Oh the ever so elusive perfect pitch. I remember one of my first encounters with someone with perfect pitch. I was at band camp (Band camp is awesome. Don’t knock it till you try it) and one of my fellow campers claimed to have perfect pitch.
To prove he wasn’t full of it, we tried to test his ears. We could play any note on the piano with him on the other side of the room and he would name the note! We could even mash a handful of notes down at once, and he could pick them out one by one. Sorcery!
We then went around the camp grounds doing things like dropping rocks in the water, and he would tell us that the stone hitting the water played a Bb. The cafeteria forks clinking together played an F#, and the AC unit hummed at a constant G.
Though this is a cool party trick… does it have much real world (music world that is) application?
Yes, and no. I’ve since met a number of people with perfect pitch. It is quite advantageous when transcribing solos, and lifting new tunes. However, I have been told that it is far more desirable to develop a very strong relative pitch, over a perfect pitch.
Relative pitch is being able to hear the distance between two notes. Example: If I play a C followed by a Bb, you would know that there is a dominant 7th between the notes.
Perfect pitch gives you the exact tones. Relative pitch gives you the ability to see how the tones relate to each other in a chord or melody.
Perfect pitch is like knowing all of the “letters” of the musical alphabet. However individual letters do not make a language. And individual pitches by themselves do not create music.
It is only Relative Pitch lets you comprehend how all the tones are put together to create the actual LANGUAGE of music.
Good news. Relative Pitch is far easier to pick up than perfect pitch. Many musicians still strive to harness the over valued “superpower” of perfect pitch, and apparently psychologists at the University of Chicago have been able to train some adults to develop perfect pitch!
Absolute pitch, commonly known as “perfect pitch”, is the ability to identify a note by hearing it.
It has always been a very desired ability among musicians, especially since several famous composers, including Mozart, had it.
“This is the first significant demonstration that the ability to identify notes by hearing them may well be something that individuals can be trained to do,” said Howard Nusbaum, professor of psychology, University of Chicago.
“It’s an ability that is teachable, and it appears to depend on a general cognitive ability of holding sounds in one’s mind,” Nusbaum pointed out.
The team tested how much an individual’s general auditory working memory capacity can predict the success of acquiring absolute pitch.
“We demonstrate three important findings in this paper,” Nusbaum noted.
“First, in contrast to previous studies, we are able to establish significant absolute pitch training in adults without drugs. Second, we show that this ability is predicted by auditory working memory. Third, we show that this training lasts for months,” Nusbaum said.
The study was conducted in two experiments.
In the first experiment, 17 students listened to notes sampled from real musical instruments through studio headphones.
They heard a brief note, which was then masked by white noise.
The participants were then asked to try to recreate the originally heard target note.
For the training portion of the experiment, participants listened to and classified 180 piano notes.
They found that although the participants’ learning had decreased slightly, the individuals retained most of their ability to identify notes with absolute pitch. Via zeenews.india.com
Researchers offer explanation for perfect pitch – NY Daily News
Perfect pitch takes effect when two brain regions are able to join forces, according to researchers at the University of Zurich’s Department of Neuropsychology, who believe they’ve made a discovery that’s important in both theory and practice. Mozart, Bach and Beethoven are examples of artists with what’s called perfect or absolute pitch, defined by the ability to identify notes without relying on a reference tone. Most people are only able to make modest distinctions between the notes, however, the one percent of the population blessed with perfect pitch can instantly identify C sharp, A or F sharp, say the leaders of the intensive, ongoing research. Via nydailynews.com
Acquiring perfect pitch may be possible for some adults
If youre a musician, this sounds too good to be true: UChicago psychologists have been able to train some adults to develop the prized musical ability of absolute pitch, and the trainings effects last for months. Absolute pitch, commonly known as perfect pitch, is the ability to identify a note by hearing it. The ability is considered remarkably rare, estimated to be less than one in 10,000 individuals. Via news.uchicago.edu