Help, I'm developing perfect pitch!

Edited: June 25, 2020, 3:55 PM · Hear me out. Previously, like pretty much everyone else, I'd assumed it to be impossible to develop perfect pitch after the age of, say, 5 or 7. For someone like myself who started in music when they were twelve, it would be unheard of as far as I know. But for the past little while my pitch memory has been becoming far better than I ever remember it being. I can tune my violin starting on any string to exactly the correct note every time, no matter how out-of-tune it was. What's more, when I hear a song on the radio I seem to always recall it in the correct key even a day or two later. In one case, a melody I'd heard weeks ago didn't "feel" right on the piano in any key except the one I heard it in.

Not quite naming the pitch of sliding chairs and creaky doors, but I feel like it's something. From what I've seen, most of the pros in my immediate area don't have this level of pitch recall if they don't have perfect pitch. Thoughts?

Replies (21)

Edited: June 25, 2020, 5:33 PM · I've noticed my ability to guess correctly when I sing something improving a little over the last few years, or stuff like singing my a440 before tuning. I think that while my pitch memory has gotten and is getting slightly better, I am decidedly not developing perfect pitch. Who knows, but you are probably especially noticing all the times you get it right, and subconsciously downplaying all the times you don't.
June 25, 2020, 5:43 PM · Most players will develop relative perfect pitch after some time. At the very least you can probably do an "A" in your head and derive everything else from that.
June 25, 2020, 6:21 PM · When I tune up a newly strung violin, I try to get the pitch right, when I compare it to my keyboard, I'm always quite flat!!
Edited: June 25, 2020, 7:46 PM · I've experienced the same and I only played guitar for a couple of years. On the way to a gig my friend decided he needed to replace with new strings, I was tasked with changing them. Without any pitch reference I tuned them up to concert pitch, he made a point of telling me this because he must of been expecting it to be way out of tune. How can this be because I don't have perfect pitch. I decided it was due to the continual practice of tuning with a tuning fork which developed the memory for string pitches and the feel for the correct tension of the strings.
June 25, 2020, 7:56 PM · I used to have perfect pitch, but it has deteriorated! Wreaks havoc with my playing of the E-major Prelude!
June 26, 2020, 12:44 AM · I don’t have perfect pitch:(.
June 26, 2020, 1:43 AM · There are always exceptions. Perhaps you really are developing perfect pitch, or maybe like Lydia said it's relative pitch that just happens to be REALLY strong. Everyone has a different level of pitch sense.

I kind of had the same experience. I started around 12 like you so well past the "normal" age to develop perfect pitch. I've always been pretty good at playing by ear, but I've noticed lately that I notice a lot more intonation problems than others. It could be just a quarter-tone off and I'll wince while others are oblivious to it. I have a composer friend at school who wrote a piece using half and quartet tones for the violin (gross I know) and while our other friends weren't really bothered by it I was cringing.

I also find I can tune a violin without needing a tuner, but I just use it so I can get that perfect 441hz A.

Edited: June 26, 2020, 4:50 AM · You don't need help unless you become one of those people who have to point it out every.single.time. that they have perfect pitch. So annoying.
June 26, 2020, 3:46 AM · I don't have perfect pitch :) ....
So I jolly well have to listen to the others, which should make me a better musician!

I remember the timbre of my own A, with variants: 440Hz (cassical) or 445Hz (tango with bandoneon). I think 442Hz (common in Europe) is just a "brighter" version of 440, common as the woodwinds warm up..

June 26, 2020, 3:54 AM · Kiki speaks the truth.

People can have perfect pitch and be out of tune just like everybody else. It doesn't really serve much of a purpose in my experience except for a cool party trick or aural skills classes. Even then most people will eventually develop pretty good relative pitch so it doesn't even matter who has it and who does. I seem to be in the minority here when it comes to my school though and I'm sure in a lot of other areas too who isn't the type of person to let EVERYONE know they have it. We get it you can hear pitches. We heard you the last 50 times you aren't special. It doesn't really matter I and countless other people still have to work on intonation. perfect pitch isn't a shortcut to anything except maybe a good grade on a test, or some extra cash at a bar.

