Is perfect pitch learnt or innate?

Edited: November 25, 2017, 4:58 PM · In another thread I failed to make myself clear and I'm sorry about that. My question concerns how one might demonstrate the presence of perfect pitch in an infant who is too young to name notes. It has been suggested (although I can't remember by whom) that perfect pitch isn't a faculty which is learnt from experience, but could be present from birth and is actually "unlearnt" by most of us. This is not as ridiculous as some may think. Most of us would probably agree that the absolute recognition of different colours across the light spectrum is likely to be innate so why not absolute pitch across the sound spectrum? To consistently recognize a colour or a pitch doesn't necessarily imply we must be able to put a name to it.

One way of testing this in infants might be by a form of Pavlovian conditioning. If a particular note, say A, is consistently followed by the appearance of the mother's face, the infant may soon come to anticipate the latter every time he or she hears the former, and make recognizable signs of pleasurable anticipation. If, on the other hand, a different note say D is consistently followed by no maternal face, a child who possesses perfect pitch will come to recognize D as being a "null" signal and not expect the reward of maternal contact. Widely separated notes will surely be distinguished after a sufficient number of repetitions, even by infants with non-perfect pitch, but how about small separations of a tone or less?

Replies (81)

Edited: November 25, 2017, 5:30 PM · What happened to that other thread? It completely disappeared(as well as the what violin we're playing thread, i think)? It was an interesting question until dogs were brought into it
November 25, 2017, 11:41 PM · It has been an ongoing debate, and I don't think that anyone can say for sure at this point. I can offer up my personal experience, which makes me lean a little toward the innate camp. I can basically say that for myself, I have absolutely no recollection of acquiring or practicing this skill. One day, my teacher, out of curiosity decided to test me, and much to my surprise, after around year of playing, I could accurately name the pitches she played without reference. If this was purely environmental, I feel like the process would have been more deliberate, and that more people would have it. Others I have spoken to about their experience say similar things, in that they have no idea where it came from, and cannot point to specific training episodes.
November 26, 2017, 12:47 AM · I wonder if one just has a good memory if eventually one can use the memorized reference points to identify pitches. But that is different than the people that can tell you the Hz of any sound they hear. I am the former, but not the latter. And it took several years.
Edited: November 26, 2017, 1:34 AM · Tammuz - would you prefer cats? I do think it's an interesting question and one which could be investigated experimentally, although perhaps more for zoologists than violinists.

Jason - of course, to be able to tell the frequency of a tone you first of all need to know what Hz are and how they relate to the musical scale - simple book learning. Then someone with perfect pitch who is able to identify the note names should in theory be able to cross-reference to the corresponding frequency.

Lieschen - another manifestation of this is the power some people have, not only to be able to identify a note but to produce it on demand. This seems not to require any conscious deliberation, but the note name would have to have been associated with the specific tone through musical training. I'm inclined to agree with you that the innate factor is all-important, but I suspect there are non-musicians out there with innately perfect pitch recognition who just don't know it. How could you test them? - just ask them to sing a well-known song that only exists in one recording!

November 26, 2017, 2:32 AM · Steve, even producing notes on command doesn't appear to require anymore practice. I developed the ability to produce notes on command roughly around the time I could identify them, I believe. There was still no conscious training involved. As for a test for non-musicians, that would be interesting, yet difficult to develop without using terminology learned through some training.

Perhaps one could do something such as having a person hear a note, and then ask them in 10 minutes, whether a new played note was the same or different. One could also track new students for the first couple of years and retest them at monthly intervals, perhaps to see whether some sort of flip in perception takes place, and where exactly.

Another thing I found that may point to innateness: This article is saying basically, that on average, those with perfect pitch posess higher levels of personality traits which are generally understood to be inborn. Of course, more research needs to be done.

Edited: November 26, 2017, 4:06 AM · I wonder if studies of this kind, looking for links between complex behavioural/psychological traits (and of course finding some; the studies that don't find links don't get published) are actually very helpful to anyone? The bare result may be valid, but the interpretation seems anything but clear-cut. The finding of differences between AP and non-AP musicians on a score supposedly measuring "imagination" isn't in fact due to a deficit in the AP group, but to "extraordinarily low" scores (actually meaning greater imagination) in the non-AP group! The link to autism is even more tenuous, since a slightly low "imagination" score is likely to occur in all sorts of subject groups and to be completely non-specific. Sometimes I'm inclined to think that less research needs to be done!
November 26, 2017, 4:14 AM · I would say definitely learned, why, because there is nothing special or innate about A440 pitch, its a completely arbitrary designation. If you were raised around A430 pitch then some people would develop(or learn) perfect A 430 pitch. Most of these people you talk about with the "gift" of perfect A440 pitch, cannot even play at other pitches, it completely throws them off, and they play terribly out of tune.
November 26, 2017, 5:05 AM · Yes, the specific association between 440Hz and the label "A" must be learned, but the label is actually irrelevant. The ability of some people to remember a note, any note, recognize its subsequent presentation and produce it on demand with less than about 5% error (often much less I think) could be in some way analogous to the innate predisposition of humans to learn a language, any language. But there doesn't seem to be any clinching evidence one way or the other. I often think I may be better off without it.
Edited: November 26, 2017, 5:53 AM · Yeah Lyndon, I think as well that you got it wrong. Perfect pitch is not knowing that A is 440. Perfect pitch means that you recognize, just like a face, all the notes. You don't have to know 440 is A, you simply recognize it. It's like knowing a person's face, you don't need to know the name of the person, but when you see the face you know exactly who that is.

What you learn is actually that, you learn that the pitch you recognize is called A.

November 26, 2017, 6:32 AM · As I said perfect pitch is a curse for early music performers. Who have to be prepared to play at different pitches.
Edited: November 26, 2017, 7:57 AM · I was sitting in the viola section of our chamber orchestra earlier this year when the oboist just behind me played his tuning A. I turned to him and said "It sounds like 441 to me." He checked his chromatic tuner and then replied - "It is, sorry about that, how can you tell?" And then I confessed that I had just tuned my viola to 440 and he was just a tad sharp. No I do not have perfect pitch - and since I have been playing the violin for 79 years, if I could learn it, I would have it. It seems to me that for musical purposes, a good sense of "relative pitch" is more useful.

I would think that people like me, who do not have "perfect pitch" are like color blind people - we can't really talk about something of which we have no experience.

I did have a dear friend, tone-master recording engineer; Stan Ricker ( ) who died about a year ago was a part-time conductor and long-time bass player in our community orchestra after he left the recording industry (for health-insurance reasons). Stan had such perfect pitch that he could tell you not only the note name but also the frequency of A in the matching scale. I moved away from where we had both lived 22 years ago and the last time I saw Stan was on ABC TV news from Moscow when Leonard Slatkin had asked him to come out of retirement (from recording engineering) to supervise the recording of the St. Louis Symphony tour to Russia. A few members of the symphony were doing a bit of jazz and it was broadcast on the evening news program - they had asked Stan to pluck the bass for the "gig."

November 26, 2017, 8:35 AM · Perhaps it doesn't have to be "either/or"!
Cochlea or brain or mind?
Nature nor nurture?
10% one and 90% other?
Edited: November 26, 2017, 8:38 AM · Hmm - now I'm starting to have doubts. Lieschen may be able to tell us for how long can she remember a randomly presented note and reproduce it? Does she remember it by its sound (the image of which must eventually become confused with later-occurring sounds) or by giving it a label - e.g. a quarter tone above E? If the latter then after almost any lapse of time she should be able to reproduce it with less than 3% error (a semitone being 5.9% in frequency terms I think). Of course only a trained musician could do this. Has anyone actually reported and studied a case of perfect pitch in a non-musician, who would only have an image of the sound to go on?
Edited: November 26, 2017, 8:55 AM · Lyndon, I have natural perfect pitch, and I would like to note that perfect pitch is not about hearing A=440Hz, it’s about being able to immediately adapt to any surrounding harmonic landscape and being able to play or sing in tune within that landscape, no matter what Hz the A is at.

