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Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?

Mrrzy 08 May 00 - 09:17 PM
Clinton Hammond2 08 May 00 - 09:23 PM
Mrrzy 08 May 00 - 09:25 PM
Clinton Hammond2 08 May 00 - 09:28 PM
Mrrzy 08 May 00 - 09:33 PM
Clinton Hammond2 08 May 00 - 09:38 PM
Chocolate Pi 08 May 00 - 09:45 PM
Brendy 08 May 00 - 09:59 PM
Callie 08 May 00 - 10:13 PM
Brendy 08 May 00 - 10:23 PM
bbelle 08 May 00 - 10:47 PM
Night Owl 08 May 00 - 10:54 PM
bbelle 08 May 00 - 11:02 PM
Sorcha 08 May 00 - 11:22 PM
Brendy 08 May 00 - 11:25 PM
rangeroger 09 May 00 - 12:28 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 09 May 00 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 09 May 00 - 09:23 AM
Peg 09 May 00 - 10:29 AM
MMario 09 May 00 - 10:51 AM
Rick Fielding 09 May 00 - 11:13 AM
Grab 09 May 00 - 12:06 PM
Liz the Squeak 09 May 00 - 12:13 PM
Mooh 09 May 00 - 12:42 PM
GUEST,Cara 09 May 00 - 02:29 PM
Richard Bridge 09 May 00 - 03:42 PM
GUEST,Nick Jones 09 May 00 - 04:20 PM
GUEST,Mrr 09 May 00 - 04:44 PM
GUEST,moonchildatwork 09 May 00 - 04:53 PM
Uncle_DaveO 09 May 00 - 05:10 PM
DADGBE 09 May 00 - 05:54 PM
GUEST,Rex Kirkland 09 May 00 - 10:03 PM
bbelle 09 May 00 - 10:07 PM
Crowhugger 09 May 00 - 11:24 PM
kendall 10 May 00 - 07:56 AM
Brendy 10 May 00 - 08:18 PM
Murray MacLeod 21 Jan 02 - 05:22 PM
Don Firth 21 Jan 02 - 08:07 PM
Deckman 21 Jan 02 - 10:39 PM
DonMeixner 21 Jan 02 - 11:22 PM
Deckman 22 Jan 02 - 02:02 AM
Kaleea 22 Jan 02 - 02:16 AM
pavane 22 Jan 02 - 07:52 AM
Murray MacLeod 22 Jan 02 - 08:03 AM
Don Firth 22 Jan 02 - 12:54 PM
M.Ted 22 Jan 02 - 01:21 PM
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Subject: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:17 PM

My mom is so tone-deaf she literally (I've tested this) cannot tell you which of 2 consecutive tones is higher. She loves opera and sings along. My oldest sister can hearwhich note is higher, but sings just like our mom - randomly. Her daughters didn't seem to be able to carry a tune in a picnic basket, but the younger one has just been "diagnosed" as having perfect pitch. She's now a gifted middle school oboist. Turns out she was singing exactly what she was hearing - her mother singing to her, randomly.

This made me wonder if perfect pitch might not be more common and less reported than thought. I know what I read in the media, but what's your experience?


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:23 PM

There's a difference between Perfect Pitch (which near as I can tell is a right pain in the ass... The people I've know with perfect pitch are the same people who sit in the audience and complain that the fiddle 3rd from the left in the second row is 2.5 cents off Concert pitch.... Most humans can't even hear that difference.... )
Vs. Tonal Memory... that ability to recall with a better than fair degree of accuracy what a givin note sounds like.... As one of these people "What note is this?", and pluck a guitar string or sing it, and they listen as say "Oh... that's C#...." Or whatever...

And from what I understasnd, a lot of people mistakenly call Tonal Memory, Perfect Pitch...

Just my 0.02...

