A New Way To Think About Perfect Pitch

by Tim Redford, Dec 25, 2017 . 3 min read

A New Way To Think About Perfect Pitch

We’ve all heard about people with something they call “perfect pitch”. That’s the skill a person has when they’re able to identify or reproduce any note on the musical scale without having a reference.

As an example, check out this kid named Dylan while he flexes his talent. I can’t believe the speed his mind works at!

Perfect pitch also goes by the name “absolute pitch” and it’s a phenomenon that a slew of courses online are pitching as something you can train for. That would be the ultimate party trick and no doubt it would make us all better musicians and performers.

Real Life Superpowers

Unfortunately the hype falls flat. According to in depth studies, perfect pitch isn’t something that you can learn as a skill. It’s something that 1 in 10,000 people are born with and don’t have to practice to get good at. Some describe it as having a “knowing” of what a note is and what key a work is in just by hearing it. Instead of thinking of it as a skill it would be more accurate to call it a faculty that we either have or we don’t.

At the same time there is something real and achievable that these online courses are teaching. It’s something almost anyone can learn and it goes by a different name.

Relative Pitch

“Relative pitch” is what’s possible for most of us musicians, and if someone is really good at it, it may pass as perfect pitch to those who don’t know the difference. (I had no idea until I looked a little deeper)

It allows us to determine the notes being played relative to the intervals (steps between) notes already played. This helps instrumentalists play by ear and improvise, and allows vocalists to contextualize their melodies within a passage of music.

So yes in this case it’s possible to train your ability to have a much greater fluency in the language of pitch.

Famous Artists With Perfect Or Relative Pitch

You may recognize some or all of these names, let’s see who’s pitch is on point.

Perfect Pitch

Glenn Gould

Oscar Peterson

Yo Yo Ma

Beethoven

Bach

Mozart

Relative Pitch

Stravinsky

Bernstein

Charlie Parker

Brahms

John Coltrane

Wagner

Want To Take The Test?

I was so curious. I’ve always had a good sense of melody and music, maybe I have perfect pitch? Well, the test below cleared up any delusions of grandeur I may have had.

How well can you do?

And if you don’t have perfect pitch, at least you can have perfect tuning while you play by using the Roadie 2!



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