EDIT: Reread the whole thread.

Steve, I have perfect pitch, and yet the only Hz frequency of a note I know is the A. I have zero clue what Hz the other notes are, and yet I can name all the notes by their name, but certainly not recognize the Hz of a sound, though I know some people can do that.

I read in a science magazine a few years ago that there are 3 kinds of pitch: absolute, relative, and no-pitch.
Guys with absolute pitch can sing in tune, just like that, efortlessly. Those with relative pitch can reproduce with their voice or on an instrument something they have just heard, as is often the case with jazz players. No pitch guys have a very hard time singing in tune, even with help, and need a great deal of practice to be able to do what comes naturally for the absolute pitch guys.
I knew a singer, she had a great voice, she was a trained musician, but at concerts with piano accompaniment, her voice would keep going sharper and sharper until eventually she was singing completely out of tune with the piano, and yet she didn’t notice.

I still wonder though if absolute pitch can be taught to the same level that innate absolute pitch guys have naturally.

November 26, 2017, 9:18 AM · Is "perfect" pitch only useful for Western <12-tone based> music?
After all, other cultures recognize pitches existing between those 12 sounds and to an untutored westerner, sound out of tune.
November 26, 2017, 9:29 AM · There was a study on children (age 4-10) in a Japanese music school learning piano. (Google Miyazaki, "Learning absolute pitch by children"). Nearly all of them had developed absolute pitch by the age of ten, with most of the development happening in the age range 5-7.

To me it points to an innate capability of learning it, but there is a time window where the brain is receptive, just like for learning to speak.

November 26, 2017, 9:36 AM · ", it’s about being able to immediately adapt to any surrounding harmonic landscape and being able to play or sing in tune within that landscape, no matter what Hz the A is at."

Isn't that relative pitch?

Edited: November 26, 2017, 10:25 AM · Roman - you may not know the Hz of any note except A at present, but being able to identify the note names you could look them all up in a book and memorize the Hz for future reference. Nobody knows them instinctively.

The three kinds of pitch perception you list don't actually describe my kind which I think is probably the most common among musicians and non-musicians alike - not absolute for sure, but something somewhat different from relative pitch as you describe it. I agree with Tammuz, my understanding of relative pitch is the ability to create accurate harmony, simultaneous or sequential. I have seen it written that only trained musicians can do this, but most untrained people can sing a tune and get the intervals pretty accurately, even when they have no idea what they are called or what they represent in frequency ratio or percentage terms.

Edited: November 27, 2017, 2:14 AM · Tamuz, yes!

A friend noticed that the ping on my miscrowave is the same as the squeak on my front gate. He has no musical training or knowledge, but an absolute memory for pitch. I had to check, humming the squeak until I reached the kitchen. (The house was noisy!). So he hadinnate absolute pitch.

On the other hand, if all is quiet, I can summon the memory of my own violin's open A-string (which I tune often!) At one time I alternated classical A=440 with the bandoneon's 445Hz. Again, I could remember both pitches. I'm not sure I can still do it now as I no longer play tangos. So, acquired, but fragile absolute pitch?

I avoid the term Perfect Pitch, which people confuse with perfect intonation. Indeed, those with true absolute pitch don't always listen, and can be annoyingly oblivious to imperfect intonation.

November 26, 2017, 10:29 AM · Adrian - I understand your notion of acquired but fragile absolute pitch. If I decide to sing a few bars of a well-known piece like the New World Symphony I'll get it spot on a lot of the time, unless I stop to think!
Edited: November 26, 2017, 11:38 AM · Steve and tammuz, I’m talking about extreme abilities. For instance, if your accompanist goes crazy and starts the piece you have rehearsed in e Major instead of D, a guy with perfect pitch would still be able to sing or play the whole piece in E Major, even though he only sang or play d it in D Major.
That’s why I mean when I say an absolute ear makes automatic adjustment to any surrounding harmonic environment.
That’s also why certain top players can play in tune on out of tune violins, because their ears can automatically make the needed adjustments. I’m not saying these abilities cannot be trained, but for some folks they come naturally.

I’m sure there are people out there who can just hear a sound, and say what Hz it is at.

November 26, 2017, 2:43 PM · Wait, wait, wait...

"if your accompanist goes crazy and starts the piece you have rehearsed in e Major instead of D, a guy with perfect pitch would still be able to sing or play the whole piece in E Major, even though he only sang or play d it in D Major."

I think any musician can do that, unless is a terrible singer. May be I did not understand what you said, but say, I sing Jingle Bells in D major all day. If a pianist comes to my house and starts playing it in F sharp major, I can totally sing it along without going out of tune, effortlessly. Nevertheless, I don't have perfect pitch at all, you play a note and I don't know if it's G or A, or you tell me to sing A and I may be sing D.

So, unless you're not explaining it correctly, anybody can adjust its singing to a random new key effortlessly.

November 26, 2017, 3:42 PM · Tim,

Actually, in my experience, transposing is something that takes more effort for those with perfect pitch than those without, even for singing. had an aural skills professor who had us transpose our dictation and sight singing exercises on the spot, and it blew my mind how much effort it was for those with perfect pitch at first, and how effortlessly and seamlessly those without it could transpose the exercises. To me it felt like someone telling me to call blue yellow. and Of course, anyone with decent training should be able to pull transposition off.

Edited: November 26, 2017, 4:15 PM · Wait, we are talking about different things here.

What I can do (and any other random musician unless has terrible hearing and sings very bad) is exactly this: sing Jingle Bells or any other song or melody in any given key, and suddenly move the key a third minor up, for example. I'm sure any decent musician could adapt to the new key and sing along effortlessly, and specially violinists and string players, that have a more developed sense of pitch and tune. Obviously, unless we're talking about singers, we would all sing out of tune some notes, but due to our lack of singing technique (since I'm including all string players, wind, etc...), not because we're moving the key.

You're talking about sight reading, and that's another different thing. I'm not that good at sight reading and I can do the thing above explained effortlessly.

But hey, that's really interesting. So, you are saying that musicians with perfect pitch have trouble if you ask them to suddenly sing a melody sharper or flatter than the original?

November 26, 2017, 4:48 PM · Roman, I think that is relative pitch. Absolute pitch is the sonic equivalent to photographic memory.
November 27, 2017, 12:09 AM · From Wikipedia:

‘Absolute pitch (AP), widely referred to as perfect pitch, is a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.

Relative pitch is the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note by comparing it to a reference note and identifying the interval between those two notes.

Unlike absolute pitch (sometimes called "perfect pitch"), relative pitch is quite common among musicians, especially musicians who are used to "playing by ear", and a precise relative pitch is a constant characteristic among good musicians.

We have established that Absolute Pitch has a strong genetic basis.
Study suggests adults can be trained to develop "perfect pitch" ... But being able to reliably identify or reproduce a pitch without error is rare. If you're not born with perfect pitch, prior studies suggest, your only hope of getting it is to receive musical training at a critical period in your childhood.’

Tim, musicians with perfect pitch have trouble if they start transposing the notes in their head. Unless they specifically trained in that area, it will take them some time to adjust their minds. But they can forget about the notes and just sing by ear like relative pitch guys, in which case they don’t have trouble.