{~`


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:25 PM

Right, but she really apparently has perfect pitch. She ALSO has the ability to repeat what she hears, which I do too, but I don't have the ability to get there first, which she apparently (mutant that she is) can. It boggles.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:28 PM

I wouldn't want to have perfect pitch and be a folk musician!! LOL!!! The 2 don't really seem to go hand in hand!

{~`


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:33 PM

You want entertainment, I give you Mom singing along with the opera! She doesn't even speak Italian...


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:38 PM

LOL!!!

Sounds like an improvement on opera, to me!!

LOL!!

{~`


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Chocolate Pi
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:45 PM

My mom has perfect pitch; gets upset with early music ensembles tuned differently, goes mad when my brother and sister and I are all practicing at once in different parts of the house and she has to yell at all of us.
None of the three of us got whatever genetic component exists, although we've all had enough musical training to fill in the nurture part. sigh. I suppose it would be a hindrance in Sacred Harp, though, so it's a good thing I didn't end up with perfect pitch.

Chocolate Pi


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Brendy
Date: 08 May 00 - 09:59 PM

Yeah, nice one Mrrzy - doesn't even know Italian!!!

I've got it. I think I've always had it. I have never never been 'diagnosed' or anything, but I can give you an A, or a G# (or is that Ab??), and I don't think I give out about the second fiddle from the right....hold on, yes I do.

I'll tell you what's worse IMO. It's those really SPECIAL nights when it won't work; in fact nothing works. Somebody on a tin whistle blows you an 'A', and for the life of you you can't tune that guitar. It always sounds flat or a little sharp, or whatever. 10 minutes later, as the box player waffles on about something to the audience trying to cover for me, I'm fighting off the onset of PANIC, big time, while I'm convinced that my axe is out of tune. I don't trust tuners, and when I do use them, the guitar always sounds out of tune.

Is this normal, or am I really from the planet Zog?

It's nice to have PP, but I get the same sort of feeling as you get when somebody scccccrrrrapes their nails down a blackboard (not quite as bad), and I'm sorry, it pisses me off every time.

You don't have to have PP to be able to keep an instrument in tune. As a musician, it's your job. PP, to me, is just a thing I do at parties to score with the babes LOL


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Callie
Date: 08 May 00 - 10:13 PM

Hi Brendy, long time no hear!

Well folks, I don't have perfect pitch, but I can pitch most notes by singing the LOWEST note I can manage (which is a low F) and then moving up from there. Usually pretty accurate, unless I've been singing for an entire weekend and my bottom range drops out.

What I find very interesting is that often my group tries a song in a different key (to make it less screechy for the soprano for instance) but we can't do it because the original key is in our heads. And it seems too difficult to read a "D" on the stave and sing a "C" because, knowing our own voices very well, we know quite well what shape a "D" makes on our vocal chords etc.

I don't quite understand the guitar tuning thing. A mystery. Some nights it comes naturally, and other nights even the electronic tuner sounds off. trying to keep the guitar in tune outdoors is a constant problem, but sometimes even indoor tuning is impossible. Dunno why.

--Callie


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Brendy
Date: 08 May 00 - 10:23 PM

Maybe you're from Zog too, then Cal

When I tell people that I experience the extremes of PP, some of them gently smile and say nice things to me.
I think most musicians suffer from the 'tone deaf' syndrome at some time(s). It STILL doesn't solve the problem for me even if a roadie tunes it. It must be in the mind somewhere. It can be so annoying when it happens, because you KNOW the thing is tuned; tuners and roadies confirm this, but it ain't 'right' until you 'make' it right.

And before you ask: No, I didn't have a deprived childhood.

