How to learn perfect pitch

April 9, 2005 at 05:47 AM · Perfect Pitch

Replies (100)

April 9, 2005 at 05:57 AM · Simple word : no

April 9, 2005 at 06:22 AM · Hi,

Yes, but I don't know how. I have heard it's acquirable to some extent.

Cheers!

April 9, 2005 at 06:33 AM · One can always improve their relative pitch so that they can easily see relationships between notes and hear notes that are played out of tune but to memorise every notes pitch is not achievable...perfect pitch people are born not made

April 9, 2005 at 07:35 AM · Tell me, when you are listening to a CD and one song ends, can you hum the note that the next song will begin with? This is one way to remember how notes are connected. But you are relying on the previous song to get you there. I don't suppose you could listen to something, go away from it, and come back a short time later and see if you can remember what note it starts on. That might work. I first knew a pitch from memory when I heard my brother playing a C major scale on the piano while I was in the bathroom, and I told my mom he shouldn't have any problems with that scale, it's easy. She wondered how I knew. I don't know, it just sounded like a white-key scale. And then I found I remembered the pitch of our vacuum cleaner, the pitch of our phone, the pitch of our tuner in orchestra. Soon, I could identify the names of the pitches as well. It was just remembering them exactly where they are in context to something else, like the beginning of a Haydn sonata I've been working on. Can you learn to remember that? I don't know. Give it a try and tell us if you succeed.

April 9, 2005 at 08:39 AM · Hi Adam,

Do we have any good reason for saying that if some people are born with a particular ability, it then becomes impossible for others to aquire it through learning? I don't think so.

Cheers,

Paul

April 9, 2005 at 12:45 PM · http://www.perfectpitch.com/

April 9, 2005 at 01:00 PM · It is absolutely possible to learn perfect pitch.

April 9, 2005 at 10:45 PM · To say you can't learn it is: A myth.

I can say that is a fact because i've been in the perfect-pitch community for quite a while, and theres a lot of myths out there. Theres a lot even scientists don't know.

For one: I learned perfect pitch (by that I mean I can identify all 12 notes by only their pitch).

There are a lot of methods to learn it floating around, the one I used took me exactly 6 days to learn all twelve notes.

Unfortunately, that method will not work for everybody. I've made ideas and theories and such, but I cannot call them factual so I fear spilling them out everywhere and then having to later recall them.

I've learned it, and that is enough to disprove the myth that it cannot be learned (I distinctly remember hearing about perfect pitch, and trying to have a piano player play random notes for me, and I could NOT identify them. Then I learned the twelve notes and I can identify notes on any instrument easily).

Though another myth is that having perfect pitch means you can know if the A you are hearing is EXACTLY 440 hertz. You might be able to say "its a little flat, or its a little sharp", but rarely will you see a human computer.

Thus, when playing the violin, you can tell generally if you are playing the right note, but by using relative pitch you can much more easily tell if you are properly intonated.

April 9, 2005 at 10:48 PM · "like the beginning of a Haydn sonata I've been working on. Can you learn to remember that? I don't know."

The answer Emily, YES. But only for some (I have ideas on who those are, but not really sure).

April 9, 2005 at 10:59 PM · I'm not really sure if you can learn it. My piano teacher said you're born with it, which I kind of agree with perfect pitch, but I'm sure that you can get pretty good pitch by learning it. Enough so that you can tell what most notes are by hearing them.

I have no choice but to learn it, my internal pitch is horrible! :)

April 9, 2005 at 11:27 PM · It is interesting question. If there is somebody who developed perfect pitch, please response to this thread. I have perfect pitch, but don't know if it is inborn or developed. Just can say that when I was born there were piano and guitar in our house and both instruments were my favorite 'toys'.

April 10, 2005 at 01:13 AM · I developed perfect pitch... but only with piano (I know, it makes no sense!). In dictation class at school, whenever the prof plays the V-I cadence to start the dictation, I always can tell right off what the key is without looking at his hands. Every note has a particular resonance on the piano that I don't always find holds true for every other instrument.

I acquired this ability over the last two years. I can also sing a concert A very close to 440 Hz (usually the slightest bit flat or sharp). I find that listening to the same recordings every day for weeks or months on end helps to "memorize" pitches.

The assertion that one cannot develop perfect pitch is totally false.

April 10, 2005 at 05:09 AM · It would be helpful to define perfect pitch. In my book, there is absolute pitch and relative pitch. Absolute pitch is the ability to identify correctly any pitch you hear. Relative pitch is the ability to identify a pitch by its relationship to another pitch. For example, I have relative pitch. I've learned through experience to identify the 440 A. I can identify other notes by their relationship to that A.

April 10, 2005 at 11:04 AM · Hi,

Pauline: Perfect pitch and absolute pitch are the same. Relative pitch is a different matter.

Cheers!

April 10, 2005 at 11:16 AM · Among the great violinists today,(perlman,Hahn,Shaham,Mutter etc) who´s got perfect pitch and not?

April 10, 2005 at 05:19 PM · I don't know among violinists today but I know Stern had perfect pitch.

April 10, 2005 at 05:25 PM · Its definetely learnable for a lot of people. Some folks i think, sadly, can never learn this, but just because you weren't able to do it immediately doesnt mean anything. I only have perfect pitch in upper registers and it often takes me a second to figure out what note it is. I would have to practice a bit to get the lower registers consistant. I can sort of turn on and off my perfect pitch, which is how i like it, it allows me to cheat when reading other clefs.

April 10, 2005 at 05:50 PM · "It is interesting question. If there is somebody who developed perfect pitch, please response to this thread. I have perfect pitch, but don't know if it is inborn or developed. Just can say that when I was born there were piano and guitar in our house and both instruments were my favorite 'toys'. "

I developed it, and I responded...

It would be much to your insight to read it.

April 10, 2005 at 07:10 PM · I developed perfect pitch-- though I'm better with some instruments then others. violin, viola, oboe, clarinet, flute, and the upper registers of the cello and piano are no problem at all. i have a little trouble with anything below the violin g-string, and electronic instruments just confuse me.

April 10, 2005 at 09:42 PM · Ed,

I have a friend who is basically a human pitch computer. She can name the note to the Hhz. It's FREEEEEKY!