Edited: November 27, 2017, 1:31 AM · Tim, maybe, maybe not in terms of the melody, and it probably depends on the person somewhat. For me, there was a bit of a learning curve learning how to transpose sung melodies on the spot, because my knee jerk reaction was to think of everything as a collection of discrete pitches, associated with various different colors. I have also experienced, on occasion, mild disgust upon hearing popular folk tunes in a different key from which I first heard them. It took time to learn how to turn off that kind of thinking, and just think about interval relationships.
Edited: November 27, 2017, 1:46 AM · These are very useful insights. My question for Roman and Lieschen is: for how long are you "accidentally" able to remember a randomly occurring tone, say of an unfamiliar doorbell, and accurately reproduce it? Does it stay in your brain as a sound image, or do you remember its note letter? In Lieschen's case, is it the associated colour you can use? I wonder how often AP is associated with this kind of synesthesia?

I'd have to say to Roman, I completely fail to see how anyone can hear middle C and identify its frequency as 261.625565 Hz (or even "about 260 Hz") without having once been told or read it from a table!

Edited: November 27, 2017, 2:11 AM · My violin A's (440 and 445, on the same violin) were pure sound images, doubtless a with slightly different timbres.

One evening, we had to run round the circular corridors of Radio France hunting for a studio with a 445Hz piano, just minutes before going on air! I could tell by playing a few chords - but I wouldn't have been able to say what notes were played without looking. Timbre memory of our pianist's home piano?

November 27, 2017, 2:07 AM · I say it depends. It’s the same with sight.
If I see a neon sign that’s a certain color, I probably won’t store it in my long-term memory because I don’t need to, so it will stay for a while in my short-term memory and I will be able to say what color the sound was, until the memory is replaced with something else.
Same with sounds. Usually I don’t listen intently to sound, so their exact height might not register in my brain, but if I remember the sound and play it back in my head, then I can name the note.

But if I hear a sound and then immediately find the corresponding note, then I might remember the sound longer, but it will be stored not as the name of a note, but as a sound+it’s corresponding note.

Actually I just realized how absolute pitch works for me. It’s just that I have a certain map of sounds in my head, and when I hear a sound, I can compare it to the scale of sounds I have in my head and determine what note the sound is.
So in a sense, absolute and relative pitch are the same, it’s just that relative pitch guys rely on external sources for note identification while absolute pitch guys can do it all in their heads.

November 27, 2017, 3:07 AM · Steve, I remember the pitches of doorbells, etc. the way I remember other features, such as the color of a particular car, or the shape of a piece of bread, and recall them with the same sort of ease. I have been able to notice that the pitches for certain appliances and ringtones are rather standardized, and notice when they have been transposed. I could say something such as, "Hmm...This restaurant must have gotten a different model of deep fryer, as it now beeps on G, and when I was here two weeks ago it was an F#", and then look over and see that there is indeed a different appliance in the kitchen. I would also notice that most fast food restaurants in said region have deep fryers beeping on F#. I can also tell when movies use inconsistent ring tones say 30 min. apart, even when they are the same exact rhythm and timbre, but just different pitches.

I don't just remember the letter name as the sound image. I hear the note in my head along with its associated color, and perhaps taste, and then retrieve the letter name. It is rarely the reverse. The process doesn't feel too different from declaring that the sky is blue. It is for the most part instantaneous, and it feels impossible to untangle any sort of mental steps behind it.

November 27, 2017, 4:28 AM · It's great to hear your two experiences so clearly articulated - similar in many ways although it sounds like Roman's recall is based on a map of pure sound while Lieschen's incorporates 3 further dimensions - verbal, colour and taste. I need hardly say this is completely strange for most of us!

My next question (if you're happy to play this game?!): is it only pitch information that you retain in this way or does your memory include rhythmic and unpitched sounds? I believe we all have a "echoic memory" that contains a detailed image of incoming sounds and decays over a period of a few seconds. My favourite illustration of this is when I'm reading the newspaper and suddenly receive a sharp blow to the head - "You haven't listened to a word I've been saying!"; "Yes I have, you said..." and I can usually repeat the last sentence that I ignored and was about to lose forever. Can Roman and Lieschen recall whole phrases of music heard only once, or sentences spoken minutes or hours ago?

November 27, 2017, 7:09 AM · Well I think that question has nothing to do with pitches anymore, and it is part of a different sphere, that of memory.
It’s like asking, can you recall the faces of people you passed by on the street, or what they were wearing, minutes or hours after seeing them?
Memory abilities vary from person to person.
I have the same thing as you described, sometimes I hear what someone says, but I don’t listen, and I can still know what they said by playing back the sound of their voice in my head.
But sometimes I am very focused on things, people say something while I’m not listening, I won’t even be able to play what they said back in my head, cause the sonic information didn’t even register.

It’s interesting, they way Lieschen perceives notes in terms of colors.

November 27, 2017, 12:00 PM · Steve,

I don't have the same sort of systematic memory for rhythm, or other dimensions of the music. I cannot spit out random metronome markings, and this type of ability seems much less common from what I understand. As far as recall, it's all about working memory capacity. I can probably keep track of about 10-12 random notes at any given time for transcription, unless I perceive a pattern, which then allowed more units of information to be stored.

November 27, 2017, 12:17 PM · That definitely seems to answer my question. Your absolute memory for pitch isn't like an extended echoic memory which might be regarded as resembling a decaying tape loop. I believe the echoic memory plays an important role in music, since musical phrases are often of the same order of a few seconds' duration. Working memory has a similar duration but is a conscious process with a finite informational capacity, while echoic memory is like an unprocessed image. I'd love to explore this with you further, but dinner calls!
November 27, 2017, 1:49 PM · No doubt the naming of the sound (e.g. the note name, my sqeaky gate etc) will help to recall it later?
Edited: November 27, 2017, 8:29 PM · Absolute pitch can somehow be classified and some variations of it are innate some can be trained.
The highest level is an adjustable perfect pitch, being able to recognize the frequency and be adaptive with different tunings. This is only possible with a innate predisposition and good training.
The second highest and most common absolute pitch level is the one that is kind of trained to an pitch like 440. Being less flexible with different tunings, some people say this is not good to have for an musician. It is an innate ability not trained to the max, or a very good trained but not overly sensitive ear.
The third highest is a absolute pitch bound to an instrument. The recognition of the notes goes in connection with the timbre or with singers over the feeling of the note. It is not a real absolute pitch, but a good trained ear. It can be more desirable than the second highest perfect pitch, since it is more like a relative hearing with a good sense for frequencies and overtones. Innate is a functioning and sensible ear, trained is everything else.

People who say that the highest kind of absolute pitch is trainable never experienced real innate absolute pitch in their life before. I used to think that it is 100% trainable but when I get my first student with absolute pitch but close to no musical training it was clear to me that it is an innate ability. It must be a totally different kind of hearing, they can learn the name of pitches in a matter of minutes and never forget them, because the knowing of the pitch was there already. Just the name was learned.

Edited: November 27, 2017, 9:56 PM · I have perfect pitch by birth. While I do not remember how I came to know A=440, A=441, A=442 or even A=444 at a young age, by observing and reading books about my 5-year-old autistic son, who also has perfect pitch, I can explain how perfect pitch people came to know the pitch of A.

First, I want to emphasize that note names are just a language representing the cognition.

And now, please read the story about my son, to proof to you that it is is innate.

As soon as my son could stand in his walker by about 12 months old, he started going to the piano and hammering all the notes at all registers. At that time, none of us were teaching him note names.