B.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: bbelle
Date: 08 May 00 - 10:47 PM

Perfect pitch is physiological, not acquired. You're born with it. Relative pitch is acquired and being able to sing a middle C and working up or down from there. What one does with perfect pitch is another thing altogether. Knowing how to sing or play an instrument and having perfect pitch do not always go hand-in-hand. I have relative pitch, which needs to be practiced to keep the "pitch." The bane of my existence in college was my 7 AM music theory class with a professor who had perfect pitch. It was nothing for him to walk into the classroom and point to someone and say ... Mr. Jones sing me an Aflat in Bflat minor ..." moonchild


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Night Owl
Date: 08 May 00 - 10:54 PM

Brendy and Callie....we had an excellent thread a while ago about tuning guitars...which explained some of the problems, including getting the guitar in tune with itself. Put "Towards Better Guitar Tuning" in Forum Search and click Go.... (still working on blue clicky thingies....sorry I can't click you there!!!) One of the posts answered my own frustrations with never being able to easily tune the D string to my liking.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: bbelle
Date: 08 May 00 - 11:02 PM

For a hundred years, I tuned my guitar by ear and it was always in tune with other guitars, but I always had trouble with the D string. Theoretically, it would be in tune, but it sounded "funny" to my ear. Now that I have a digital tuner, I still have the same problem. There must be a reason .... moonchild


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Sorcha
Date: 08 May 00 - 11:22 PM

I do indeed know what you are saying aboyt tuning!! Happens with fiddles, too. In my group, we call it "waking up with a boad sound in your ears". None of has PP,RP,TM, or any of that stuff, so we just try hard to ignote it.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Brendy
Date: 08 May 00 - 11:25 PM

That's why I wonder what this PP is all about, moonchild. Singing an Ab in Bbm involves more than PP. It also requires a grounding in theory, and there are people who can do that without realising that they are doing it, if you know what I mean. So I don't necessarily think that PP is acquired, either. I think it is a bit like a 6th sense; you either have it or not.

999 times out of 1000 I can tune the guitars to themselves; some of them can be tuned to different scales and different keys, and hold a conversation about nuclear physics at the same time, and I don't think I use one as a reference point to tune the other and so forth. As far as 'remembering the note' is concerned, we probably do do that. But remembering a frequency is a lot different from remembering what happened on holidays last year

I don't know, it puzzles me, or rather the definitions do.
Many theories abound, and one gets trashed when some newer, more 'exiting' hypothesis turns up. I go with the 6th sense one (it works every time *BG*)

B.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: rangeroger
Date: 09 May 00 - 12:28 AM

One of the most amazing stories I,ve heard about perfect pitch had to do with Ella Fitzgerald. Remember those Memorex commercials? Apparently a technician would test the glass and determine at what pitch the glass would break.He would tell Ella the note and she would sing it.3 glasses broken,each on the first try.
rr


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 09 May 00 - 12:43 AM

Back to the origional question as to how common Perfect Pitch is. I seem to remember reading some article a few years back which postulated that the peoples using a language which was tonal in nature, ie Chinese, Japanese, etc, seemed to have a incidence of people with Perfect Pitch than cultures which like English or French uses a non-tonal language. Don't remember where I read it.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 09 May 00 - 09:23 AM

Firstly I am most grateful to Clinton Hammond who made the distinction between perfect pitch (a curse) and tonal memory. That's a great term! That is what I have and it's what I taught my oldest daughter, who also has it, to make use of; she told me once that she was so familiar with her tape of CATS that she could start it playing in her room, walk out to the barn, do chores, walk back in and be singing along with the right song in the right key. I said OK, sing me the first note of Memory-- and she did-- and I said Congratulations you have perfect pitch, that note is a C and now you can identify any note on the keyboard. She's used that trick a lot since that time. Re: tuning guitars, every time I am with a bunch of people and can hear every out of tune note in my buddy's guitar and think mine sounds Just Fine Thanks, I mutter that passage in the Gospels (Matthew?) "you hypocrite, you want to pluck the mote out of your brother's eye and you can't see the beam in your own" and try to tune mine a little better


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Peg
Date: 09 May 00 - 10:29 AM

yes, good point about thw difference between tonal memory and perfect pitch. I have known a couple child prodigies with perfect pitch; very cool! But as Clinton said, a pain in the ass, too...