Preston

April 11, 2005 at 12:11 AM · Great topic,

I was born with relative pitch. I have been playing the violin for 11 years and have been taking ear training and theory for nearly as long.

I have never correctly sung a pitch or identified a pitch without hearing it or another note first.

April 11, 2005 at 12:55 AM · I don't have perfect pitch. The person I know who does actually sees the pitches in colours and patterns which isn't fair to the rest of us. But something by association seems to be kicking in. Yesterday I tried to see if I could duplicate A by thinking of a dial tone and I was off by a tone. The dial tone has two tones in it, though. Today I called up the memory of an orchestra tuning and voila, a perfect A was at my disposal. Does anyone go by association?

April 11, 2005 at 01:53 AM · Seeing colour with hearing the note is called synethesia. It can be manifested in many different ways. I have rhythmic/time passage synesthesia in that I don't perceive the passage of time or rhymic units in the same way most people do. It's a very very tangible thing that has shape...almost like when I think about it I could reach out, touch it and manipulate it. Kinda weird.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.html

Preston

April 11, 2005 at 03:42 AM · Preston, that is very rare. I've known many born-withs that could not do that.

Could it be that she might be using relative pitch (she has the reference tone in her head and hearing the wrong note lets her estimate how off it is?). How accurate is she? to 1 hz? to .1? or even to .01??

April 11, 2005 at 05:08 AM · Perfect pitch is merely training your memory. Sing a song in a certain key enough, and you can always start it on pitch. I feel there is more to the discussion, though. Perfect pitch to what? Most learn it on their home pianos which are often only so-so tuned. Those who learn pitch memory may not be so perfect...just real close. Besides, the piano is a compromise tuned in equal temperment. Violinists and singers sing to a different tuning. The 7th scale step, for instance, is higher than the piano can play because the piano's 7th step in any scale is a compromise. So, what is perfect pitch? Just one's memory of pitches as they learned it from whatever they learned it from (which is usually only close). My piano tuning instrument tunes to within .003 of a half step. That is pretty close.

Secondly, I have know people with perfect pitch who were very handicapped in performance organzations. If the choir went flat, they were in trouble and very frustrated. It made it difficult for them. Relative pitch, though, is an absolute necessity for anyone who has to sing or play in tune to what is going on around them...like singers and string instrument players. They are perfectly in tune relative to the pitch environment around them. A must have.

Anyway, these are my observations and thoughts. Chase perfect pitch relative to what is going on musically around you.

April 11, 2005 at 06:34 AM · I see colors, but they changes, depending on modes. For example, if I hear 'D', I 'see' blue, closer to aqua color; but the same 'D' in D-Major turns this color to red-brown; in D-minor-deep blue; in G-Major it is blue which closer to green; in E-Major- aqua-green and so on. Also, all chords and intervals have colors too and depend on modes. So I can name all chords I hear (if I know their name) and their functions in a mode. Wish I had talent to write pictures...

As I see, perfect pitch can be developed. Have an idea to train it in my students.

April 11, 2005 at 02:14 PM · In regards to the choir reference, Paul, there was a choir that I noticed never tuned to a piano. Instead, the choirmaster "tuned" them through her voice. It happened that this choir joined ours one day, and our choir was not notorious for staying strictly in key but the various voices did manage to stay in harmony with each other and the pianist was under instructions to keep muted in performances if that happened. And it happened in that particular performance. All was well because the relative pitches were singing in harmony with each other, except for this strong out of harmony and absolutely in key voice directly behind me. It was the choirmaster of the guest choir, and I suspect that she had perfect pitch which is why she tuned her choir the way she did, but seems to have been unable to bring her voice into harmony with the off-key choir.

April 11, 2005 at 04:59 PM · For the choir thing: As is common knowledge, a violinist needs to worry harmonically when with an instrument in equal temperament, or when with a quartet. Even having perfect pitch, it would be necessary to concern yourself with intonating yourself to everybody else harmonically/relatively, staying in "key" would be disastrous and would hurt ears.

April 11, 2005 at 08:05 PM · i see shapes, more with phrasing but it is definetely a shape i feel like i could touch. chords also have a shape to me. its funny because i'm not really a visual person most of hte time.

June 15, 2005 at 11:47 AM · hey guys.

v interesting thread since i am currently doing an ear training course which, in the last 6 months of doing exercises for 20 mins a day, i have gotten to the point where i can name most pitches by ear and also tell u what the constituent pitches of any triad chord is. This may not be anything special for a lot of people born with the ability but 4 a guy who started playing at 13, and frankly, used to have the worst sense of pitch ever, its quite something.

So here are a few thoughts on absolute pitch. Yes it can, absolutely, be acquired. Sure it takes time and effort (exercises and learning the innate qualities of every pitch that make it distinct from others) but it can be done and many people do it. I hear people defiantly claim that u cant develop it. Well u can. Saying u cant develop absolute pitch is like saying a child will never be able to tell the difference between pink and blue. Its ridiculous. Most people never really take the time to sit down and listen. Most music teachers tend to just test their students' sense of pitch without trying to improve it since its a bit of a grey area. Perfect pitch can be cultured. But u have to listen.

Secondly, if u want to develop absolute pitch, go to www.perfectpitch.com and get the ear training series - its the one im using and it works.

U dont sit down and memorise the sound of pitches. U have to learn to appreciate the unique qualities of each tone whereas before u may have only heard the relationships between tones. I guess its like hearing vertically into the tones and not horizontally between them. Ultimately the truly perfect ear can hear in both and absolute and relative way.

Anyways, those are my thoughts - ive done a lot of ear training courses but this one on www.perfectpitch.com, known as the Burge method is the best ive come across so far. So u might wanna check it out.

June 15, 2005 at 07:48 PM · Among the great violinists today,(perlman,Hahn,Shaham,Mutter etc) who´s got perfect pitch?

Many singers can actually fake perfect pitch by being able to sing an A without reference but they can rarely recognise an A when they hear it.

It´s more common then you think.

June 15, 2005 at 09:08 PM · Most likely, Hahn has perfect pitch.

June 15, 2005 at 09:31 PM · Ed,

Sorry, didn't see your question.