He was not talking at the time, nor would he sing or match to any note he hammered vocally.

By 2 years old, he was still not talking. And one day, I was playing with him in his room. All of a sudden, he heard the drilling sound from our upstairs neighbor. He paused for a moment and went to the piano in the living room. He stood in front of the piano, and without any hesitation, he solidly pressed down the G in the lowest register.

I was shocked! I know I have perfect pitch, while I could also match to the same sound on the piano, it would probably take me a try or two. But this kid did it so convincingly just like that.

After that, we started playing games of matching pitches: we would sing a note, and he would match the note on the piano.

THAT, is perfect pitch by birth. As soon as we found out he has perfect pitch, we started teaching him note names.

So, it is only after he learnt note names, he started having labels for the pitches/frequencies.

As for me, I grew up with A=442. When I moved to the US, everything moved down 2Hz to 440. For a long time, it really bothered me, because I had come to know A is a higher pitch than the "A" used in the US.

And after I got used to A=440, I could no longer stand any European recordings/orchestras performing at a higher pitch. A=442 and above just has too much tension to my ears.

SO, in conclusion, "perfect pitch" is innate. Note names are just labels for the learnt sound. HOWEVER, it is possible to acquire perfect pitch with practice, but I think I would call it "having a good sense of pitch", because a person with perfect pitch will hear pitches in all musical and non-musical things. This is not something a person without innate perfect pitch can learn to do easily.

November 28, 2017, 12:44 AM · That’s a fascinating story!
November 28, 2017, 1:57 AM · That is so convincing - thank you and also Simon. I just tried to spoil the discussion for myself by reading the Wikipedia article which supports the argument for an innate AP capacity and how difficult (or impossible) it is to teach AP to adults without it.

Going back to Lieschen, isn't a working memory capacity of 10-12 random notes rather impressive? I have no training in this and I don't know what the typical scores amongst various musician groups might be, but mine is surely much less. This leads me to suspect that your AP memory might be helping you in a similar way to the echoic memory, which some have suggested functions as a kind of buffer store in which the contents of working memory for auditory material is "rehearsed" (played back to oneself subvocally). I suppose the randomness must be constrained within certain limits, perhaps within an octave in which case a 12-note working memory capacity should be a big help when listening to Schoenberg! Did he himself have AP I wonder? It's surprisingly hard to discover which historical musicians possessed it, even as late as the 20th century.

November 28, 2017, 4:16 AM · Whether my perfect pitch relied on storing the pitch as a note name, I can't say, because we didn't know I had it until I had already learned the names of the notes. But there was certainly a strong association, because down the road, there were big problems with transposing written music, such as sightreading music when playing a B-flat instrument. With each note on the page, I had to go through the process of mentally adjusting the note by a whole step interval, and I basically had to do that every time until I had learned the music by ear.

Transposing without the music or the note names in front of me was no problem. I could easily play music I had heard, or learned by ear, in any key.

At one point, my perfect pitch was so accurate that they used me to tune the youth orchestra to 440, rather than the oboe. I could get it spot on, verified a number of times with a tuning fork.

Possibly, some of this could have been related to having been exposed to a lot of piano playing, even when I was in the womb. (My mother was a pianist who practiced a lot.) However, my sister, who was exposed to identical conditions did not have perfect pitch.

Edited: November 28, 2017, 4:29 AM · A question that arises to me is: Is it possible that absolute pitch and autism more than usual go hand in hand? I have heard and experienced several cases. And also I remember a music scientist saying, that absolute pitch like synesthesia is kind of a dysfunction in the brain. Having connections, where no connections "should" be.

I personally have a strong sense for tuning as well. I am very used to play 442 and can tune a violin by ear on 442 pretty much. And from that I can find other frequencies as well. But that only works with the instrument in hand. Still I instantly recognize when a recording is out of tune like 338 or too high and i have sometimes problems adjusting to a low A like 335-338, because it to me sounds already like a g-sharp. I guess it is more connected with the timbre though.
Some goes to transposing: When I transpose I don't hear the notes that I expect. So that is not a problem of absolute pitchers only! It can disturb relative hearing as well

Edited: November 28, 2017, 4:57 AM · Simon:

It is interesting you questioned whether there is a connection between autism and perfect pitch. I was not going to mention it, but sine you brought it up, I will point you to an interesting research.

There is a relatively new book available called "Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism." The two authors are musicians, as well as research partners. One of them is on the spectrum, and she was actually taught how to read music by the other author.

In their research, they have found that around 85% of the children on the autism spectrum actually have perfect pitch. However, a lot times, it gets overlooked by parents, because parents themselves are not musically trained, and as a result, are not aware of such gift and it gets ignored. Furthermore, their research also shows that most of the time, these kids who have perfect pitch also have some kind of learning disability or dyslexia. As a result, sometimes they also have trouble learning to read music or play a musical instrument. For example, my son, while musically gifted, has an overall low muscle tone issue, and it affects both his gross and fine motor skills.

It troubled them to see these musically gifted children are not given a chance to learn to play an instrument. So the two partners work together to offer internet lessons to teach children on the spectrum how to play the piano and learn to read music by using their ears as the starting point. And the unique method which they employ apparently has helped a lot of children with dyslexia and physical challenges to play the piano with success.

And since you also talked about timbre, I will also add that while I have perfect pitch, a lot of times, I have trouble recognizing pitches sung by human voices. When in doubt, I tend to think it is just because it is a different timbre than I am used to (musical instruments), but other times I really have to admit that the singer might actually be at fault. :)

November 28, 2017, 5:10 AM · David:

You sound a lot like me.

I have a very hard time transposing by intervals. Fortunately, I learned to read all G, C, F clefs at a young age. So when I have to transpose, I just mentally replace the written clef to a clef that works with the transposition with the correct key signature.

Also, my husband is a genius, he can take anything and improvise at the piano up and down, left to right and not being in the right key. He, by the way, does not have perfect pitch, but he has an excellent ear for relative pitch.

So he will take any piece and play on the piano, but NOT in the right key, because most of the time, he doesn't remember what key it was originally written in, but he remembers the harmonic progression and the general melodic structure. When he does that, it drives me nuts! For example, he will take Beethoven's Emperor concerto and play it in any key other than the E-flat major, and it really hurts my ears. It is because I first learnt it and heard it in E-flat major, and the sound and the timbre just stick to my brain. Every time I hum it, it would be in the right key. So hearing it any other way is like noise to me.

November 28, 2017, 7:17 AM · ". I cannot spit out random metronome markings, and this type of ability seems much less common from what I understand.."

Interesting point. I'd even argue that "perfect time" is the more valuable skill.
I just think of all the conductors I've played under who could not summon the tempo before starting music. They'd give a vague motion and then take it from the musicians. Or conductors who couldn't mentally settle on a "best" tempo for their interpretation and thus each performance had a radically different tempo. One could argue that such performance practice is "spontaneous" or "exciting."
I don't agree.

The same is true for chamber groups: in a fine group, everyone has to "know" the tempo before starting. You can't just wait for the first violin to give a cue and then be dragged along.

But perfect pitch? Meh.
Classical musicians almost always collaborate. Instruments seldom have the same exact pitch, especially on a hot or cold stage. Relative pitch and the ability to triangulate between several other instruments or groups and have the group reach a pitch consensus is much more valuable.

And as I've always maintained, we find pitch on a violin (except for double stops or chords) mostly with timbre, not just pure fundamental.