I have excellent tonal memory (can pull a note out of the air if it is something I have sung or heard before--partly brain memory and partly, if it is something I have sung, the memory in the throat muscles) but not perfect pitch...though some have mistakenly called it that when they saw I was able to recall the starting note of something so we could remember what key to play in...

peg


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: MMario
Date: 09 May 00 - 10:51 AM

then you have the poor suckers like unto myself. I can remember a tune, and the relative pitches of the notes, but god help me, I have a HORRIBLE time hitting that first note....but can sing the song correctly RELATIVE to the first note


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 May 00 - 11:13 AM

Great thread. I've worked with players who have perfect pitch (as opposed to tonal memory) and it's scary. When they are around fixed pitch instruments (like concertinas and melodeons) you can just imagine them cringing!

If you want to try a simple little experiment that might surprise you, do this. Pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone...it's "F". Before you pick it up again, hum what you think is that "F" note..see how close you were. Do that about 20 times and see if you get closer and closer to being exactly in tune with it.

I certainly don't have what would be called "perfect pitch" (not in the way that Mozart or Chrysler were credited) but in a period of a couple of weeks I trained myself to hit that "F", spot on. From that, I can certainly hum or sing any other note...but I have to sing (aloud) the "F" first.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Grab
Date: 09 May 00 - 12:06 PM

Re Brendy, I think it may be due to the hand position/pressure at that particular time. If you're pressing the string down slightly harder, or pulling up the neck slightly, that'll change the pitch enough for you to think "That's not right", especially on higher frets. Stranger than this is a friend's electric - unplugged it's impossible to tune, but when it's plugged in then it tunes easily. I can only guess that there's odd overtones which don't come through the amp.

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 09 May 00 - 12:13 PM

Torture to a person with perfect pitch is getting the piano tuner in, I have to leave the house, preferably the county!

I'm a strange sort of person who can tell if it is sharp or flat (a whole CD of one of the worlds' [supposedly] best choirs we play in church is almost entirely all 1/4 of a tone sharp, eeeeeeek), but I can't tell you if it is a B or a C, but I can remember a tune and hum the greater part of it back - does this make me very strange??

LTS


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Mooh
Date: 09 May 00 - 12:42 PM

I don't have perfect pitch and don't care. I do however have very good tonal memory and this I am very grateful for. I can tune a guitar well by a sort of averaging system (does this have a name?) based on the idea that a guitar is rarely (if ever) in perfect tune, but has some good sorta tonal centres.

Some of what my Dad taught me as a child about pitch is slowly sinking in, thirty years later, and that's all about pitch being relative.

My experience is that musicians don't need perfect pitch, and shouldn't concern themselves with it, but should work hard on ear training so that relative pitches (in things like chord construction and interval leaps) become easy to figure out.

As an aside to this thread, I have found that since using an electronic tuner to tune I've become fussier about pitch, not lazier, since the precision of the tuner doesn't allow me to start inexactly. I never wanted an electronic tuner until I got exasperated by stage noise and too little time to tune too many instruments, and for quickly altering tunings on stage (and not keeping others waiting) it can't be beat.

I wonder with the advent of digital recording and more exact recorded pitches in broadcasted music whether there is a mass pitch education going on in the population, subliminally.

Interesting discussion, thanks.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: GUEST,Cara
Date: 09 May 00 - 02:29 PM

Could someone explain TM better please? Pete's example of his daughter's TM sounds like me. I worked in a bar with several different musicians playing their own versions of the same songs, and I still know who sang it which way down to the letter (or note, if you will). I think I can remember the first notes of all of the songs/tunes I know "out of the air" as you say, but I have no training or theory and so maybe I'm wrong. When I'm singing them, no one ever corrects my pitch, but maybe they don't know either. I used to have a collection of mix tapes made for me by friends, and I could sing every word and note straight through, and still can. I've always just assumed I'm a good mimic, and that everyone has the ability to remenmber this stuff and hold on to it, but am I wrong? How do you know if you have TM or PP?