I have no idea how she knows the hrz factor. Or how close she is most of the time. I would assume that she is able to hear the note in her head in association with the hrz because if you ask her to sing 437 hrz she will do it.

She has tought herself to turn it off in her mind because it became so distracting to her especially during chamber rehearsals when pitch and tuning become rather relative.

Like I said...FREEEEEKY! :P

Preston

June 16, 2005 at 07:38 PM · I am currently working on developing perfect pitch, and while I can easily figure out some pitches, I am usually clueless about the others. My opinion is that some people can be trained, while others may be born with it, and then there are people that are semi-tone-deaf to tone-deaf and will probably never learn.

If it truly is genetic, it's interesting to note that my brother has perfect pitch, and I apparently do not. Perhaps it is a latent ability, and a little more training might bring it out(I am new to this; I have very little musical training or experience). I am "normal". My perfect pitch brother, however, is mentally disabled, yet his perfect pitch is one of those rare gifts(not only does he know them in isolation, but quiz him by playing any 3 notes or more at the same exact time, and he knows which 3 are playing exactly EVERY time). It's strange how the mind works! He'll never be able to live alone, but at least he has perfect pitch!

June 16, 2005 at 07:57 PM · Where did he learn the names for the notes?

June 16, 2005 at 10:46 PM · "not only does he know them in isolation, but quiz him by playing any 3 notes or more at the same exact time, and he knows which 3 are playing exactly EVERY time"

Yeah, I am working on 3-note chords. I am as good with 2-note chords as I am single notes, but the three note chords (and all the moreso 4-note chords) are more difficult.

www.prolobe.com is where I learned it. completely free.

June 16, 2005 at 11:10 PM · Better than simply being able to name the notes in a 3 or 4 note chord is naming the chord and it's function.

Preston

June 17, 2005 at 12:19 AM · Thanks for the sites and info. My brother took guitar lessons in his teens, and can play well, but is hardly a virtuoso. After the first few lessons the teacher noted his perfect pitch(without prior musical training). I believe he can name the chords by hearing them, the ones he is most familiar with anyway, need to try that out with him...

June 17, 2005 at 12:23 AM · i'm also doing the burge method. i hear the brightnesses but have trouble seeing the pitch colours.

my natural perfect pitch is C256 instead of A440 so i'm always just a hair flat.

June 17, 2005 at 02:31 AM · I'm having serious problems with the Prolobe, perfect pitch learning site. I believe I have all the requirements, my sound card is working, I have Java, yet there is no sound when I start the lessons. Any suggestions?

June 17, 2005 at 03:57 AM · "I'm having serious problems with the Prolobe, perfect pitch learning site. I believe I have all the requirements, my sound card is working, I have Java, yet there is no sound when I start the lessons. Any suggestions"

It uses JAVA midi, I suppose you could check if anything is muted on your sound controls.

You can also try the alternate version #2 and see if it works and different.

Do regular MIDIs play on your computer, if not, then you probably have it muted on your sound controls.

June 18, 2005 at 10:14 PM · funny that u shud mention colour association Rita, in fact when I hear a D it really jumps out at me and I get the impression of ice blue since the note has a very metallic and almost cold pitch colour. Other notable colours are a striking red for Fsharp since it has a really obvious twang that no other note has. I associate A most with bright pink since it is really bright and brilliant. C is prob the most relaxing note and I kind of see it as the central note (im a piano player middle c is homebase for us lol) since it sounds neutral and has a very resonant, almost meditative pitch colour which i see as lavender. B and the key of B minor sounds like pure black. Pitch colours and the way we associate them with visual colours are all subjective things anyways - every1 who experiences it will have slightly different associations but it wud b nice to see what others think. let me know

June 18, 2005 at 11:33 PM · check out eartraining.com. there is some great software that will help you develope perfect pitch. i have it and really enjoy the benefits

brian

June 19, 2005 at 07:06 PM · "Seeing" musical notes as colors is, especially if this ability is involuntary, called synasthesia. Other forms of synasthesia may involve "hearing" a painting or even smelling musical notes. Whether this helps with perfect pitch or not is debatable. Many composers had this trait. I wonder if there is a correlation between perfect pitch and synaesthesia.

June 19, 2005 at 09:16 PM · I can't stand it anymore! When I hear a stupid melody, I am hounted by the names of the notes in my head! I was crazy enough, when I was very little, to memorize the models of glasses in the kitchen by recognizing the notes they were making. Because of that my ear became lazy and I correct a sound not in relation to the precedent one, but by simply knowing how it should sound like. Trust me, this is the worst type of pitch for someone who plays an untempered instrument and has to make his own intonation.

If you were born to this type of pitch, it is hard to develop a relative one. But if you have a good relative pitch, you can "absolutize" it, by listening to music very much. I believe this is the ideal situation.

My mother is a biologist and studyed violin as an amateur for 5 years when she was in pedagogical highschool. She started music when she was 13, but she could recognize notes. Actually, she has no deals to music now, but she can still recognize notes. She studyed the phenomenon and it appears to be a genetical charactere.

I heard Grumiaux had absolute pitch, his father said he could recognize the notes produced by the bells of the church.

June 19, 2005 at 11:08 PM · Perfect pitch can be a problem if one doesn't control it. Relative pitch is the more valuable of the two as that is how one relates notes to each other. The better your relative pitch, the better prepared you are to practice improved intonation. The only real benefit of perfect pitch is in dictations where the beginning pitch is not given. However, even that can be a problem, as I discovered, if the professor does not play the excerpt in the key given...on purpose. Other than that, it's a neat little party trick with which to entertain your friends.

Preston

June 24, 2005 at 11:46 PM · My theory teacher who had it called it a gift and a curse because anytime she heard any music her head would scream out the notes. That includes elevator music, ice cream trucks (already annoying), etc. I wish I had it though.

June 25, 2005 at 05:24 AM · I still dont get how people say they are born with perfect pitch. Does that mean people are born knowing all the pitchs? I dont get it, or are they born with an ability to quickly identify pitchs once you hear? I dont get it, can someone explain it to me...thanx

June 25, 2005 at 05:56 AM · Easiest way to recognise pitch is practice the notes slowly with having support of the instrument which plays and sustains a note for a long time. This will make you perfect

June 25, 2005 at 03:14 PM · Pedro,

What people are referring to is that some people are born with the ability to recognize pitch after learning the names of the notes just as easily as they were able to learn the names of colours and identify them.

