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Guillem82

Is Absolute Pitch a born quality, or it can be developed by practicing?

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Posted (edited)

Hi everybody,

It happends to me more and more often that I think of a melody or a chord, then I switch my keyboard on and my fingers find the right key without any reference. 

I always though Absolute Pitch is a born quality of a few people, but from my experience I'm changing my mind. If one think there are 12 half-tones in one octave, the probability of singing a note without a reference would be 1/12, thats something around 8%, but it happends to me much more often than that...

What do you think? Is it maybe a quality one born with, but it has to be developed from playing an instrument, singing in a choir or any kind of music practice?

I'd like to know people's experience of point of view about that. 

Edited by Guillem82

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I've only ever met one person who truly had absolute pitch.

Most people who supposedly get there through practice really just have a strong sense of relative pitch.

What you're describing isn't absolute pitch, either. The real test is if after hearing something only once, you can identify all the notes correctly without having to touch an instrument yourself. 

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Wake up tomorrow morning. Can you sing D4? Then maybe. Most online perfect pitch tests are stupid because it's bunch of notes one after the other, when the first one is the real one that matters the most.

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Yes, I think I'm far from absolute pitch. Probably I have just develop some relative pitch by practicing.

Thanks for sharing you point of view!

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On 7/2/2020 at 11:58 PM, Guillem82 said:

It happends to me more and more often that I think of a melody or a chord, then I switch my keyboard on and my fingers find the right key without any reference. 

This is called a well-trained relative-pitch ear. Perfect pitch is a mutation, funny enough, and it's theorized that the majority of composers didn't actually have it. In my experience, I'll take well trained relative-ear musicians any day over perfect pitch people. Unless they can work "around" it, it's sometimes really bothersome since they tend to miss the forest for the trees.

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I have perfect pitch, and I kind of agree with Rick Beato's theory that it comes from listening to a lot of music from an early age. The earliest age I can remember listening to music was at about 4, and it was mostly Mozart, Bizet, Beethoven, Bach, and Tchaikovsky, though it's possible that I have been listening before then. I don't know if that's what Rick Beato would call "complex" music, though (definitely not compared to the chromatic improvisation guy he was showing), but I only started playing music when I was 8, so I guess by his standards it was somewhat late to discover this ability. So I'm not sure I can exactly vouch for very early music training as the cause for perfect pitch.

I also remember playing Petzold's/Bach's Minuet in G on the piano before I knew how to read music, and I learned to play it by ear, and I'm guessing this was when I was about 6-7. At the time I didn't know that notes actually had names yet, so I guess I already had it by then.

Out of curiosity, @SSC, would you mind giving some examples of the "majority" composers who didn't have perfect pitch? I know that supposedly Brahms didn't have it, but I'm interested if any other major composers apparently lacked it.

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For perfect pitch you need to have standard tunning (A = 440). some orchestras are setting higher. How do the perfect pitches deal with this situation? lately it has 432 hertz popularity, Can those who have the perfect pitch listen to music other than their tunning? 

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Absolute pitch is linked to chromosome 8 (8q24.21).

I don't think an adult can develop perfect pitch if he/she has not that mutation.

Surely many people don't realize the have perfect pitch until they are adults. I am daltonic and I didn't realize until the age of 20. 

 

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I have had a sort of absolute pitch, and lost it several times, but it was nothing but a reference in my mind, let's say I used to play in my head the beginning of Carmina Burana and always get a perfect D, using that D I could know what note I was hearing, years later I lost that reference, then I got a new one, playing in my head the beginning of Alpensinfonie and always get a perfect Bb, again, after the years I lost it.

What I've always had is the relative pitch, that works very fine for me.

Maybe if you wake up always with the same ringtone, you'll write that tone in your head 🙂

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On 7/7/2020 at 6:05 PM, Theodore Servin said:

Out of curiosity, @SSC, would you mind giving some examples of the "majority" composers who didn't have perfect pitch? I know that supposedly Brahms didn't have it, but I'm interested if any other major composers apparently lacked it.

I think it comes down to this:

On 7/7/2020 at 8:41 PM, Luis Hernández said:

Absolute pitch is linked to chromosome 8 (8q24.21).

and considering its statistical distribution, it's pretty easy to theorize that most people won't have that mutation, including composers! That's where that theory comes from. Now, we can't know for sure about composers from long ago (besides it being unlikely for the aforementioned reason,) but according to Nicolas Slominsky (Lectionary of Music): Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin didn't have perfect pitch. I don't actually know how this dude can be sure, but again, it's also something we had discussed in my musicology seminar a few times.

 

To a composer, I think, it's much much more important to have a really good relative ear (and inner ear) than perfect pitch. A good enough relative ear is almost indistinguishable from perfect pitch, at least in my experience. My composition professors didn't have perfect pitch, and in fact I know very few composers personally who actually do, and yet the stuff I've seen them do would indicate otherwise!

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All that study does is point out a problem with people with perfect pitch. It actually starts out stating that "About one out of 10000 people has absolute pitch." It's a real thing, it's just too romanticized and not really important if you're studying properly anyway, which is what I think you're trying to get at.

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1 hour ago, ★ NET1™💋 said:

Its a MYTH ...................

It doesnt exist in the Real World x

Yes... yes, it really does exist.

1 hour ago, SSC said:

Nicolas Slominsky (Lectionary of Music): Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin didn't have perfect pitch. I don't actually know how this dude can be sure, but again, it's also something we had discussed in my musicology seminar a few times.