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 09 May 00 - 03:42 PM

Wasn't there another thread about this a couple of months back? And did we not conclude that there could not in fact be such a thing as "perfect" pitch because the pitch of a given note is only a matter of convention - (hence the difficulty with medieval orchestras mentioned above)? If "perfect" was really "perfect" and Beethoven had it then, then someone who ahd "perfect pitch" now and pitched a Beethoven thing perfectly, would be almost but not precisely a semitone sharp (to Beethoven, if he was alive and listening). WHich is why my wife can cheat to avoid playing things in say F sharp on a recorder by using one in Medieval pitch and playing in G (and opening the middle joint about a thumbnail)


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: GUEST,Nick Jones
Date: 09 May 00 - 04:20 PM

David L.Burge did a whole series of cassettes some years ago that teach you PP and relative pitch. I got these sent from America and it took me about 9 months to complete the course, very intensive!! I already had a good sense of RP and it just improved everything, although I made some headway with the PP part of the course, I got bored in the end, but believe me PP can be learnt. If anyone out there wants to give it a try the whole course (22 cassettes plus books) is for sale, make me an offer! (it cost me about £200)......


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: GUEST,Mrr
Date: 09 May 00 - 04:44 PM

The issue of tonal memory, a new term to me, is also interesting. I also can do what MMario describes - sing along relatively - which can be strange. I remember (back before acquiring any kind of pitch at all) singing along with something that sounded fine to me and having a cousin wince and say that Mom, at least, sings randomly, and that is easier to listen to than what I was doing, which was singing each note exactly correctly relative to each other, but off somehow from what the singer was doing. The amount to which I was off was slight, and completely uniformly consistent.
Then I got into a musical crowd who taught me (by wincing) to hear when I was off, then I got to being able to correct it, and now I can sing and they don't wince (and no, they aren't being polite, they aren't that kind of friend, thank you!). But sometimes I'll start something, get half-way through a verse and realize that the note coming up doesn't exist and I have to start over.
And I go completely off track if anyone I am singing WITH tries to do harmony or anything, as I cannot stop myself from trying to follow. Allan C has experienced that!


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: GUEST,moonchildatwork
Date: 09 May 00 - 04:53 PM

I didn't say perfect pitch was acquired ... it isn't ... you're born with it. I've never thought of it as being an extra "sense," but that may go a long way in explaining the phenomenom. I love the analogy to the F in the phone dial pitch. I'm going to try that. Like I said earlier, relative pitch has to be practiced. Regarding my theory professor ... he was a prodigy. Good thread, all ... moonchild


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 09 May 00 - 05:10 PM

The Burge Perfect Pitch course is still around. Indeed, my classical-musician wife is currently going through it, and she's thrilled! I'd say she's been working on it for about a month.

And no, Perfect Pitch is not just a higher degree of relative pitch, and picking the right heredity is not the only way to it (if you want it). It CAN be trained, but from observing my Beatiful Talented Wife work at it I don't think I'd be tempted to try.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: DADGBE
Date: 09 May 00 - 05:54 PM

After hanging out with both classical and folk musicians for the best part of 50 years, true perfect pitch seems quite rare. Tonal memory, on the other hand is improved with practice and can get good enough to mimic true P-P fairly well.
Around our house, perfect pitch has long been defined as: the result of throwing an accordion into a dumpster and having it land on a banjo.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: GUEST,Rex Kirkland
Date: 09 May 00 - 10:03 PM

This whole discussion is fascinating to me. I don't have perfect pitch, but I have a question for those who do. In studying musical scales, instrument tuning, etc, I learned that there is a mathematical "irregularity" in the diatonic scale we commonly use in western music (maybe other scales too - I'm not sure about that) because of something called the "Pythagorean comma". A detailed explanation of it would be too complex to attempt to give here, but the effect of it is that, in order for different instruments to play together and to play in different keys, the tuning we actually use is a compromise called "even-tempered tuning", which is deliberately offset very slightly from "perfect" tuning.