There are other people who need a little extra training in order to be able to do this, but I believe around 80% of the population, if trained properly from the beginning, is able to have perfect pitch or at least perfect relative pitch (ability to remember one pitch correctly and name the pitches in context to that one pitch).

Preston

June 25, 2005 at 04:26 PM · "There are other people who need a little extra training in order to be able to do this, but I believe around 80% of the population, if trained properly from the beginning, is able to have perfect pitch or at least perfect relative pitch (ability to remember one pitch correctly and name the pitches in context to that one pitch)."

I would project 20% of the population can learn it when they are 13 years old and up. I have seen instances of a few of these (Including myself) that were able to learn the notes at an age not expected to learn all the notes by ear.

I would love the have the notes scream in my ear. I am very slow at identifying notes, but I can tune at absolute A=440 pretty close (when tuning the A string it doesn't sound "right" until I tune it to the right pitch, as I memorized how that A should sound in violin's intonation system)

June 25, 2005 at 08:02 PM · You are probably quite right in that the percentage of people able to learn perfect pitch decreases dramatically with age.

Also, I think there are some poor souls who are totally unable to learn those pitches. I know a number of people who are completely and unequivocally tone deaf. Kind of like how some people are colour blind.

Preston

June 25, 2005 at 09:47 PM · Well, I have just read an article about perfect pitch. In fact every baby is born with perfect pitch, because only that makes it possible to learn a language accent free - like a mother tongue. So actually no one learns perfect pitch, but most people loose it. So in fact if a baby listens to a lot of music - but important, often the same piece over and over again - it keeps the perfect pitch.

June 25, 2005 at 10:39 PM · What of people with speach impediments?

Preston

June 26, 2005 at 01:00 AM · "Well, I have just read an article about perfect pitch. In fact every baby is born with perfect pitch, because only that makes it possible to learn a language accent free - like a mother tongue. So actually no one learns perfect pitch, but most people loose it. So in fact if a baby listens to a lot of music - but important, often the same piece over and over again - it keeps the perfect pitch. "

Heh, don't listen to any articles. Hardly any of them contain any slight element of truth to it.

If a baby listens to alot of music it keeps perfect pitch??? That is absurd. Do we think babies are either born with or without earplugs?

Learning a mother tongue without accent is accounted for by brain malleability at a babie's age, not perfect pitch. The muscles can easily mimic and produce sounds it learns due to the amazing ability of a baby to learn and mimic.

Sounds occur all around them, and many babies live inside pianos and they don't have perfect pitch.

Like me, I was raised around instruments and I played a motorized organ since I was 2 years old. Did I learn the notes by ear? Not until I was 13.

Another reason scientists are horrible at deciphering the learning of absolute pitch is the theory about genetics AND learning tonal languages. There was article after article on tonal languages and learning absolute pitch.

Then there were other researchers that claimed there was absolutely no correlation between tonal languages and absolute pitch.

Heck, when I did the UCSF perfect pitch test and was accredited for Absolute Pitch type 1.00, the researchers emailed me back when I told them I learned absolute pitch. They told me if I was sure that I learned it, and if I already knew it but didn't know it.

of course I learned it...

It took me a week to hear the notes for their individual qualities by associating them with melodies.

Frankly, until researchers can account for learning absolute pitch like I did, im not trusting anything they say.

June 26, 2005 at 01:20 AM · When I decided to take up the violin I told my boyfriend, who plays guitar, that I was worried about having a good enough ear. He turned and looked at me and asked me to sing the 3 notes that are played when the NBC peacock comes on the TV screen. I did it very well. He smiled and so did I. I knew immediately that if I could do that, there was hope.

I've tried this on several people. I was a little surprised at the number of people who can't do it.

June 26, 2005 at 03:13 AM · I wasn't born with perfect pitch, but my ear keeps opening up. After tuning my instrument to an A every day for my entire life, I can always pull an A out of thin air. It took me longer to learn to recognize it when it is played, but now I can do that too. I can also always hear something played in the key of Ab major. I "feel" it in my stomach. I see blue when I hear a D as well. G major always makes me think either green or orange. F# is my nemesis. I'm still working on the rest of the notes. I'm sure in time, my ear will open to them like it has the others. Wish I were born with it--it takes work.

June 26, 2005 at 04:09 AM · Just try associating every note with a melody.

Try the note D and associate it with the famous Bach Gmajor minuet. Everytime you hear D, hear it as the first note of the minuet.

If you don't try this, you will be sorry.

June 26, 2005 at 04:12 PM · "...sing the 3 notes that are played when the NBC peacock comes on the TV screen. I did it very well. ... I've tried this on several people. I was a little surprised at the number of people who can't do it."

Evelyn, hearing and singing aren't the same thing. IMHO it's possible to have the ability to hear a note and identify it without being able to physically reproduce it vocally. I sometimes think people confuse the two too easily.

Now having said that, I envy people who can do both. However, I'll be happy as long as I end up being able to hear and identify a note and then reproduce it on the violin. I'll still have to accept that when I sing people run away covering their ears, dogs howl and hide, and the shower sudddenly runs cold. :)

Neil

June 27, 2005 at 03:06 AM · Ed--I will try away. It sounds like you are an individual who knows what he's talking about. I've been teaching myself "C" and "D" today. It's coming fairly easily as far as thinking about the note (I mean, I can think and hear and feel it in my mind)--recognizing the note in the midst of other notes will prove a greater challenge. I don't feel like recognizing pitches is out of range, and what does it hurt to try? Maybe people in the elevator will laugh as you discern what whistling note is coming from the air conditioning, but at least it will give them something to think about other than the hum drum of going to work every day.

I don't feel like I was born with "perfect pitch" per say, but for whatever reason, I grew up with some ability to discern pitches and to feel them. Now I'm just developing what I've got. I think people born with "perfect pitch" can probably develop their gift as well.