Somehow, I have a hard time believing that Tchaikovsky didn't have perfect pitch, but whatever.

1 hour ago, SSC said:

and considering its statistical distribution, it's pretty easy to theorize that most people won't have that mutation, including composers! That's where that theory comes from.

I suppose you are right. They way I always saw it is that since both the number of composer and the number of people with perfect pitch is so small (at least compared with the rest of the world population), I assumed that a lot of those composers would have it. I guess I thought that there are more people with perfect pitch than there are composers, but you seem to say that it's the other way around! Or, at least, it's more complicated than that.

On 7/7/2020 at 12:58 PM, ClasiCompose said:

For perfect pitch you need to have standard tunning (A = 440). some orchestras are setting higher. How do the perfect pitches deal with this situation? lately it has 432 hertz popularity, Can those who have the perfect pitch listen to music other than their tunning? 

Personally, when I hear a piece that's performed in A=432 hz, I can still tell what key it's in, and can identify all the notes. However, when I hear a piece that's in "Baroque tuning" (really, just tuning it down a half-step), I have to understand that the piece has been tuned that way already, in order to identify the key. Also, there are times when I listen to an old recording of a piece, especially from a old film, and unless I actually have the original score for the music, I can only guess they key based on the A=440 or 432 method (though often times, it turns out that the recording is a half-step higher 🤔).

Take this recording, for example:

Since it's a score video, you have the notes in front of you, and thus you would assume that the audio would match the notes in frequency. But here, this is not the case: the recording (for some reason) is actually tuned a half-step LOWER. Thus, if you didn't have perfect pitch (to 440 or 432 hz), you would have no way of knowing that the tuning is off.

 

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6 hours ago, Theodore Servin said:

Personally, when I hear a piece that's performed in A=432 hz, I can still tell what key it's in, and can identify all the notes. However, when I hear a piece that's in "Baroque tuning" (really, just tuning it down a half-step), I have to understand that the piece has been tuned that way already, in order to identify the key. Also, there are times when I listen to an old recording of a piece, especially from a old film, and unless I actually have the original score for the music, I can only guess they key based on the A=440 or 432 method (though often times, it turns out that the recording is a half-step higher 🤔).

Take this recording, for example:

Since it's a score video, you have the notes in front of you, and thus you would assume that the audio would match the notes in frequency. But here, this is not the case: the recording (for some reason) is actually tuned a half-step LOWER. Thus, if you didn't have perfect pitch (to 440 or 432 hz), you would have no way of knowing that the tuning is off.

Thank you theodore for your answer. So does this disturb you? For example, if you lived in baroque period, it would not be a standard pitch. Example: You live in city A and pitch A = 430. You are going to city B harpsichord pitch A = 420. how much would this disturb you? and would it make it harder for you to play?  
You play the piano well, for example, if you want to learn violin now, do small slip make it difficult for you to learn? (I don't know if your playing the violin.)Do the fretless instruments intonation losses in the records disturb you? can you hear them very easily?

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32 minutes ago, ClasiCompose said:

Thank you theodore for your answer. So does this disturb you? For example, if you lived in baroque period, it would not be a standard pitch. Example: You live in city A and pitch A = 430. You are going to city B harpsichord pitch A = 420. how much would this disturb you? and would it make it harder for you to play?  
You play the piano well, for example, if you want to learn violin now, do small slip make it difficult for you to learn? (I don't know if your playing the violin.)Do the fretless instruments intonation losses in the records disturb you? can you hear them very easily?

I think if I lived in the Baroque era, I would have a different sense for pitch than I do now. That said, this is more of a theoretical question: whether I play on a keyboard or a string instrument, whether I'm in the present or the past, if I'm a good performer, I would play the notes based on muscle memory, rather than by ear, because when it comes to performing, I would play what I practiced regardless of the frequency.

However, if somehow modern me were transported back to the early 1700s, and I only listened to music rather than performed music, then it would probably have a strange effect on me, hearing so many different tunings. Obviously, I'm more accustomed to the modern centralized standard tuning system, so hearing everybody playing at a different tuning would probably be confusing for me, if I did not have access to a score. (On the other hand, though, if I knew the piece that they were playing, I would know roughly how much different the tuning is.)

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Posted (edited)
On 7/13/2020 at 2:49 AM, Theodore Servin said:

I think if I lived in the Baroque era, I would have a different sense for pitch than I do now. That said, this is more of a theoretical question: whether I play on a keyboard or a string instrument, whether I'm in the present or the past, if I'm a good performer, I would play the notes based on muscle memory, rather than by ear, because when it comes to performing, I would play what I practiced regardless of the frequency.

However, if somehow modern me were transported back to the early 1700s, and I only listened to music rather than performed music, then it would probably have a strange effect on me, hearing so many different tunings. Obviously, I'm more accustomed to the modern ac market centralized standard tuning system, so hearing everybody playing at a different tuning would probably be confusing for me, if I did not have access to a score. (On the other hand, though, if I knew the piece that they were playing, I would know roughly how much different the tuning is.)

 

i agree with you, i have same experience.

Edited by DevKS

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When I compose I check the key of the melodies I come up with to an A=440 tuning fork.  Somehow I always tend to compose in the same few simple keys such as D minor, A minor, E minor, G, and C.  I rarely stumble upon more complicated keys with a higher number of sharps or flats unless I transpose my whole piece up or down a half step.  And I don't know why since I don't think I have perfect pitch.  Maybe I hear music performed on TV or on the radio very often in those keys and simply stay in that same key in my inner ear?

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