For example, the frequency ratio corresponding to a perfect fifth interval is exactly 1.5. In other words, if an A is 440 Hz, the perfect fifth above it (E) would have a frequency of 660 Hz. At first impulse, it would appear that one could tune a piano perfectly by tuning one note to a reference such as a tuning fork, then sequentially tuning the other notes in perfect fifths and perfect octaves. However, if you actually do this you end up with a piano which is badly out of tune with itself. To compensate for this, piano tuners don't use the ratio of 1.5 for the fifth - they use a ratio very slightly less, about 1.4983, or to be exact, 2 to the power of 7/12.

The thrust of all this is that it is impossible to achieve truly perfect tuning on a piano, most wind instruments, or on fretted stringed instruments. You can tinker with the tuning on your guitar until one chord sounds perfect, then when you change chords, it will be out of tune to some extent, hopefully not enough to be irritating. String ensembles (unfretted instruments) and a capella singing groups (e.g. barbershop quartets) avoid this problem, because they are not confined to the even-tempered scale and can make tiny adjustments in pitch as needed to produce truly perfect close harmony, at least in theory.

Well, never mind all that. My question for those who have perfect pitch is: Does the compromise of even-tempered tuning cause problems for you when tuning an instrument, or when listening to an instrument or group of instruments, even though the players may have just gone through a meticulous tuning ritual, using the most modern electronic tuners available?


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: bbelle
Date: 09 May 00 - 10:07 PM

doesterr ... No ... perfect pitch is not acquired ... one is born with it and either you have it or you don't. If your wife does have perfect pitch, then she was born with it. Relative pitch can appear to be like perfect pitch, but it is not. It is an acquired talent and to be admired, for sure, some of the very best musicians, singers, etc., do not have even relative pitch ... moonchild


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 May 00 - 11:24 PM

GUEST,Rex,

...question for those who have perfect pitch is: Does the compromise of even-tempered tuning cause problems for you...

Here is sort of an answer; I say sort of because I don't have the ability to pick a particular note out of the air, so I don't have PP. But I do have the ability to distinguish between the natural scale and the even-tempered scale (often just called 'tempered scale'). And YES, IT IS HIGHLY IRRITATING (pardon the volume). I'm saving for a fretless banjo so I can hear at least one of them sound "right" with the voice (after about 20 years practice!). I love cello for its lack of frets among other things. I love voice and various drums for the same reason. Guitar, piano and all instruments with fixed intervals are evil necessities.

The important thing for me is not the precise frequency, but the interval. So the period instruments only bug me when they fall out of tune, not because they may be tuned to A410 or A-whatever-it-is-I-forget-right-now.

Yes, this is a wonderful thread. My tracer is really filling up lately. (Rex, if you join, you get to use Personal Page features like tracing threads for future reference, and no spam.)

There was a recent thread with links to excellent sites explaining the physics of acoustics etc., but I can't think of the name. Anyone remember?

Cheers all!
CH.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: kendall
Date: 10 May 00 - 07:56 AM

Last night I had a horrible nightmare...I dreamed I had a guitar with 6 B strings.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Brendy
Date: 10 May 00 - 08:18 PM

"Pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone...it's "F"."

Yes Rick, but pick up the phone while you are connected to the internet, or while you're sending a fax, and try the test again!!

I do believe, though, that there has to be some degree of recall in it, and as Clinton has said "Tonal Memory... that ability to recall with a better than fair degree of accuracy what a given note sounds like...."

The difference between 'a better than fair degree of accuracy' and 'spot on' is the difference.

Do you ever walk past a bakery when the ovens are opened?
Can you 'see' your mother calling you for breakfast, or hear a song on the radio?

The mind is a strange thing, my friends, and there is much that is not apparent about it.