June 27, 2005 at 03:39 AM · One other thought and a question. My mother-in-law sings loudly out-of-tune. She's aware of her incredibly out-of-tune voice only part of the time. She's a very good pianist. She claims her mother sang loudly all the time "very out of tune." My husband (her son) could not hold pitch to save his life when we first married. He meandered all over the place. He's improving a lot since marrying a music-lover and having violining and singing shoved down his throat night and day. He likes to sing, and it's nice to hear him holding pitch after twelve years.

My own mother has a beautiful voice. All twelve of her children are musical. One sister sings opera. A couple others are broadway babies. Others of us play instruments. We all sing fairly well and in tune. My Dad also sings well and on key. They played a recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto to me as a child over and over again because I whined for it constantly.

I'm very interested in what Neil had to say. From my experience, "tone-deaf" is passed on from one generation to the next, just as well as "on key." His experience might not support that assumption.

I'm wondering from all of you how many of you people with perfect pitch, relative pitch or the ability to discern pitches to any degree had parents who sang to you who also had that gift?

I'm wondering if maybe Dr. Suzuki was right . . .

June 27, 2005 at 07:25 AM · As far as I know I am the only person in my family with perfect pitch. Though my mother is a musician, her ears aren't too good though they have improved a lot since I started playing violin. My father isn't a musician but for an amateur he hears really well, though of course not with perfect pitch. My brother started with piano at an early age as well and has a great relative pitch. But I truely believe that the reason why I have perfect pitch is because I started to listening to music on the day I was born, while my brother was brought to a nanny the first two years when my mother was teaching or practising.

June 27, 2005 at 09:38 PM · If people asked how to learn absolute pitch, I have a question:

How can I learn relative pitch? At this point, it seems impossible to me.

June 27, 2005 at 09:47 PM · Relative pitch is easily attainable.

All you need to do is have some ear training. In ear training you are played a note and then played another note and asked to identify the relaltionship between the two (i.e. major 3rd, minor 2nd etc.etc.)

It becomes mch easier with practice.

Preston

June 28, 2005 at 03:56 PM · I have a friend, he has perfect pitch and says it's horrible.. He is in BIG trouble when we don't have a 440Hz A in our orchestra.

Don't learn it, it's a curse

June 28, 2005 at 06:50 PM · I have been training my ear for intervals and chords to 5 sounds. I can determine the nature of them without recognizing every note in a first instance, but after 2 seconds I know the notes and I can only tell the position and other characteristics by knowing the notes. So this wouldn't actually be relative pitch in use. Even more, I can't think about the characterictics of a chord if I don't recognize the notes. The relative pitch is practically blocked.

June 28, 2005 at 09:25 PM · "have a friend, he has perfect pitch and says it's horrible.. He is in BIG trouble when we don't have a 440Hz A in our orchestra.

Don't learn it, it's a curse "

Learning absolute pitch will not force you to be stuck on a certain intonation scale.

I do not mind having slight variations in pitch (MUST have it on violin, switching from pythagorean to equal temperament frequently calls for changes in intonation).

I've never understood why people get STUCK on a certain intonation, and if they hear anything different, they say they have "trouble".

If I hear an A a quarter step off, I'll just hear it as having characteristics of both A and Ab, sort of "in between".

June 28, 2005 at 09:53 PM · Ed, do you see colors with sound? If not, how does it fee lto differentiate the notes? Of course we intellectually understand the analog of a rainbow, but how does that actually taste/feel/look to you?

Why is it that the sense of pitch is so much more mysterious than the sense of color?

This is an extraordinarily fascinating topic and a good thread, too.

Overtones probably are part of the problem of understanding this business.

Also we have so many octaves in our hearing range. If we accept that we can hear 40 hz, then we have 9.5 octaves going up to 15 kHz. In light we have less than one octave (700 nanometers to 400 nanometers wavelength). Does this mean that the blending of frequencies in light does not lead to the same confusion as in sound, since we cannot be "jumped" into another octave?

A good example of the octave thing: listen to a violin G-string (preferably a really good one, like a Stradivarius well played) and compare it to the G of a large deep viola---totally different! Comparing one to the other you realize that the 2nd harmonic (the 1st one above the fudamental) is actually louder than the fundamental on the violin. So what note are you "hearing" then? How do you detect "pitch" out of a complex wave-form? If we measure harmony and intonation, how do we move the fundamental to suit the aggregate to maintan harmony?

Oh it is a fascinating business!

June 28, 2005 at 10:17 PM · I don't think you can "learn" perfect pitch.

What I unterstood it's a timeframe in which kids can pick it up.

I have perfect pitch and find it certainly an advantage when having to go for high notes especially in modern music.

It's difficult though when I have to swich to 415 for barock violin.

June 28, 2005 at 10:25 PM · If 415 vs. 440 causes trouble, so should different tuning systems. What is the effect of those?

June 28, 2005 at 11:11 PM · To me perfect pitch is the ability to hear a note and to give it a name.I also use it when tuning the orchestra as I am pretty sure about 443.

Tuning systems like Kirnberger e.g. are about relation of notes.

With different tuning systems you have different thirds and fifths and so on.

This is something one should talk about with a harpsichord player.

June 28, 2005 at 11:53 PM · This is a fascinating subject. I don't have perfect pitch, although my sense of relative pitch seems to be good. But the idea of association of sound pitch with colors is very interesting. The thread gives the impression that those who experience this association just have it automatically, as if filaments of their optic nerve were blended with filaments of their acoustic nerve. I have never noticed it myself, but I am a very visual person and it sounds like something I might be able to learn to do to improve my sense of absolute pitch. Sounds are so temporal, while visual colors to me persist long after I look away from the object. If I trained myself to "see red" ever time I hear f# that seems to be a plausible way to develop a sustainable association between the fleeting sense of sound and its name. But.... I agree that it would be essential to use a sound source that is exactly on frequency, since a piano usually isn't quite there in my experience.

June 29, 2005 at 12:26 AM · Both my piano and violin teachers say I have relative pitch, whats the difference?

June 29, 2005 at 04:27 AM · Correct me if I am wrong someone...

Perfect pitch is the ability to name the exact pitch-"That's an A-445!" for instance.

Absolute pitch is the ability to hear a pitch that is in tune, and name that note.

