Is Perfect Pitch A Myth? – Getting Closer To The Answer

person holding a microphone while singing on stage

There is absolutely no point of allowing yourself to be influenced by the numerous utterly confusing theories surrounding the concept of ‘perfect pitch’! You must be tired hearing of several weird techniques adopted by individuals in an attempt to learn the perfect pitch, but how many have managed to yield the desired outcome?

Most people often end up teaching themselves relative pitch instead of perfect pitch. Relative pitch too happens to be a great asset for all musicians, but perfect pitch is a completely different point of concern.

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Unraveling the mysteries of perfect pitch – the web of unsatisfactory theories

Also referred to as ‘absolute pitch’, perfect pitch can be roughly defined as the ability to name a note immediately after it reaches your ears, without referring to any particular instrument or other external sources. One school of thought believes that perfect pitch is nothing but a highly evolved version of relative pitch. Another group of individuals opines that absolute pitch is an innate power since it is also possessed by people who have never been exposed to musical training.

Asian languages such as Vietnamese, Thai, Mandarin, and Cantonese are perceived as tonal – which means, the same word might be intended to express different meanings, based on the underlying tone. In fact, this is the reason why the inhabitants of these Asian countries are believed to have perfect pitch!

There are theories which suggest that perfect pitch involves the ability to correctly recognize as well as memorize sounds which you are acquainted with. The roles of ‘perfect pitch genes’ and illnesses affecting the brain and auditory perception have also been taken into consideration by researchers. But none of these theories have provided with a comprehensive solution which can efface all the controversies regarding absolute pitch.

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Understanding the mechanism of qualitative recognition

Practice is the only powerful tool which can aid in developing relative pitch, and consequently build a stable tonal memory. The ability of instantly naming a pitch without any reference point must be deep rooted in your memory. A sound which forms a part of a song is far more recognizable than an odd note.

Sounds which exist in the form of a pattern can be easily categorized and memorized. For instance, human voices and other such complex sounds are categorized on the basis of multiple diverse traits. The most incredible fact is that you do not have to be a seasoned musician in order to remember sounds with incredible accuracy! Besides your ears, your vocal chords are also inextricably linked to pitch. As long as you can hum tunes, there is no need to feel inadequate for not being an awesome singer!

Training yourself at home with a few handy objects

You would be thrilled to discover that a number of objects of your daily use can act as reference systems for getting you started in the direction of heightening your pitch skills! The doorbell of your residence, alarm clock, the horn of your vehicle and microwave machine – all are excellent examples!

Judging in terms of tonal consistency, electronic devices are the best options. Check the tones of each device with your guitar, pitch pipe or piano for pitch reference. Be extremely alert so that even the minutest change in pitch does not escape unnoticed. Record the pitch of each device in a diary. The notes might differ from one instrument to another. For instance, the ‘E’ of your alarm has a higher pitch than the ‘E’ of your microwave.

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Develop your tonal memory through simple exercises

You can try out these exercises for sharpening your tonal memory. An integral part of tonal memory, ‘relative pitch’ involves the capacity of detecting the unique intervals between notes. These intervals form the base of all kinds of complex melodies. Repetitive listening is the key to building tonal memory. Once you start acquiring the skills of relative pitch, you can simultaneously focus on developing relative and absolute pitch for giving a boost to your tonal memory:

  • Get hold of a digital tuner or download a free tuner app on your smartphone.
  • Turn it on, start playing lengthy tones and try achieving absolute pitch. Concentrate on your embouchure and diaphragm movements during the process, because muscle memory plays a crucial role.
  • Play a ‘C’ using your guitar within an octave of your personal vocal range with full attention.
  • Repeat the same note while singing along. If there is a mismatch, adjust your pitch and note your physical responses. Keep repeating this cycle.

Developing tonal memory can be a tedious and time-consuming affair requiring tremendous discipline and dedication. If you ever wish to embark on this dynamic journey, then you must steer clear of shortcuts and unrealistic expectations in order to avoid getting frustrated easily.

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