November 28, 2017, 7:57 AM · With my own case as example I believe "perfect time" (or at least a pretty close approximation to it) is much more likely to be acquired through experience. That, however, fails to explain why some experienced musicians fail to acquire it!
November 28, 2017, 9:01 AM · Steve, it is indeed above average for working memory. The average person can remember 7 such units, usually tested with strings of numbers. My memory used to be a lot better, where I could remember roughly 16 digits in short term memory. Not sure what happened. Maybe its something fishy in the air. I can't find any conclusive information on Schönberg, but it is looking like he might not have.

David, mine probably did not. For me it was probably more like what was described with Y Cheng's son, but I was speaking long before I played an instrument.

Simon and Y, I do think exploring the connection is interesting. When I was younger, I actually used to have an autism diagnosis, but ended up losing the label as I got older.

Scott, I agree that being a human metronome would be a lot more useful. But in my experience, perfect pitch is more useful outside of the classical world, where people do not notate things as, or have the theory knowledge to dictate to you what they are doing. It was a godsend when I played in a rock band and the guys couldn't tell a bass clef from their elbow.

November 28, 2017, 11:34 AM · Another thing no one appears to have brought up is the increased prevalence of perfect pitch in the blind. I believe it is something on the order of 1/1500, versus 1/10,000 for the general population. I wonder how much effect the age of going blind has on the development of this skill.
Edited: November 28, 2017, 12:13 PM · It's clearly a rare phenomenon but would fit with the theory of neuronal plasticity in which areas of the brain normally associated with a sensory faculty that has become defunct can be co-opted by another sensory modality. I believe it has been demonstrated by functional imaging that visual regions can be recruited by the somatosensory (bodily sense) or auditory system in early-blind subjects. I suspect the age of the onset of blindness is critical but whether and how this can give rise to AP I can't imagine.
Edited: November 28, 2017, 2:12 PM · Y: "In their research, they have found that around 85% of the children on the autism spectrum actually have perfect pitch."
That actually doesn't surprise me at all, but it is good to have some scientific research on this topic. :)
Out of the 2 situations I had a student who had diagnosed autism plus 1 not diagnosed but some matching criteria in the character, there were 3 exceptional hearing abilities, which showed without much training. Far more "talented" then 97% of the average students! (Not scientific data)
I can imagine, that there are cases, where the parents just don't know about that connection and a musical talent stays hidden. In other cases I think, that some successful musicians have missed the diagnosis of autism in their past. Autism also to me seems to be quite an indifferent and difficult diagnosis and not an illness in the common sense. In the cases I encountered autism, it somehow grows out when the kids get older. It is great to see such talents unfold and learning to know the personas behind those specially gifted human beings, when they get older and more conscious. It fascinates me!
Maybe because I always wanted some of that special abilities for myself, but I had only a glimpse of it.

But I have to say, that it seems, that everything comes for a cost. It is still not easy to teach autistic children, they can sometimes really travel in time and space, while you are talking to them!

November 28, 2017, 4:00 PM · Lieschen — would love to see the source for your data of 1/1500 perfect pitch among the blind!

Simon — I haven't met anyone or read any literature about people in the autism spectrum "growing out of it"; I only know people who have found ways to managed to cope with their challenges in society better. But would welcome any literature that have document people "growing out of it..."!

I think this thread is still plagued by some people's confusion between perfect pitch and pitch memory.

Pitch memory, particularly on one's main instrument, comes along naturally with time, but to recognize pitch immediately without any reference is something that cannot be trained and is innate, as it was beautifully described by Y Cheng.

Edited: November 28, 2017, 8:56 PM · Dorian,

Upon closer inspection, it appears that there are some vastly differing estimates for the prevalence of perfect pitch in the blind. Yes, so many people, especially the untrained, don't know what it is. They think that is means things such as being able to memorize a piece after one listening, or never having to practice intonation.

Simon, If you "grow out of it", you probably never had it to begin with, and were misdiagnosed, as was the case with me. I have met people who truly warrant the label, and while they can work on compensatory methods, many of the traits still remain quite noticeable. It probably seems like something you can grow out of for some people, since the public perception has significantly watered down what constitutes the condition, so you are probably getting lots of incorrect diagnoses in the mix.

November 29, 2017, 1:26 AM · Given that I displayed it in my first violin lesson, there's no doubt it can be innate (unless I'd accidentally picked it up from listening to the odd piece of music before then?)

But I've also known quite a few people who after playing in orchestras every day, have come to remember the sound of A440 and other standard notes. Not sure if this is perfect pitch though.

November 29, 2017, 4:30 AM · "I only know people who have found ways to managed to cope with their challenges in society better."

That would describe it more correctly what I meant. I didn't mean they lose their autism, but it gets unnoticeable to some extend, because the persona and consciousness grows and they learn how to live with it. In small children it is more obvious, because the consciousness is not developed as well. I wouldn't call it a misdiagnosis if a autist later in life isn't noticed as one at first or second glance.

December 2, 2017, 7:08 AM · I was fascinated to read Y Cheng's story. Mine is a bit different and might muddy the waters of this discussion.

My family says that when I was a young child, I was completely "tone deaf." For instance, if we were at church and I was singing along, I would happily sing the songs completely off-key.

I later started taking violin lessons. A few years in I was learning the Bach A minor concerto. My parents bought a recording for me to listen to. After a few days, I decided it would be fun to learn the tempo/rhythm properly by playing along with the recording. You can imagine my surprise when I started playing along and every note I was playing was different from the recording--because it was a period recording and was about a half-step lower than my tuning! I had no idea of the difference until that time.

A couple years later I enrolled the school band (we had no orchestra). The conductor asked one of the students to play an A, the student played a note, I said, "That's not an A, that's a B-flat" (it was correct) and all the other students were surprised. And I had no idea that other people couldn't tell what notes were being played just by listening.

Edited: December 2, 2017, 8:40 AM · In my opinion, so-called "perfect" pitch is a misnomer. I would rather call it "rigid" or "matching" pitch and here is why:
1st: even a cursory study of tuning pitch will show that current "standard" 440Hz is arbitrary and was forced by piano and wind-instrument producers after or about WWII.
2nd: knowing the above: one can not bind A to 440Hz and claim any perfection whatsoever
3rd: derived from 1 & 2 : it may be a curse, not a blessing - I have met a few perftetti who could not play Baroque music @ 415Hz or tune to 432Hz; Some of them could not stand a piano recital if the instrumet is tuned to, say 442Hz.
December 2, 2017, 9:23 AM · "I think this thread is still plagued by some people's confusion between perfect pitch and pitch memory."

I'd say there is confusion between perfect pitch and musical talent.

December 2, 2017, 10:28 AM · I agree with Scott and Rocky. I think the name we give it leads to it being overrated. It just doesn't feel all that useful, especially in a Western classical setting. I have struggled to listen to baroque ensembles and have taken a long time to get used to them, as well as playing in different tunings. I wouldn't be really bothered by A442, and would hardly notice the difference. I have been turned off by some recordings that are at around 444 or 445. I would say that I haven't had to work any less hard on any of the skills that truly matter to musicianship.
December 2, 2017, 10:47 AM · "Absolute pitch" seems an OK term to me. "Rigid" has a negative connotation which seems just as slanted as "perfect" only in the opposite direction. The most inspiring orchestral leader (concertmaster) I ever had the privilege of turning pages for was proud of her AP and it clearly hadn't done her career any harm! In any case, the term isn't likely to change at our recommendation...
Edited: December 2, 2017, 11:20 AM · AP already clearly exists, especially in the scientific literature. Its also easy to use and understand by the relatively uneducated. Case in point: the term used in German is "absolutes Gehör", which literally translates to something like "absolute hearing", and is much less misleading. I just think it's a publicity issue, which may be solved either by a large mass of the not so famous converting slowly per the "charismatic toddler theory", or a huge name like Joshua Bell suddenly using it.