Relative pitch is the ability to recognize intervals, regardless of what the tonal center is (or whether it is sharp or flat), and does seem to be the most useful of the three.

In talking about singing on or off-key or "tone-deafness"...it's hard to know if the reason for it is the lack of ability to hear the correct pitch, or the lack of control of vocal chords. I imagine it's difficult to research.

June 29, 2005 at 06:23 AM · I have perfect pitch.

Never really knew I did until one day my friend was playing a guitar solo on his acoustic, and I told him that he was starting on the wrong note. At first I just imagined myself playing the note on the violin. Now I've gotten used to it, and I can hear many pitches at the same time. I can usually build up a pretty thick chord in my head as long as the pitches are not too low.

All I can suggest is, start by imagining yourself playing your instrument. You'll probably never have the ease of people who have it naturally, but it sure beats the alternative.

June 29, 2005 at 07:31 AM · Perfect pitch and Absolute pitch are the same thing. The names are interchangable as far as I know.

Preston

June 29, 2005 at 11:34 AM · Then maybe I don't have relitive pitch. I can identify note names on a piano, violin, ect. and I can identify the interval, or the basic ones at least,3,4,5,8,10, and if a note is out of tune I can say a little sharp or flat, but I can't go that A is a 415. So what Kind of pitch do I have?

June 29, 2005 at 02:24 PM · It appears as though one of the websites mentioned in this thread (by Ed Barreto I think), http://www.prolobe.com, has dropped off the planet - about a week after I started using it.

Neil

June 29, 2005 at 05:05 PM · Neil,

Things at prolobe have been shaky, to say the least, after the creator of the website stopped regularly maintaining it (due to a career). There were problems with Java, and now the website is down. It has happened before, and I hope the website will be up in the future.

Florian,

Unfortunately, I have learned absolute pitch at the age of 13-well beyond the timeframe researches claim. Other people on prolobe have learned it at much older ages. You should read my ideas on the difference between listening methods different humans have, as well as the implications it has in identifying pitch.

June 29, 2005 at 05:18 PM · "Ed, do you see colors with sound? If not, how does it fee lto differentiate the notes? Of course we intellectually understand the analog of a rainbow, but how does that actually taste/feel/look to you?

Why is it that the sense of pitch is so much more mysterious than the sense of color?

This is an extraordinarily fascinating topic and a good thread, too."

I posted this idea on prolobe.com a while ago, we are misguided in analogizing pitch to different colors, thus:

THE ANALOGY OF PITCH TO DIFFERENT COLORS IS FLAWED.

It is terribly flawed. We are born being able to differentiate colors, easy.

But can anybody here do this?

If I hold up cards with different shades of gray, and I show them to you in order and I assign the same pitches as we do in the 12-tone scale (dark gray is A, next A is almost white).

Could anybody here, if shown a random card, say the letter that I assigned to it?

That is almost impossible for many people. The card is just "gray" and where it lies in relation to the other cards is a very hard estimation to make. Yet, just as in relative pitch, we can easily say "it's sort of white, or it's close to black", but that sense is not at all refined.

THAT, is the proper analogy to absolute pitch.

------------------

No, I do not hear colors with music, I don't believe Synesthesia is something that can be acquired.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but because my mind already listened in absolute pitch (many people listen like this, much larger percentage than those born with perfect pitch), I was able to easily learn the 12 pitches by associating them with memories of these pitches used in a musical context. I suppose this a skill you have to be born with as well, but this skill is probably not as rare as being born with absolute pitch.

Therefore, I now hear pitches for what they are. I do not find it comfortable to attach colors or feelings to each note, I do not describe every note. If you ask me "what does an A sound like", I would bluntly reply "it sounds like an A sounds like". That is as much detail I can give.

Lookin back, it's sort of fascinating that I was able to learn the 12 pitches, when I thought it would be impossible. I believe, there is a much larger percentage of us here that can learn it the same way that I did.

I learned all the tones 3 years ago, at age 13. There have been people older than that that have learned it in a similar manner.

June 29, 2005 at 11:35 PM · Jennifer Dunn--It's nice to see you on this thread! I will never forget the day at a festival, I believe, when we discovered together that YOU have perfect pitch! To elaborate for everyone else . . .

I was describing to Jennifer what perfect pitch was (when we were about 15 or 16) and she said, rather non-chalantly--really? I thought everyone could do that? I looked at her amazed and tested her right then and there with her back turned to the piano. I played Eb and C# and F#'s and D's--everything. She answered so easily and so quickly. I've been so jealous ever since (hopefully that's flattering to you Jennifer as it is meant to be)! I told her mother and her mother was convinced it must have been acquired because she'd never noticed it in her daughter before. I don't know, but I have wondered if part of it had to do with her Dad being a piano-tuner--do you think that may have had some bearing Jennifer?

Anyway, now I'm trying to develop my ear. I don't know where it will lead. From a young age, on my violin, I've been capable of singing or knowing the sound of a note before I play it. For example, if I were going to play a G on the E string and I had that second finger in the air ready to go and you said for me to sing it instead, I could. It's harder for me to hear it in context with other notes. I have to think about it. Crazy. I also have a harder time when it comes to higher octaves, but I am learning.

As a result of this thread, I've been working on my pitches. I can now easily reproduce and recognize A, C, D and G. I am teaching my daughter who's held onto an "A" for a solid week now. We'll see how long it lasts. Ed's hints have helped--thanks Ed. I think violinists have an easier time learning this stuff because we've had to train our ears in order to play our instrument anyway.

June 30, 2005 at 05:05 AM · Just outta curiousity is the whole Prolobe site dead now or something?

June 30, 2005 at 06:26 AM · The method that worked for me (on a previous instrument) was to find an electric organ player to play my study with me in sync. Very slowly at first, to hear the note, find the position, and play it in tune with the organ. Nowadays, I have an electric piano which can record the study. So now I can record and play along in private. Everytime i hear my self go out of tune, I stop and practise each note individually, then the bar, then the measure,etc, and then with the piano. This works well for me.

June 30, 2005 at 04:34 PM · "Just outta curiousity is the whole Prolobe site dead now or something? "

Maestro Anthony!?