Also, another good reason to not tell people besides the obvious one that no one cares is that those who do will always try to test it even though the outcome will always be the same further proving the point that perfect pitch doesn't really matter. Sometimes it can even be a nuisance.

June 26, 2020, 7:13 AM · I used to be conceited. But not any more. Now I'm perfect.
June 26, 2020, 11:04 AM · Have you noticed a lump growing on your head over the right temporal lobe?
June 26, 2020, 3:20 PM · For me it is simply a sign of how often I have been practicing lately. If enough, then I have the open strings in my head and then a good relative pitch (recognizing intervals quickly and reliably) indeed gives you (a kind of) absolute pitch.
Edited: June 26, 2020, 7:02 PM · I was always told that perfect pitch was a gift that only a few rare people are born with. The rest of us can acquire a good degree of relative pitch through hard and consistent practice. But alas, we can also lose it through neglect...
Edited: June 28, 2020, 3:37 PM · Parker has it right—perfect pitch is an innate ability that only shows up in a very small number of people. It isn’t something that can be developed. Those that have the ability simply have it and don’t need to do anything to develop or maintain it. Perfect pitch is not a guarantee of good playing or technical ability. My father had a classmate in music school who had perfect pitch. Not only could he easily name any random note played without any thought, he could listen to a random selection of notes played simultaneously on the piano and identify them all, also without any effort. I have only met one person who may have had perfect pitch. He could identify a pitch immediately, but I couldn’t be sure that he didn’t just have a good ear.

When people talk of developing perfect pitch, they’re actually describing relative pitch. This is something that can be developed. Musicians tend to develop relative pitch to a high degree through close listening and practice.

There is a myth that good musicians have perfect pitch, and that those who don’t have it are somehow deficient. It’s similar to claiming that only double-jointed people can be good gymnasts.

Edited: June 28, 2020, 4:42 PM · Yeah, I'm aware of all that. I'm half-joking, here. That said, I dunno if it's relative pitch to be able to wake up in the morning and immediately be able to produce an exact G, D, A, or E—more like some pitch memory muscle that I've developed by accident. But then isn't that a kind of faux-pp in and of itself?
June 28, 2020, 7:54 PM · I’m not sure why you couldn’t develop it. Perhaps you have it but don’t realize it until you use it some time after learning the names of pitches. I didn’t know I could play a polyrhythm with my left and right hands until someone introduced me to the concept. It didn’t come automatically; it required development. To be honest, I haven’t met a non musician who could bang out a three against two without knowledge of what they were doing. Maybe they’re out; I just haven’t met them.
June 28, 2020, 8:03 PM · From what I've seen, most of the pros in my immediate area don't have this level of pitch recall if they don't have perfect pitch.

That was the funny part...Ha Ha Ha....

June 29, 2020, 12:33 AM · “Faux PP”:)
June 29, 2020, 12:34 AM · Sorry
Edited: July 2, 2020, 3:39 PM · Faux-pp is when you make an error so quietly that few people notice.

My first instrument was the cornet, which I took up at age 8. (That's also when I learned to read music, for those tuned into a nearby thread.) My teacher told my parents that I had perfect pitch and they got quite excited. At the time I didn't know what they were talking about - I was just trying to play the right notes.

It is kind of handy to be able to walk into someone's living room, pick up a guitar that's horribly out of tune, and quickly tune it up without external assistance - and to then listen to what others are playing, realize that I need a capo on the 2nd fret to get easy chord shapes, and jump right in.

And yes, sometimes my wife likes to have me identify the pitch of random noises - like that train whistle that's blowing Dm6, first inversion. (The really mournful train whistles seem to like minor sixths.)

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