I also mainly think of the skill as a neutral thing. I don't mind having it, but I don't have excessive amounts of pride about it, nor would I give it up in a heartbeat, and only feel slightly sentimental about it.

December 15, 2017, 11:12 PM · Some people are born with it and have no idea why it works, it just does. Others have learned it. Former San Diego Symphony principal flute Fritz Baker had all his students work to learn perfect pitch (and most succeeded). In his case, it was a fact of "remembering" the pitches (or at least one) and have good relative pitch to figure out the rest. There was a set of tapes many years ago that "taught" a perfect pitch system (I think by a man named Burgess); however, the tapes were recorded on cassettes, and since many cassette players were slightly out of exact speed sync, the "pitches" from one tape player to another varied. If I remember correctly, each pitch was to suggest a "mood" or "feeling", and, unfortunately, with the large number of faulty cassette player speeds, the tapes weren't always successful. I believe they were reissued as CDs which may have solved the problem.
December 16, 2017, 10:12 PM · Of course if you think about it, this kind of thing cannot really be 'innate'. Music is a learned skill. It's just that some people pick it up easily while others don't.
December 17, 2017, 12:22 AM · Listen and repeat works well wit toddlers, learn and practise one scale a year and learn different fingering patterns on just that
One scale.

Good day , my name is Mattaniah.
I am so puzzled and frustrated!

I have re varnished my viola top to bottom, aswell as the finger board. I have fitted tiny lift on the g and d string so that the strings are a bit higher action. The reason i lifted the middle strings is because the stentor bridge is to low in the top middle , the bow keep on touching the other string when playing the 4 and 5th position.

I have also done the same on my violin now i am very pleased with the excellent sound from higher action on the bridge.

As for the two strings on the either side , their height stay the same.

I have purchased new set of viola strings that cost me R 1000. And this is expensive.

Now the new g string is buzzing, if i put back the old g string the buzz is gone.

I believe that the design of the g string is not fit for the vibration when picked or bowed there is to much vibrating mvmnt in the g string !

As the buzz sound is produced from the string itself near the bridge, almost as if the inner woven fibers are lose inside the string, i know sounds weird but i suppose the string is faulty as it is hand made?

I am still playing on my old g string that snapped before , infront of the nut,

I unwinded the tuning peg, removed the string, tied the two into into a knot, and re fitted the string and works and sound great. No buzz!

Well i was lucky the string snapped near the scroll, had it snapped in the middle of the fretboard i would not have been able to use it.

Now, should I take back the set of new strings and have them replaced? They only sell them in packs as a set of 4.

Edited: December 17, 2017, 12:27 AM · Gemma,

If might be innate in the sense that language may be innate. Of course, if you don't expose a baby to language at all, they won't pick it up. There were some tragic cases in the news of children locked away in isolation for years and never spoken to, who ended up never really learning to speak in an intelligible way even years after being freed.

Some argue that the typical human is born with a language acquisition device, a hardwiring to make language acquisition very natural and effortless, citing the fact that babies can distinguish stress-timing from syllable-timing only days after birth, amongst others. Now there are some limitations to each of the cases of the abused children, such as not knowing whether the children had any innate neurological impairments, or whether the other abuse inflicted upon them was more damaging than the linguistic deprivation, but there appears to be a pretty strong case that language learners are "born and then made".

I wonder if you could say the same about perfect pitch- that some are born with the potential, while others are not, and a still smaller percentage of those born with the potential water the seed that is the ability and see it grow. I don't think that we quite have a definitive answer.

December 17, 2017, 11:30 AM · Well? What have y'all concluded?
Edited: December 17, 2017, 12:30 PM · I guess I may as well volunteer to speak for y'all. I'm strongly convinced by the anecdotal evidence that some children seem to acquire and retain absolute pitch almost accidentally, suggesting that in fact they may already have possessed it. On the other hand there seems to be no good evidence that adults without AP can acquire it (except perhaps in a very rudimentary and fragile form) through training. Roman and Lieschen's description of their AP suggests that their acoustic memory is structured in a very different way from mine. Rather than just a sliding scale, it's as if particular tones possesses distinctive qualities analogous to colour, taste or smell. Isn't it a bit strange that for most of us hearing seems to be the only sense that doesn't give rise to qualitatively distinct perceptions ("qualia").

Of course loads of questions still lack definitive answers. How widespread is AP in people who haven't had the kind of training that would enable them to recognize and articulate it? Is it a faculty that some people initially possess but lose through experience? How do people with AP adapt to geographic variation in pitch standards and "global pitch warming". How precise can it be? A few years ago I was asked to devise tests to investigate a professional musician with AP who had suddenly discovered that his whole orchestra sounded sharp. I found his judgment of the "correct" A (still 440Hz round here, I think) was out by a fraction of a semitone, and the cause was identified as his anti-epileptic medication.

Edited: December 17, 2017, 6:53 PM ·

Hi all,

We can learn to recognize the many different voices of friends and families, bosses, employees, singers, actors politician etc etc etc.

So, i tend to think that if, from birth, we had people in our lives who only said "As" "Bs, Cs, Ds, Es, Fs and Gs each, and they all used different pitches of their respective notes for different emotions, we might all have perfect pitch. But nobody walks around using only one note when they speak and we don't have letters as names.

I think perfect pitch could be taught if started from birth. I think i could be wrong, too. Hard to say.
I do not have perfect pitch and that could be because i was not raised with Aunt B, Mrs C, or James D.


Edited: December 17, 2017, 4:28 PM · Robbie,

It has been shown that having a tonal language as a native language dramatically increases the prevalence of perfect pitch. As many as 60% of Mandarin and Vietnamese-speaking instrument learning children tested had perfect pitch. For those speaking non-tonal languages, such as English, or French, it goes down to 1 in 10,000 roughly.

There is also some speculation surrounding a critical period of acquisition, usually with the cutoff for musical training placed sometime between 6 and 9 years old, with about 3 percent of possessors acquiring it after 9, but before adulthood, which is why my case, having started instrumental training at around 10, and not speaking a tonal language is rather unusual.

Perhaps all those silly end-of semester shows rehearsing and singing an array of folk songs starting in kindergarten, coupled with the monthly recorder class was enough to get me going, though I was not at all serious, and even reading music until later. I have only met one other person who started playing as late as me who ended up with it, all others I have met who have this tend to start under the age of 5.

Edited: December 17, 2017, 6:56 PM ·
Hi Lieschen,

Yes, i can definitely agree with how Asians with their tonal languages often have great pitch abilities. I am so happy you've mentioned that.
And, of course, i was hinting at how starting off very young is very beneficial in developing perfect pitch.

I was watching a youtube video, recently (well, i don't have a television connection), i forget what it was called, but there was a prodigy of about 8-years-old, or so, who was played various chords on a piano (as if being tested) and he was able to say exactly which chords they were, and they weren't basic chords and/or their inversions. He was naming off jazz chords.
The adult was astonished and said to the child, "My God. You have perfect pitch".
The child did have a musical background and had already studied.
Of course, it was a white American child lol.

Is that mere perfect pitch or something more?
Or is having perfect pitch just being able to hear single notes and name them?
What is your opinion on that, please?

Thank you,

December 17, 2017, 7:06 PM · Lieschen, that's more or less what I was saying. Language is only 'innate' in the sense that you pick it up easily as a child. And some people are better at this than others. I think perfect pitch works the same way.
Edited: December 18, 2017, 9:26 AM ·

Hi all,

Look what i've just found.

