 at 4:30 PM

I have it and enjoy using it, especially now that I'm in jazz and I'm transcribing solos and that kind of thing. It's convenient to be able to just write notes down without having to check with a piano.

However, in classical playing I don't really use my sense of  pitch a whole lot. I feel that when playing violin, being able to hear when the note rings well is better than to just have a preestablished pitch and trying to match that. In quartet playing, it's all about listening to everybody else's intonation; equal temperament sometimes kind of goes out the window.

So I'm blessed to have that gift, but I know many people who are better musicians than myself and manage just fine without it. Listening is where it's at.

From Patricia Baser
Posted on September 20, 2009 at 4:55 PM

I have extremely good relative pitch, but not perfect pitch.  I do have perfect pitch for violin and that middle range of the piano.  And I can keep an A in my head all day, which is handy for tuning my masses of string students. 

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