It is I, Loopsider.

Prolobe has been down for some days before, but not this long.

It is unfortunate as it is summer and I was hoping to pass level 36 (among all other things, finish my piano book, finish a couple violin books, learn 5000 sat words, read a bunch of books for school; despite being gone for a whole month...summer is not much of a vacation)

June 30, 2005 at 07:47 PM · Ed, what happens when you hear a polifonic work? You associate a coluor from a voice line? How can this allow you to follow more than one voice?

The notes names shouting in your head can be an impediment in the polifonic interpretation, because you tend to say every note, but when there are simultaneusly more important melodical lines? That's when synestesia gets in action in my head. Mostly in omofonic music, I hear the conducting line and the tonality harmony gives a certain colour.

June 30, 2005 at 08:06 PM · Pieter, you are right. Mechanical memory can help you develop absolute pitch. Imagining the effort your muscles do to play a certain note makes it much easier to recognize it.

One french thecer I had believed she is totally paralell with music, and started to tell us about how she has to learn to sing the theme of the Aida choir that is so known. She said she was terorized by her music teacher, because he had a grad exam and wanted all the class to learn this piece by singing. She started to sing for us, after 30 years, the piece, which is in c major and starts whit a g auftakt, a 4th jumping to the tonic, c major. She sung it with the exact notes. This was very strange, as my other classmates that were present to the incident and had perfect pitch were not disturbed by the notes name, because they perfectl;y corresponded to the real sounds. My guess is that the g, that is pretty hard to be sang by a women voice, and it is more often the down limit of the voice, needed a certain effort and the vocal sensation is easy to be memorized. I think this is the explanation of how a person who never studied music could sing the notes at their absolute intonation.

June 30, 2005 at 10:01 PM · "Ed, what happens when you hear a polifonic work? You associate a coluor from a voice line? How can this allow you to follow more than one voice?

The notes names shouting in your head can be an impediment in the polifonic interpretation, because you tend to say every note, but when there are simultaneusly more important melodical lines? That's when synestesia gets in action in my head. Mostly in omofonic music, I hear the conducting line and the tonality harmony gives a certain colour. "

I do not associate colors with notes, I am not a possessor of synesthesia, I imagine the feeling must be incredibly interesting.

Hearing polyphony confuses me a bit, I just hear notes here and there. Prolobe has 4 note chords and I take a while to pick out all those notes (they are random and could be from the lowest octaves, and all in a cluster of minor-seconds).

Of course, I still am growing in my ability to hear music in flowing music. I am at quarter notes at 120 BPM, and will stay there for a while.

My most lofty goal is to learn to hear sheet music in my head.

July 1, 2005 at 06:36 AM · "My most lofty goal is to learn to hear sheet music in my head."

Not difficult at all. Just start listening to symphonies, show pieces, or anything anything with the score. If you have perfect pitch it helps but you can still get the main idea of a piece.

If I'm wanting to buy a new piece I always look at it in order to hear it before I buy the sheet music...saves money.

"...I am not a possessor of synesthesia, I imagine the feeling must be incredibly interesting."

Not at all, it's normal...to me anyway.

Synesthesia is exhibited in many different forms than just pitch identification.

I have synesthesia in different ways. Some of this may sounds "way out there" to some people and other people will likely say "ah ha! I know EXACTLY what he means".

Just about anything that is abstract to most people is very tangible/maleable to me. For example:

1. Passage of time (my own life life time-line, passage of the centuries, years, weeks, seasons, rhythms etc.),

2. One's placement in time and space, one's relationship between mind and physical body).

3. Distance. Not the visible distance but the time that fills the distance. I don't know how else to explain that one.

All these things have a very specific and unique shape that is so real it almost seems I could reach out and touch them or manipulate them.

As for the relationship with mind and physical body it can only be described as what most people call a "near death experience". Personally I believe that these instances are moments when the mind is beginning to shut down or momentarily loses boundaries it normally has and people see their bodies outside of their thought process. They are often filled with a profound sense of placement within the universe and a profound sense of being (i.e. you see yourself as others would).

Sounds really hokey but Synesthesia is a documented "condition" it which some people's minds do not have the same boundaries between thought and sensory processes as the "norm" of the population. It's not so much a "condition" as it is just another thing that makes every human unique.

Preston

*grins as some of you take a cautious step backwards*

July 1, 2005 at 01:01 PM · Glad to hear that one of the things I try not to share about myself is, not crazy, just "unique"--l.o.l. about the grin and step backwards Preston.

July 1, 2005 at 03:02 PM · ====

"Not difficult at all. Just start listening to symphonies, show pieces, or anything anything with the score. If you have perfect pitch it helps but you can still get the main idea of a piece. "

I merely maintain that I am a novice at sheet music reading and I would like to be able to instantly recognize notes and timing (I suppose any regular amount of traning will allow me this, it is just my absolute pitch that will allow me to hear the notes in my head).

"1. Passage of time (my own life life time-line, passage of the centuries, years, weeks, seasons, rhythms etc.),

2. One's placement in time and space, one's relationship between mind and physical body).

3. Distance. Not the visible distance but the time that fills the distance. I don't know how else to explain that one."

I was lead to beleive Synesthesia was a sort of melding between two sensory perceptions, but it seems that it is something on a more profound level.

Of course I find it hard to understand such feeling (much like having to describe how the pitch A sounds like, without saying the letter A).

I suppose your intelligence must also be exponentially more profound than those around you.

Through my mere interpretation, your synesthesia would involve a large ability of mental visual accuity, correct? Your spatial comprehension would allow you to see a mental image of ideas that are, tangible and even malleable?

July 1, 2005 at 05:40 PM · I believe the most common synesthetic "conditions" are between aural and visual perceptions. However, there are many combinations with other senses. For instance other than colour with pitch, some people associate:

1. Smell with pitch or numbers

2. Colours with different numbers or combinations of numbers

3. Pitch with numbers (rare, though I have heard it to exists)

4. Visual or spatial objects with abstract thoughts or concepts.

(I think this one is more common than most people think. Ask yourself, "How do I visualize the week or the year?" If you instantly come up with a visualization that is very familiar to yourself [other than "well, I see the calendar in my head"] then that is a form of synesthesia. If you have to think about it to come up with something it's like picking a colour to go with the pitch A rather than just "knowing" that A is brown.)