Then, i found this just NOW.



Edited: December 18, 2017, 2:26 AM · Gemma - I think you should read Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct".

Robbie - like you, after watching those clips I'm feeling kind of monosyllabic. Cripes!

Pauses to collect thoughts...OK...Perfect pitch isn't just the ability to hear single notes and name them. In fact, as we've discussed above, the naming part is only necessary in order to DEMONSTRATE perfect pitch to the rest of us. Alternatively some children learn to demonstrate their perfect pitch by immediately picking out the correct note on the piano.

Little Dylan's abilities obviously go way beyond "mere" perfect pitch although perfect pitch seems to be part of the package. Undoubtedly the critical window of learning is key but also essential, I'd say, is a high degree of pre-programming. You can't teach all those things to a chimpanzee. Maybe Steven Pinker should widen his remit and start thinking about a learning instinct.

Edited: December 18, 2017, 9:00 PM ·

Hi Steve,

After watching the second video of little genius Dylan, i began to feel sorry for myself and had to leave the apartment to go for a long walk.

To suddenly realize that we have such a small window of time for our brains to REALLY develop made me reflect back to the time when my mom told me that because my dad was so physically abusive towards her and my two older siblings, that she actually did everything a mother could do to miscarry me all throughout her pregnancy when she was carrying me.
She told me that she, literally, tried to kill me, out of mercy. A mercy-killing. She told me that she just couldn't bear to see and hear another of her children being beaten.
It didn't work, however. I hung in there. When it came to give birth to me, i was breech.

She told me how the doctors told her and my dad that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and that i was positioned feet first.
The doctors wanted to do a C-section to get me out of there but my hard-headed father flatly refused to give his permission (that was in 1961).
It took the doctors 12 hours to get me out of her. They had to keep sedating her in order to help her deal with the severe discomfort of all of this.
Apparently, there was a very bad storm in Montreal that night of August 12, 1961, and when i was born at 8:00 PM, the nurses told my mom that the storm outside had stopped and was moving away.

Then, later, to make matters worse, when i was 3 months old, my mother tried to blame my 3-year-old brother for dropping me on my head at 3:00 AM while i was, get this, sleeping in my crib in my parent's bedroom. I had a fractured skull.
She told me for years (because i kept asking her to retell the story throughout the years) that my brother heard me cooing at 3:00 AM and it woke HIM up, causing HIM to leave HIS bedroom DOWN THE HALLWAY, and tried to pick me up but, instead, dropped me on the metal bar that was just a little under the bed.
For years, i listened to that story, and saw how my brother felt guilty for it every time i'd ask her to retell the story.

THEN, when i got married and had kids of my own and i witnessed first-hand how a mother (my wife) would wake-up as soon as she hears her infant child cooing at 3:00 AM, i confronted her with my opinion of the story that she'd been telling me and my siblings (and whoever else) for all of our lives up to that time when my mom flew from Canada to Germany to where our second child was born which was when and where i had asked her, once more, to retell the story of what happened to me that night.
She, again, told me the same story. I wasn't believing it, this time, because i knew better from what i was witnessing with my wife and our two daughters.
I told my mom that i really believed that she and my dad were having another quarrel, that night, and one of them, out of spite for the other, tried to hurt or kill me (they fought a lot because my dad drank too much on the weekends and would come home very late at night).
She started crying, and said to me, "I wish your father was here to hear this."
She never did admit to it but her tears and reaction sort of said it all.
I forgave her and hugged her and reassured her that i had turned out okay.
Years later, i went to the hospital archives and got the hospital report and read it all for myself.
It stated that i was "thrown to the floor" and i that i was under close watch in the Intensive Care Unit for 12 days.

I suppose my mom, wanting to relieve herself of any guilt, couldn't hold it in, and so, she devised a white lie to protect herself, or my dad, by gently putting the blame on my innocent 3-year-old brother.

She had told me all of this when i was 12 or 13.
I think she was trying to tell me that i was always a fighter, a survivor.

To be perfectly honest, i wish now, that i didn't have to "survive" through all of that. And it could be why i am lacking in self-confidence and never went reaching for success as my fear of rejection is still quite enormous.

Watching lucky Dylan really affected so much that i wanted to write and share all of these facts about me - not for any sympathy - but, just to illustrate how lucky little Dylan really is to have such great parents.
Obviously, he was not born into a working-class family with an abusive, alcoholic father.
C'est ma vie en tabarouette.


December 18, 2017, 10:34 AM · Little Dylan certainly looks like a great kid but is he really so lucky? I have no right to pass judgement but I'd risk saying neither do his parents have the right to treat him as an educational experiment and trade sample. Is he on the road to being a genius or a freak? My "cripes" was partly a shudder.
December 18, 2017, 1:22 PM · Steve, these were my thoughts exactly. I wonder if he is being exploited, and if he will ever feel embarrassed by some of his videos. I would also be interested to see how he performs on some other musical tasks, and I would specifically be interested to see how creative he is in general.

And I do think that his aural skills go above and beyond. I would only be able to do what he does in the video before he gets played those massive chords. I start to lose track when the chord gets bigger than around 4 notes.

Edited: December 18, 2017, 10:05 PM ·

Hi Steve and Lieschen,

I don't understand what you both mean.

Let's go back in time to the days of J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Chopin - to name only a few.
Their parents were musicians, and as children, these composers were surrounded by music and had received music education from a very early age.
Many of them spoke several languages, as well, and wrote operas in, or wrote the music for, different languages.

Does this sound a little maybe, hmm - a young Dylan?

As far as we know, Dylan hasn't composed anything, yet.
But during his time in and out of the womb, he was totally immersed in music - even watching videos of people playing incredibly complex music on instruments.

All of the aforementioned composers, and i am sure all the others (whom were not mentioned), had perfect pitch (i could be wrong).

Were they freaks or victims of exploitation?
Could they have felt embarrassed by their early musical or linguistic achievements?

Yet, everyone, here, in the classical music world, is striving to play their music, perfectly - spending many hours, every day, toiling over their manuscripts while practicing.

Perhaps, only a very few, in here, are actually "gifted", while the rest are merely wanabees who are intersted in classical music and want to be seen and heard performing it. BUT, not able to be composing it like their heros and inspirations did with great ease.

The great composers didn't only want to just play music, they were driven by of music, and later, by the necessity to compose it for their own self gratifation, and also, in order to support their families, and even achieve fame, and also, to earn the respect of EVERYONE around them - to be known for generations to come.

Classical musicians were a "penny per dozen" back then.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

No, no. I must disagree with your opinions.
We will have to wait to see what young Dylan becomes in life.
So far, he's doing very well, isn't he - compared to our musical heros?

He's already tri-lingual, has perfect pitch, and plays piano very well, and he's only 8-years-old.

I saw another video where Dylan's younger sister is just as gifted as Dylan. BUT, can we say "gifted", anymore??
It doesn't seem to be a gift, really. It's all been taught to them - just by BEING there and being exposed to it all (like Dylan was) - just like it was the same way for our favorite classical music composers. The GREATS! The MASTERS.

It seems to me that all these kids have to do is simply hum any tune that enters their minds, and then build on it.
Who knows, Dylan may be in a class all his own.

Has any member, here, composed a symphony, an opera, concerto, or even a simple melody of their own?
If so, then please, feel free and proud to direct us to a youtube video of your compositions - i, personally, would love to listen to what you've composed.
It seems that any single one you are able to "recreate" what Mozart, or the others, had composed so long as the notes are in front of you (or well memorized), but how many musicians, here, have actually composed anything?

