Resources on Helping Students Develop Perfect Pitch
Hello, I have an unusual number of students who have perfect pitch and one young one who may have it (he is the younger brother of one of the students who does have it). I could use some resources on how to help them better train their ears. Any resource suggestions are helpful. Thank you.
Is that even possible? Besides, from my reading perfect pitch can be a big advantage but it can also be a problem. One of my (top) teachers, who played 1st in an orchestra complained that the people with perfect pitch 'too often played out of tune'.
I have always assumed that perfect pitch is a rare and inherent talent that is not that valuable and cannot be trained. What is more valuable for the rest of us ordinary aspiring musicians is interval recognition. Serious singers spend a lot of time working on their intervals, and perhaps we could borrow their method book. After learning, hearing, playing the intervals, in all fingering combinations, being able to play all of the scales and arpeggios from memory, "by ear", is a valuable skill. Another exercise, that I learned from a cellist, is to shift through all the intervals, on one finger, on one string.
Have you considered that your unusual amount of students with perfect pitch is not a mere coincidence, but is evidence that you're already training their ears optimally?
The important thing is we all play in tune-which someone with perfect pitch may very possibly not do.
In my experience, perfect pitch is ONLY developed in children who have both something of a natural proclivity and are repeatedly exposed to appropriate labeling of pitches sometime early in their lifetimes (usually before age 8 or 10, maybe even earlier).
My goal for pitch is teaching students to listen closely to the relevant harmonies in the ensemble, unless they're playing unaccompanied music. Then they must analyse the role of each note and decide which way it "leans, or leads". This is difficult for some, but of course, they'll only learn it by study.
I prefer the term Absolute Pitch (like the French "Absolute Ear") since Perfect Pitch is often confused with perfect intonation.
As someone who suffers from Absolute Pitch (I agree with Adrian that that is a better word) I cannot recommend that you try teaching it.
Perfect Pitch can be pretty useful especially if you need to do any melodic dictation for music theory/musicianship. I feel like though it’s not something that can be developed very easily. I do have perfect pitch but from my experience, sometimes it’s not at all that great to have it. Yes you can recognise a lot of pitches without trying to figure out the notes but whenever I’m reading the alto clef (for viola), I play violin and I am very accustomed to reading the treble clef. So whenever reading the alto clef my mind always struggles to read the correct notes for the alto clef.
I am an intermediate student and whilst my everyday practice and my lessons with my teacher are helping me a lot I am also finding this course very useful in developing my ear https://www.perfectpitch.com/
It literally makes no sense to say that Perfect pitch doesn't help with violin. It's a nearly insurmountable advantage, I'm surprised that there are any violinists at all without perfect pitch. It's literally like trying to be an athlete while being blind, it doesn't make any sense.
If your "perfect pitch" is based on one tuning system (let's say A=440 Hz), what do you do when you join a group that bases their tuning on A=442 or 415 or "whatever?"
For me it is possible to adjust between 440 and 442. But 415 is a real struggle. I acknowledge that there are some advantages to having absolute pitch but there are definitely downsides too. I remember struggling with the concert master solos in Mahler 4 - the ones on a violin tuned up a whole step; "violin in D" basically. I don't think I could cope with playing a transposing instrument like the clarinet.
> It's a nearly insurmountable advantage, I'm surprised
"It literally makes no sense to say that Perfect pitch doesn't help with violin. It's a nearly insurmountable advantage, I'm surprised that there are any violinists at all without perfect pitch. It's literally like trying to be an athlete while being blind, it doesn't make any sense...."
Relative pitch is far more important than absolute pitch. Intonation is all about intervals, not hitting a particular frequency. Those of us without absolute pitch can correct our intonation without getting lost because we hear the interval from the previous note, and in ensembles we also hear the intervals between ourselves and other people.
There are many aspects to this question covered in the responses so far. Perfect pitch is somewhat like playing restless - lots of strong feelings on both subjects.
Those with absolute pitch perception appear to possess an innately perfect memory for the pitch of a sound so they can recognise it when they hear it again, but nobody was ever born knowing that a tone with a fundamental frequency of 440Hz is called "A". Most of us get by rather satisfactorily without ever acquiring that skill. Instead we have a kind of perceptual "constancy" for music across a range of frequencies. I doubt that many composers thought their works would sound different, even wrong, when played a semitone higher or lower than the pitch convention in use at their particular time and place.
Those with eidetic memory seem to be able to cope easily with relearning what they know when amendments are forthcoming, yet those with what I take to be eidetic memory for pitch seem to find it impossible to adjust to new situations. Does that indicate that it might be related to autistic phenomena?
Having perfect/absolute pitch and playing the violin isn't as straight forward as it sound.
There's a very easy thought experiment to see how important perfect pitch is for the violin: if you lost it one day in exchange for some amount of money, how much, and would you continue playing the violin?
As others have noted, pitch can also cause difficulties.
> Relative pitch is fine and all, but what if you mess up a shift?
I suspect it's harder for someone with absolute pitch to imagine what it's like for those of us without it, than vice versa.
R Y, I think you have a misunderstanding of what actual perfect pitch is. Well-trained relative pitch can certainly *seem* like perfect pitch to many people, but it's different.
R Y, you're asking us to imagine losing perfect pitch? You might be surprised to learn that
I lost it once, but turns out it was just in the last place I looked.
I also have a question:
Erik that's mostly relative pitch but the fact that you memorized the open A is a bit of absolute pitch.
And that's where the line is blurred, Gabriel. If I can memorize the sound of a single note and then extrapolate the sound of most other notes, then I can basically pass the same tests that someone with "perfect pitch" could, particularly if I practiced this skill.
Erik, I agree!
Yes, there have been numerous occasions when the tune that just came out of my mouth was at the correct pitch, but only when I didn't think about it first! More often the tune that I mull over in my head is correct in its intervals but nonspecific in its pitch.
I did the test and I passed, Kathryn. E Major.
I've only ever known one person with perfect pitch and he wasn't even a musician, although there was an old disused piano in his backroom.
There's a very interesting theory that children are born with perfect pitch, but almost all of them lose it as a skill that is simply not required. The article I read, many years ago, used the example of a flock of sheep, where it is an essential tool for all lambs to be able to recognise their mother's bleat in amongst a chorus of very similar bleats, and of course for her to be able to recognise her lamb's bleat.
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