"I suppose your intelligence must also be exponentially more profound than those around you."

No, I don't think so. What is average IQ anyway? I've never taken a real IQ test (just the quick ones that give you a general idea of what your IQ is), though I think IQ tests are inherently flawed in that they only test something like 3 different types of intelligence. My math skills are awful! I think it has something to do with the fact that I have a lot of trouble not visualizing numbers outside of time factors. Like if you said 9 I wouldn't think of 9 apples, I would think of the distance between 1 and 9 and the time between 1 and 9. (Refer to my post above about relationships of distance and time). And it just takes too much work to revisualize everything. So when doing math I have to literally create a numeric visualization and count either on my fingers or write something down on the paper with tally marks to keep track of the different bunches of numbers (had a teacher recognized this early on math would have been easier if an abacus had been explained to me). Not that I always got bad grades in math, but it was always a trial for me to get it done.

"Through my mere interpretation, your synesthesia would involve a large ability of mental visual accuity, correct? Your spatial comprehension would allow you to see a mental image of ideas that are, tangible and even malleable?"

Correct. However, my spatial comprehension is no better than anyone else because of this. I simply HAVE visual associations of spatial objects that go with abstract ideas.

Preston

July 1, 2005 at 06:35 PM · Literal synesthesia would be hallucinations, and a big problem.

July 1, 2005 at 06:58 PM · What do you mean by literal synesthesia? Like if someone actually believes the object is real?

Preston

*later* Just reading up on this a bit and found that synesthesia dealing with units or passage of time is called "conceptual synesthesia". http://www.mixsig.net/about/types.php

July 2, 2005 at 02:42 AM · What about a physical sensation that accompanies pitch? i.e. I feel the key of Ab in my solarplexes, the key of C in my chest and the key of E minor in my face--is that synesthesia, or is that another one of those things that makes people walk away slowly while I grin?

July 2, 2005 at 05:36 AM · Hey Ed,

I had a suspicion you were Loopsider. (Yea, I'm aka Maestroanth and Curiousgeorge) Nice to meet you again!!! I heard Prolobe was suppose to be online sometime its like changing servers or something. Eventhough I haven't been using it for awhile, I like chatting there while listening to music. Prolobe is an excellent program and was the primary tool I used to learn perfect pitch. I actually learned all 12 notes pathetically enough on good-ear.com b4 I found prolobe, but prolobe helped me stretch my PP further by the chord exercises, and is a lot faster pace. Prolobe is so demanding that even a lot of people with perfect pitch can't even pass prolobe......

Oh, P.S. On my old computer I have a program that is really good, but I don't remember what it is called. It was a free download. If anyone finds it, please tell me. There are some kinks in it, like if you try to answer too fast and breeze through single notes, it tends to not keep up. But its still good b/c it has chords.

July 2, 2005 at 03:37 PM · Has a study been done on people with pitch synesthesia to see if they all see the same colors for the same pitches, or does it vary from person to person?

I had what you might call "acquired" synesthesia when I was very young. I had music "scores" with the notes on the staff color coded, corresponding to a card placed above the notes on the keyboard. For years afterwards, I would visualize different notes as being different colors, but I think I've completely lost it now, though I can still remember what all the colors were.

July 2, 2005 at 08:35 PM · "Of course I find it hard to understand such feeling (much like having to describe how the pitch A sounds like, without saying the letter A)."

The "A"- sober, pure, contemplative, impersonal, nonimplicated, natural, white. It just sounds for itself. It does not need added expressivity to be able to produce emotion. Noble, regretfull. Like any other sounds, it has two statements depending on the mode: brilliance, warmth and coldness, detachement. Brilliant and ellegant in major tonalities ( Mozart 5, last mov. of Dvorak, Glasunow, Franck, Brahms 2, beethoven 9th sonatas) and impersonal, cold in Dvorak first mov. Mendelssohn middle section of second mov, Glasonow.

Do not believe in IQ tests, they are not able to show the real intelligence value and the most of them are conceived for fun and not trustable. There is a site where they have IQ tests and, even if I took the tests in English, which is a language that I not master, I had a result unachievebal for my language knowkledge level, and the majority of questions where subtle word games.

July 2, 2005 at 11:59 PM · "The "A"- sober, pure, contemplative, impersonal, nonimplicated, natural, white. It just sounds for itself. It does not need added expressivity to be able to produce emotion. Noble, regretfull. Like any other sounds, it has two statements depending on the mode: brilliance, warmth and coldness, detachement. "

I cannot see these emotional attachments to just notes. They just sound like notes, nothing else.

When we start talking different scales though, they each have their own significant feeling (Eb minor is sinister-sad, while E minor is heroic and epic).

July 3, 2005 at 12:03 AM · "Hey Ed,

I had a suspicion you were Loopsider. (Yea, I'm aka Maestroanth and Curiousgeorge) Nice to meet you again!!! I heard Prolobe was suppose to be online sometime its like changing servers or something."

That's very good to hear. I thought it was down for good.

Yes, prolobe is quite demanding, in the realm of chords. 6 note chords at all different timbres and all octaves in the right order and octave...

July 3, 2005 at 10:00 AM · Pitch !!! what’s that

When I was in the US Army in my early 20s I was asked to play my violin for an Easter sunrise service at the local post chapel. There was no rehearsal and when I got there the organist gave me the “A” which was horribly flat. I then told the organist to play the organ’s B flat which turned out to be almost identical to my “A” and I re-tuned my violin. The organist then gave me the solo part for J.S. Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”

The solo part is a perpetual motion of triplets from beginning to end. I looked at the sheet music and it was a band part for D flat flute with a key signature of 3 sharps.

I was still groggy at 5:45 in the morning and not capable of wrestling with this thorny problem of music theory. I told the organist to play whatever notes there were in the first chord. Then I slid up to the first note and started playing the triplets by intervals, the tune from what I remembered from playing the piece a few years ago, and by sheer finger memory. If I would have thought about pitches it would have been a total disaster. I played about 95 % of the notes and faked the rest.

Ted Kruzich

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