How to determine perfect pitch?

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ZeroZero
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Postby ZeroZero » Apr 13, 2013 12:12 am

Quentin,
I do like your explanation of perfect pitch particularly the signifiers bit, quite the best I have read anywhere, but It does leave me with a question.

I always thought that perfect pitch was useful because you could not only tell that the chord was say a dominant 7th, but you could also tell that it was a Bb dominant 7th t5his would mean you could jump in and play it whilst improvising.

You thoughts?

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Quentin
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Postby Quentin » Apr 15, 2013 5:18 am

Well, mastering both skills would definitely give you the ability to do that. However, what you gain mostly is time - those few seconds you need to find the first tone. In most situations, the key of the song would be agreed upon before starting to play.

My previous post was mainly to stress that relative pitch should be the first priority for learning musicians who sometimes get misled by the adjective "perfect" of perfect pitch. Perhaps we should all get used to always use the phrase "absolute pitch" instead.
- Because in Music, We're All Ears... -

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PoppysTurtle
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Re: How to determine perfect pitch?

Postby PoppysTurtle » Dec 15, 2019 7:20 pm

So, I have nothing I can add to the technical side of this conversation. I've seen some very enlightening responses. Thank you for those.

But here is what I might be able to add. My granddaughter is 4. Most kids are pretty cool with music as babies. Not this one. She seemed to have preferences since birth. What we could and couldn't play was pretty specific. But, babies, who knows, we never gave it much thought.

Fast forward to about 3. Shes been diagnosed as autistic and hyperlexic. I bought her a kids keyboard. She was already reading pretty well, so I labeled the keys for her. She had already started naming notes in solfage. I never imagined that she really knew what she was saying. But I noticed it and thought, well, that's interesting. Bare in mind, I have 0 musical ability. So, one day, she starts ripping the labels off of about 4 of her keys. Shes not a destructive kid, i couldn't make any sense of it. When i asked her, she kept going on about Fa So, no, Do Ti..blag blah..no clue, and she didn't have the words to explain what her problem with it was. I replaced the labels, she removed them immediately. Hrrm. Weird.

Then, she starts saying random notes in public. A handicap cart in Walmart backs up..she says So, So, So...wait, what? She said "The cart, it's going E,E,E". Uhhh...hrrm. So I decided, since she likes her instruments so much, I'll pick her up a decent keyboard. We get it, I labeled the keys, a duck in water, she loves it.

So, on a whim, I set her on the couch where she cant see me, and hit a key. "What note is that Turtle?" That's a C. Uhhh. Did it again. That's a G. Oh my....her old piano had notes out of tune. That's why she removed the labels. It explains her very specific musical palette. It explains quite a few odd things I had seen.

The point I'm attempting, ungracefully, to make is that she didnt learn the notes. She didn't memorize anything. She knew them. All I did was give her names to call the sounds that sound like all the other sounds that sound just like that one. So whatever aspect of absolute pitch you can learn has to be a different thing than what she was born with. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. And the fact that she can tell you the note of a bass drum as well as a kitchen timer. Any instrument, any sound, and then sing it back to you on this program with a microphone amazes me. So, good on you if it's something you can learn, but for her, it's an instinct, not a skill...

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Quentin
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Re: How to determine perfect pitch?

Postby Quentin » Dec 16, 2019 1:41 am

Thank you very much for sharing your first-hand experience with us!

Tunings have changed over the course of history, so note names have not always referred to the same exact frequencies. Therefore, I'm thinking that your granddaughter might have acquired a mental map of pitches very early on, based on the tuning of the music she has been exposed to. It's just a thought though.
- Because in Music, We're All Ears... -

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SomeGuyWithAName
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Re: How to determine perfect pitch?