I'm a hobby musician, songwriter, lyricist, and a music producer.
I cannot perform what any of you can do (at least, not yet) on a violin, piano, or even on my own classical guitar. I haven't been trained to understand counterpoint, but i can write well-structured songs and instrumentals in various genres.

When i was 26, i sat at a string-keyboard made by Elka and i improvised/composed some sort of classical "piece" lasting about 20 minutes or so, and which sounds like many strings, and then i overdubbed more improvisations on the Elka over that first track, and then overdubbed another track or two (i forget) with a 1979 Korg MS-10 monophonic synthesizer - which i STILL have in my posession.
I've had it on a cassette tape since then - and have been terrified (almost ashamed) to let anyone hear it because i can hear counterpoint going on, but i am sure it's not properly-composed counterpoint. It was all guess-work.
I am NOT saying it's any good but i used to listen to it, often, and think to myself,
"Hmm, not too bad for a lttle clown, like me, who had a fractured skull at 3 months old, and who dropped out of school at 13-years-old, and never had any training other than what i had taught myself"

I, sort of, heard what i wanted to do but couldn't reach what i wanted on the spot while i improvised, and because i couldn't (and still can't) read or write music well enough, i just left it as it was.

Compared to the greats, IT SUCKS i am sure, but there is potential for it to be reworked.

Many of the members, here, can TEACH music to others but how many are composers...of - any musical style?

Dylan can do what you can do, on a piano, it seems - and he's only 8.
Members' ages vary, here - one member is pushing 70 - what has he composed after having lived 70 years of experiences such as triumphs, disappointments, loves, losses, fears, angers, dislikes...etc?

Isn't there a thread, in here, where the musician-members share their original works?

Why should young 8-year-old Dylan be evaluated based solely on his possible future-ability to compose, in order to gain your "respect" or approval, but yet you would consider other members as your equals?

Maybe YOU ALL (not including me because i am not a classial musician like you all) are musical "equals", and maybe young Dylan will surpass us all when/if he begins composing.


December 19, 2017, 2:18 AM · Robbie - I don't have statistics to back it up but I believe prodigious children are not uncommon in music (or mathematics). Unfortunately not many of them go on to become Mozarts. Who knows what happens to the rest, but my concerns for Dylan are firstly that he has been launched on a prospective career before he has the maturity to make an informed choice for himself, secondly that his family have placed expectations on him to the extent of advertising him as a "product" of an untested educational regime, thirdly that his exceptional abilities are likely to place a barrier between him and his peers, in their minds or his own. And what's so great about composing anyway? There are countless other worthwhile careers Dylan might prefer given the proper freedom of choice.
December 19, 2017, 2:51 AM · Perfect or absolute pitch, which is called absolute ear in both Italy and France, but the majority of Italians do not possess, even in students of conservatory, I guess it is related to age, that is the onset of musical training. In earlier age (before 6) when children can’t sing, if they are given solfeggiò with fix-do, it is likely to develop absolute pitch, because the note is just like phonemes for children, they have not encountered before, thus they tend to memorize note and match this system in their brain, once this crucial period gone, it will be harder to develop. Among violinists I’ ve encountered in my country only 10%-15% possess so-called absolute pitch, I find that firstly it is related to age, the earlier the greater the chance, and those with absolute pitch tend to come from musical families where piano is available and their parents know how to train kids so. Average violinists around me, started violin after 8 or 9 consequently they do not have it, and the second reason, maybe related to sing or language, if children are given solfeggiò before singing, they can develop absolute pitch, but if children start to sing early, they will be accustomed to melody, as melody is arranged in terms of interval of note system, therefore absolute pitch will be weaken as a result relative pitch will gain the upper hand. In general, human language is arranged in terms of relative pitch, it is the opposition between sounds in a language that functions and carries meaning rather than the absolutely correct pronunciation of sounds correspond to IPA, a native speaker can identify some accent within a language, depend on the relationship and arrangement of possible sounds.
But I surprisingly find that Asians tend to develop absolute pitch more easily, maybe related to earlier training for example Suzuki method calls for playing by hearing and singing the notes, but in my country particularly in early days Suzuki school was not available, and traditional, formal method has been preferred even today, which means started from Sevcik, Curci, Maci, Kayser, Mazas etc, sight playing is emphasized and intonation is developed by the emphasis on interval and macro system of work.
Edited: December 19, 2017, 4:17 AM · I'm not sure I understand fully (what's IPA?) but that's a fascinating point, that speech comprehension and absolute pitch perception may in a sense be incompatible because the former depends on recognizing the equivalence of words and phrases uttered across a wide range of frequencies. But how do adults with AP manage to reconcile the two?

At the risk of raising another hare, I wonder if the left-brain/right-brain dichotomy may have something to do with it. We know that the left hemisphere contains the major loci of speech analysis and production (Broca's and Wernicke's areas) while the right brain to a more limited degree is where tonal and non-speech sounds are preferentially represented. In trained musicians, however, the left side seems to take over both functions. I wonder if that's also true of musicians with AP?

December 19, 2017, 5:00 AM · Hi Steve Jones,
IPA refers to International Phonetic Alfabet, which is used to identify specific pronunciation of sounds, every language has a system of phoneme, and phoneme in a given language is presented by a set of IPA, for foreign language learners, in order to know sound and the combination of sound, must learn the sound system of a given language, and IPA will be used. Language ensembles relative pitch, because though it has a set of phonemes with fixed IPAs, but each phoneme can be presented by more than one concrete sounds (phone), for example, for Italian speaker, the phoneme /t/ usually tends to be unaspirated dental[t], but if you alter it with aspirated "t" like English [t'], say [t'ut':i] instead of [tut:i], I can still identify your speech, because the functions of two concrete sounds are same, their functions are represented in the relationship with other sounds (e.g. vowels, combinations), the melody, which is arranged by a given scale, as a result it is their relationship (interval) plays the vital role.
Speech comprehension begins at a very early age, when kids are around 6 to 12 months, they begin to aware the sounds around them (speech of parents), thus begin to identify sound system of that mother tongue, it is found that kids grow up in multilingual environment will be easily adopted to more than one language and speak languages fluently when grow up, but it will be harder for elder kids or adults to adopt to multilanguage environment and master several languages easily and fastly. Adult with AP and with fluent speech is developed when they were very young, their ability of AP and native speech is solidified when young, if not, the ability of AP will be discarded (but everyone has native tongue, except for kid adopted by wolf), as memory trace has not been strengthened in a possible age.
As forementioned, kids develop absolute pitch because early access to fixed-do solfeggiò system with fixed instrument, they develop solfeggiò system along with the development of native speech, as they grow up, the ability to identify absolute (fixed) note being rooted in their brain, for them, to identify a note or a string of note is just like normal people to identify color or a stretch of colors.
Left and right brain do have different functions, but these two hemispheres are connected by callosum, researchers, in order to analyze the functions of each hemisphere, they will cut down callosum, but for ordinary people, their two hemispheres are connected by callosum, and information exchange is done by it, hence two hemispheres function simultaneously.

December 19, 2017, 6:38 AM · Thanks very much for clarifying that. You are certainly right about the corpus callosum, but I found in my own research that in right-handed subjects a stronger response is obtained to tones changing pitch (electrical signals being recorded from the scalp) in the right temporal region as compared with the left. The findings were reversed in a proportion of left-handers. Given the opportunity (which is now unlikely ever to arise..) it would be interesting to determine whether this lateralization is lost or reversed in musically trained subjects, possibly retained in those with AP!

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