And Grab. It has nothing whatsoever to do with that; I know what my 'problem' is - I go from 'perfect' to 'tone deaf'. Period.

B.


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 21 Jan 02 - 05:22 PM

I though this thread could stand refreshing, since Mrrzy has also opened a new one on tone deafness.

My view on this is that the term "Perfect Pitch" is a misnomer since pitch is simply a convention in the first place, and nobody is born with an internal piezo crystal vibrating at 440 HZ. I don't know what term could be substituted for it, however.

One of the musicians who frequents our local music Cafe is a classisally trained violinist from Albania and he tells me that as many as 50 to 60 percent of gypsies in Middle Europe are born with what we are accustomed to calling "Pefect Pitch".

Murray


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Jan 02 - 08:07 PM

Tones don't come out of the ether labelled "middle C" or "G#." A person might have a great ear for distinguishing pitches, but he or she would have to have at least some musical training or they wouldn't know what to call a particular note.

Much pertinent poop found here.

I knew a guy once who claimed he had to move to another rented apartment because the refrigerator hummed in D and the buses went by in Eb. He said it drove him nuts. I think he was related to the princess in The Princess and the Pea.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Jan 02 - 10:39 PM

Great thread ... thanx. My childhood friend was raised in a strong family of musicians. He was born with perfect pitch. He had a very successful career as a concert violinist and an orchestra conductor. As someone else commented, his sense of perfect pitch was almost a torture to him. I remember when I was about ten. He walked into our house when the vacumn was on. He said, "the vacumn is playing C sharp." He then walked to the piano and played C sharp. He was right, but of course, at the age of ten, he was already tuning pianos. I followed his career for over 45 years.

Rick, you talked about tuning the guitar to the note "F" on the telephone. Back in the days before I could afford a tuning fork, I did the same, except that here in Washington state, in the 1950's, the dial tone was "A"?

Another problem ... some years ago I developed tinnitus. Try tuning a guitar with a constant ringing in your ears. My standard line, as I hand my guitar to friends to tune for me is, "does this rining in my ears bother you?"

Good thread, thanx and cheers, Bob


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 21 Jan 02 - 11:22 PM

I don't have perfect pitch but I do have exact change and I have found that to be more usefull than perfect pitch.

I am willing to bet that when we are walking, driving, working, or just sitting about and most of us start to spontaneously sing, oh, "California Dreaming" it will be in the key that it is on the radio. Or perhaps in the key we are most familiar to hearing it in. Tonal memory?

Don


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Jan 02 - 02:02 AM

Another story, hopefully enjoyable, about my late friend Lauren and his perfect pitch. Where we grew up, it was expected that we would sing in the local Presbyterian Church choir. The fact that his Mother was the choir director had something to do with it. So we would dutifully show up Wednesday nights for choir rehersals, and every darned Sunday. It went fine until the Summer we discovered the music of Dave Brubeck ... and his flatted sixths! Lauren and I had more fun than wheels, listening to jazz, scoring all our music in these new jazz chords. The END CAME when finally we couldn't restrain ourselves, and sang the final "AMEN CHORUS" in a full volume, with a flatted sixth. It works, still sounds good to me today, but it shook the rafters of that little church something fierce!. Lauren's Mother, the choir director, knew instantly where to look. As I glared at the person standing on my left, and Lauren looked to the person standing on his right, we both knew we were in deep kaka!. For some reason, we were never allowed to sing in the choir again! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Kaleea
Date: 22 Jan 02 - 02:16 AM