Postby SomeGuyWithAName » Sep 23, 2020 7:28 pm

I'm not sure why some people are saying you need to have appropriately timed childhood training, but from my experience this is ridiculous. I was told I had perfect pitch by my uncle, who happened to be a piano instructor. This happened at 10 when I played an instrument for the first time. I was playing minesweeper while my cousin was playing Ode to Joy on the piano. She got up to do something and I had an inclination to try to play the piano. Apparently most people struggle but I replicated what I heard exactly within a matter of a few seconds. I just had to find the right key on the piano that matched the pitch I was hearing since I'd never played a piano before. Now to be fair the indicators were always there. I used to hum video game music on key from an early age. To this day, so long as I know the note names I can determine what note is being played. I simply associate a pitch with a name and remember that information. This allowed me to play a new instrument (tuba) by ear my senior year. I successfully improvised our marching band music since I did not know how to read for a tuba. My friends love to make me recreate impossibly hard piano pieces not suited for an untrained player lol. If only my lack of piano skill didn't limit me. I find though that I can recreate the music in my head and pick apart each individual note audibly at whatever pace suits me. As for making music, this has a tendency to have cons. I stray away from every sound that is slightly off pitch because it drives me nuts, so I tend to limit my options (with electronic music). When I place down chords electronically, I tend to gravitate towards less dissonant sounds (typically the most basic minor and major chords). I do really like dissonant tones though because the chaos creates a certain type of harmony my ear really likes. I usually informally produce these chords by luck. I am mostly an untrained musician (played baritone for 7 years) but I play piano, guitar, and bass by ear. I haven't given much thought to hz frequency tuning until recently, but it is all relative. Due to the numerous hz tunings utilized over time, I need a reference to be certain that I know the tuning, but given a series of notes, I can tell if any are slightly out of the relative hz interval of the other notes. It just sounds annoying to me. I currently tune to 432hz since I learned that this was the tuning for classical music, which I greatly enjoy for its complexity. I have since been able to recognize if something is tuned to 440hz or 432hz. My brain says that 440hz is sharp due to my acquired preference for the 432hz tuning. Before I thought of 432hz as being flat, but it always sounded better to me due to the tonal resonation or something hence why I tune to 432hz.
Last edited by SomeGuyWithAName on Sep 23, 2020 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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SomeGuyWithAName
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Re:

Postby SomeGuyWithAName » Sep 23, 2020 7:42 pm

Quentin wrote:
> You are talking of perfect pitch being a musical gift, but there is not
> much music about perfect pitch. Let me explain:
>
> Perfect Pitch is the ability to recognized isolated tones: a frequency is
> played, you identify it instantly without any musical context. BUT music
> starts when tones are combined to create melodies and harmonies, and it is
> that very relation between the tones that makes music, hence the importance
> of relative pitch skills (= identify and understand the relation between
> tones).
>
> This is also why music schools and other academic institutions only teach
> Relative Pitch. Being able to identify one single isolated tone (= Perfect
> Pitch) is undoubtedly a fancy gimmick, but it is not useful for music, and
> those artists you are mentioning had most likely a very developed sense of
> relative pitch, otherwise they would have had a hard time performing live
> and improvising with their musicians.
Those that actually possess perfect pitch such as myself seem to automatically possess skill in using relative pitch and such. Without training I was able to play along with anybody in any style of music so long as I had the skill with the utilized instrument to play with improvisation (by skill I mean having the ability to navigate the fret board or keys at a reasonable pace). This ability is probably why many people with perfect pitch are successful musicians. This isn't the case for all though. Some like me are extremely lazy and unmotivated to actualize our full musical potential so we make music from time to time and spend the rest gaming or something. I get random inspiration and motivation to create and throw a song together in like 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the mastering and mixing process.

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SomeGuyWithAName
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Re:

Postby SomeGuyWithAName » Sep 23, 2020 7:58 pm

ZeroZero wrote:
> Quentin,
> I do like your explanation of perfect pitch particularly the signifiers
> bit, quite the best I have read anywhere, but It does leave me with a
> question.
>
> I always thought that perfect pitch was useful because you could not only
> tell that the chord was say a dominant 7th, but you could also tell that it
> was a Bb dominant 7th t5his would mean you could jump in and play it whilst
> improvising.
>
> You thoughts?
That's merely an indicator of perfect pitch. You can usually tell who has it without having them learn 10 million arbitrary note names. We can do it by ear automatically. It just ends up sounding like a 7th, or a Bb dominant 7th T5 at that. Due to my lack of musical training I can tell that it is a standard major or minor 7th, and when dissonant tones are incorporated I just know that it is not a standard minor or major 7th and can tell what it is without a proper name for it per se. I just know that it is "that one minor 7th" or something lol. If I know the note names for the scales for whatever is being played I can tell you what key, note, and chord are being played. The distinction here is that it is my musical knowledge that prevents me from identifying the note(s) properly, not my inability to mentally identify said note(s). Perfect pitch is just a fancy party trick or useful tuning tool, but the associated relative pitch utilization abilities are what make those with it successful musicians.


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