Attaining Perfect Pitch

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by worzel, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. worzel

    worzel Member

    Has anyone here tried to do this? I've listened to David Lucas Burge's course but haven't put much time into doing the exercises yet. I am interested in other people's experience and whether anyone has had the same odd experience I have had.

    What I've found odd is that I can't hear any difference at all between the character of an F# versus an Eb (concert pitches) like he suggests listening for in the first exercise, yet I can recall a certain tone with no reference quite reliably (about 7 out of 10 times) if it is the first note of something I have been practising a lot recently. Just being able to hear a difference is supposed to be the very first step while he describes aural recall as the most refined level of perfect pitch (naming notes as you hear them is somewhere in the middle). So I seem to have fleeting glimpses of supposedly the most difficult aspect of perfect pitch while having nothing to build the basics on.
  2. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    Think this is something your born with, I had a mate who has perfect pitch. he could tell what a note was in C Bb Eb and if it was flat or Sharp. Very Talented Man. Born with it.
  3. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    I would suggest you read 'Musicophilia tales of music & the brain' by Oliver Sacks published by Picador.

    you can train your aural perception to a high level but you are either born with perfect or more correctly absolute pitch.

    Among the topics he covers 'Absolute' pitch...remarkable that only 1 in 10,000 are born with it!
  4. worzel

    worzel Member

    The general scientific view is that "being born with it" is a matter of training (maybe unwittingly) during a critical period very early on rather than a genetic or physical difference. Studies have shown that people can learn it later in life, but never anywhere near comparable to those who attained it very early on.
  5. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    Why would you want it anyway? Good relative pitch is much more useful.

    Having played a lot of early music with mean tone tuning and A not equalling 440hz I consider myself lucky not to have perfect pitch. I've know some people with it really struggle with strange tunings/pitches that you get with earlier musics.
  6. worzel

    worzel Member

    I've read that those supposed problems are mainly urban legend, partly spread by people with perfect pitch showing off by "not liking" a performance because it is, say, slightly flat. Supposedly it is a misconception that absolute pitch is a super accurate all or nothing affair.

    The objection due to different intonations doesn't even make sense because whether your major third is at a ratio of 5/4 to your fundamental or the 4th power of the 12th root of 2 is as apparent through relative pitch as it is through absolute pitch. Although I can recognize a fifth, I can't tell the difference between an equal tempered fifth and a pythogorean one. I've no reason to believe that if I could learn to identify the pitches of the fundamental and fifth with no reference I'd be any more discerning.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2010
  7. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    It was very useful when completing melodic dictation exercises at A level and uni, but is quite annoying sometimes. My brain can just about cope with playing a Bb instrument but when I played tenor horn for a while I found myself having to mentally transpose everything because what was coming out of the instrument was so far removed from what was on the page- not sure if that makes sense but that's the best way I can describe it!
  8. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    I think this highlights the vagueness of the whole area. I do actually know people who have been affected, Similarly I also know people who seem to have a partial perfect pitch in that they can identify some notes and not others . . . . .

    Is anyone aware of any definitive research on the area? I've not seen any.
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I agree 100%. I've known a few people over the years who had 'perfect' pitch and suffered because of the varying nature of pitch and harmonic texture in all forms of music. Good awareness of intonation in the context of the music is important, especially in certain types of modal music (as stated by Mike).
  10. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    I'm still a bit confused about the whole perfect pitch thing...

    I have known people who claimed to have perfect pitch and sure enough they can sing an A before it's verified as spot on tuning with the piano. But today most pianos would be tuned around about A = 440 but this hasn't always been the standard. Therefore, those that claim they can sing an A today would actually be singing an Ab if they had lived 200 years ago. So, the idea that someone is 'born' with this in-built pitch of A = 440 just can't be true can it?

    I do think that those babies/children that are exposed to music very early can grow up to be able to identify pitches to which our own particular generation has labelled as an 'A' but the idea that the same note is ALWAYS 440 just isn't true...

    In the same way, I think that musicians who are very familiar with a certain instrument i.e Bb trumpet, will be able to tell you what note is being played if someone else was in the next room playing that same instrument. But isn't this more about familiarity with the different pitch colours rather than any god given 'perfect pitch'. In this case for instance, it will be that the note which the trumpet player names as written C (which is a Bb in 'concert' pitch) but which would have been an A natural concert 200 years ago and which may be the standard for B natural concert in 100 years from now?).

    So, the questions I have are:

    1) is 'perfect pitch' just a familiarity with individual uniqueness of pitch colour (regardless of what note label we give it)
    2) is the uniqueness the same for everyone?
    3) can the ear be taught to recognise this uniqueness through excersies?
    4) is there a cut of point whereby the ear/brain loses this ability to hear the colour of the note if it's not developed early?
  11. jezza23361

    jezza23361 Member

    I have always wondered about perfect/absolute pitch. My (non-musical instrument playing) brother seems to have it - and doesn't need it - annoyingly. If he starts humming, whistling or singing any piece or song it is always in the exact key of the original. Ask him to sing you the theme of any TV programme or well known tune and it is in the correct pitch.

    Very annoying. However - other people I have known who have it say it as much a burden as benefit as they are unable to play with others who are out of tune - or stand it when there are tuning issues.

  12. worzel

    worzel Member

    But intonation is as much a relative pitch issue as an absolute one.
  13. worzel

    worzel Member

    That's very interesting. What about if the band is tuned slightly flat or sharp? Can you hear that too, and does that bother you? If you started on a flat C, say, and had to sing a perfect fifth, would your ear take you to a slightly flat G, or to the G you just know is a fifth above C?
  14. worzel

    worzel Member

    It must be, surely. The labels, and 440 rather than, say, 438, is purely arbitrary, as you say.

    Supposedly it is like the colours of the rainbow, with each gradually fading into the next, with the points labelled 'A', etc, being no more note worthy (ha ha) than the names of the colours of the rainbow. I'm not so convinced of the complete arbitrariness of the colours of the rainbow, though, because they do correspond with the way our eyes work using red, green, and blue cones (slight simplification). But to what extent we actually have the same experience for the same stimulus is largely philosophical.
  15. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    Good question! I'd sing a perfect 5th above what I'd actually heard. It does bother me slightly if it's particuarly flat or sharp, but not massively. I know what any note is when I hear it, but not in the extremes some people have mentioned where A has to be 440. I think Simon's right by suggesting that perfect pitch is probably familiarity with a unique pitch colour. Not sure how I got it, though I have been playing piano since I was 4 and was exposed to music in the womb as my Mum is a Music teacher too.
  16. worzel

    worzel Member

    That all sounds in according with what I've heard and wouldn't put me off wanting perfect pitch. If I could be like you and actually perceive the correct pitch for a written note then I'd make the effort to get used to music in Eb (as it is just a case of you being used to concert pitch notation, presumably). Being able to read it and hear it in your head how it should sound must make hitting the right notes so much easier, surely.
  17. worzel

    worzel Member

    So, katieeuph, here's another questions for you and your perfect pitch. Does a tune sound essentially the same to you whatever the key or does your sense of absolute pitch get in the way?
  18. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    I've read every post on this thread and I haven't laughed once....
  19. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    I prefer tunes in Db major, if that's any help!
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Personally, I like cherry menthol tunes. :rolleyes: Seriously though, it was thought I had perfect pitch when I was younger and was only tested after I had played brass for a couple of years. For some reason, I was always a semitone flat when identifying specific notes. Can anyone explain that?

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