Ah, yes, the subject which has caused innumerable cussins, ah, ...DIScussions which has caused many distingquished & illustrius experts to gravitate to barroom brawls. Perfect Pitch, as are time and space, is relevant. To whom and what, we are not sure. I do remember that I used to have a U.S.A. Armed Forces Hymnal which advised the shipman at sea to have the radio operator tune to a certain, now long forgotten, frequency to get approximately the note A @440ish. Do any of you 'catters remember this? In olden times, there was no precise tuning, A# and Bb being 2 separate tones, then J,S.Bach came along and...voila, we had 12 equal keys and a "Well Tempered Clavier!" In older cultures on our earth, we find quite interesting scales which are not what our western ears are accustomed to. There are 2 tones where we have 1 tone. These semi tones form vastly different sounds, and when we purchase an instrument such as a bamboo flute from far eastern non precise instrument making folks it sounds sort of minor, and "off", according to our ears. It is said that every tiny frequency of sound found in between our modern semi tones is a true tone somewhere to someone sometime. Perfect Pitch varies from one place to another, and I have heard that some of the top orchestras in these United States have adopted tunings as low as A = 435, which would make some of us run screaming for a comforting sound such as two penny nails scraping a chalkboard. Is one born with this alleged perfect pitch is the oft asked question. Some say yes, and others say no, and I say maybe your perfect pitch, while considered incorrect in Chicago, is absolutely correct in Vienna! Darn that ornery stork, he missed again! One can learn the alleged perfect pitch which is accepted in one's area, if one is willing to go to a perfectly tuned (accorcing to ones' area's notion of perfect) piano, say, 15 or 20 times per day and learn to match the pitch of, say, middle C, and continue to do this until one "remembers" the perfect middle C pitch (according to ones' area, as long as everyone in ones' area is agreeable to the alleged perfection!). Or perhaps we might prefer to cuss . . . ah, that is DIScuss it some more until we have forgetten what we are discussing. Djew want friez wif dat?


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: pavane
Date: 22 Jan 02 - 07:52 AM

Notes.

1. Pianos are not tuned either to 'natural' pitch or 'even tempered'. The sharp notes are deliberatly sharpened, and the bass notes deliberately flattened.

2. G# and Ab are 'enharmonic equivalents', only equal in even-tempered tuning. In reality, they are both wrong, and a compromise.

3. I would have thought that even tempered scales, in which the most basic interval, the Fifth (C to G) is flattened slightly, would upset anyone with 'perfect pitch.

From this, I would think that 'perfect pitch' is still learned, not inborn?


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 22 Jan 02 - 08:03 AM

kalleea, that is SO valid. I have no truck with anyone who takes the lofty "You have to be born with it , you can't learn it" view.

I used to go to a song circle where there were two "musicians" who insisted on joining in on every song whethere they knew the chords or not, and it really used to piss me off hearing all those wrong chords. One night I tuned my guitar exactly a quarter tone low. Caused no end of problems to the would be accompanists, but I didn't have any problem singing in tune a quarter tone below concert pitch.

(I later decided I was being too petty and didn't do it again)

Murray


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Jan 02 - 12:54 PM

A person with perfect pitch is usually characterized by their ability to name a note by no other clue than by just hearing the note. We are not born knowing that 440 cycles per second is called an "A." That has to be learned, and that's where at least a minimum of musical training is needed.

There are two essential ingredients: one, the ability to remember what a particular pitch sounds like; and two, knowing what to call that particular pitch. The first most probably comes from early exposure to lots and lots of music. The second is a matter of training.

I believe that genuine "tone-deafness" (inability to remember pitches or to distinguish between pitches despite at least some musical training) is something like color-blindness. But if a person who has never before paid much serious attention to singing or playing a musical instrument experiences difficulties at first in staying on pitch or in tuning their instrument, that doesn't mean they are inherently tone-deaf, it probably just indicates lack of experience. Keep pluggin' away. More than likely, it'll come in time.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Wondering: Is Perfect Pitch Common?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Jan 02 - 01:21 PM

I used to play with a guy who could name off-handedly name all the notes that you just played--and if you moved over a few frets and played the same lick, could name those--for a long time, I thought he just knew his fretboard well, and liked to show-off--then one day, I realized he was looking the other way--It was decidedly disturbing--


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