Perfect Pitch

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Branson, Sep 19, 2015.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    This is the kind of girl that we need to marry! In such an absolute world and has a sense of humor......

  2. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    51 years ago I married a Nurse, still get no sympathy if I am sick and a stickler for hygene.

    On topic, I do not have perfect pitch, I think a reasonable sense of relative pitch, my horn teacher some years ago would stop me in the middle of a piece and ask me to play an unrelated note, this I could do with reasonable success. I cannot hear a random note and tell what it is.

    Our Orchestra conductor will stop and ask a particular player to play their last note, he wili then tell them that they are sharp or flat as the case may be, I dont know if this is perfect pitch or the ability to hear a particular note in the chord out of tune.

    Regards, Stuart.
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    This is not perfect pitch, nor is it in my opinion good practice. Unless we are playing the root note of a chord, pitch is relative. Without context, too sharp/too flat is meaningless. In a wind band setting, the out of tune player generally did not hear or pay attention to what ever instrument gave them the reference.

    My understanding of perfect pitch was always - "sing an Ab" and they did. I have never read any research on it or done any myself. To be honest, my hunch is that these "gifted" people have one "perfect" reference note and can extrapolate the rest. That is how I believe they survive rehearsals - lack of context.

    I am sure that the definition could be expanded to a lot of things. Very accomplished jazz players hear changes regardless of key signature and instrument played. It is MORE than a recall of patterns. The same goes for conductors reading scores where the parts are transposed. With the finest, it is more than simply recall and habit.

    I don't think that perfect pitch has anything to do with intonation, other than the constant reference that would keep a choral singer from gradually going flat or sharp. If anyone is aware of a good research paper on this, let me know. Don't bother to google for me though.
  4. jengstrom

    jengstrom Pianissimo User

    Oct 17, 2009
    Rochester, NY
    Once you know the first note, the rest is just intervals. I've always been able to do that. But I don't have perfect pitch.

    Perfect pitch comes in two flavors: Flavor 1 is when musicians can tell you exactly what note is being played without hearing a reference note first. They may even be able to tell you "And it's 20 cents sharp, too." The second flavor, usually associated with non-musicians, is when someone can tell you the exact frequency of a tone. I've known two people like that. "Oh, that's 1042.7 Hz." It's freaky. However, it doesn't have anything to do with music.

  5. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I guess this thread is going nowhere fast.......
  6. Tomaso

    Tomaso Pianissimo User

    Oct 2, 2014
    New York City
    It certainly IS, Seth! Perfect pitch has a precise definition. It's not the ability to guess notes or intervals because of familiarity, training, or intelligence.
    And I've found that nearly all people who say they have it have no idea of what it actually is, and in fact do not have it.

  7. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    John's definition 3 down (or up, depending on your settings) is what perfect pitch is. People who can do that - without a reference note- have it. Those that can't (which is almost all of us) don't. There are people who are very sensitive (I'm a jazz player- as long as it is within a couple of notes, then close enough :D for me) to pitch, but do not have perfect pitch. They get a reference note and go from there. As a result a lot of people think they have perfect pitch- because they can say a person is 3 cents sharp or flat from others. To be honest, I don't recall ever meeting someone with perfect pitch (as if that is something that would be brought up, even if I did meet them.)
  8. Dennis78

    Dennis78 Fortissimo User

    Feb 1, 2015
    In all honesty what is it worth? I can tell you the difference between 115v, 230v, and 277v A/C by feel but I don't make it a practice, and certainly not so stupid as to find out if I could recognize 480. To me it seems everyone should be able to play whatever note they are asked to play, on their given instrument within their comfortable range, at least anyone that has been playing for 5+ years
  9. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Word on the street is that Paul Hindemith had perfect pitch, and his habit of composing in trains led to the dotted eighth-sixteenth note motor rhythm in many of his works. I've known only a couple of musicians with perfect pitch, one of which was a composer. I don't have it, but can play very well in tune nonetheless. I attribute that to more of muscle memory than pitch memory.
  10. Branson

    Branson Piano User

    Jan 16, 2011
    I have enjoyed many of the responses to my original post on "Perfect Pitch” and many of these comments confirm my general view on the subject.

    Of particular interest were these comments-

    1. “I don't know of anyone living today who is accredited with having perfect pitch”

    If only 1 in 10,000 have this ability, that stands to reason.

    2. “We are cornetist / trumpeters and may be able to discern the notes in the range of these instruments, but I've more than doubt about doing so from C piccolos and violins”.

    This is totally true for my perfect pitch is mostly limited to my trumpet range.

    3. “Essentially, it means if you play a certain pitch, a person can remember and later produce it at the same frequency.”

    A person with perfect pitch does not “remember” the original note, but because perfect pitch enables a person to have a constant reference to actual pitches, the person can instantly reproduce that same pitch at any time.

    4. “Keep in mind that God didn't instill in people with such pitch (better named absolute pitch) a series of tuning forks”.

    True, but he does instill the ability for perfect pitch in a few; in a way far above my comprehension

    5. “I've heard tales of someone with perfect pitch being driven crazy because a band is playing with C at some other pitch. Maybe, but the person would have had to have originally "learned" 440 for C. They could have just as well learned whatever frequency is being played as C”.

    Very interesting and I will have to think more about that. Good observation!

    6. “Many years back in music school I had a teacher who told us to pick a particular note on the piano, memorize it, and be able to reproduce it. I picked A (B on trumpet). Today I can still sing that pitch within a few cents”.

    Your instructor was asking the impossible for anyone who does not have perfect pitch. If you are able to recognize any pitch or in that case any "frequencY", you may have perfect pitch. A person with perfect pitch can give you the pitch (note name) of anything within their hearing range, ie a car horn- Ab, hum of an air conditioner/fan- Bb, cricket's chirp- F, chair squeak- F, stomach rumble D. And those are sounds I hear at this moment.

    7. “The late 70s I lived and played in the Stuttgart area. At the opera there was an American soprano who had perfect pitch - A440. Unfortunately Germany tunes to A443. Although she was a fantastic singer, there was always a certain amount of strain in her sound”.

    When you mention a strain on her voice, this is very typical for those with perfect pitch. Her situation would have been unbearable for her vocal chords and singing mechanism (throat) would have been tightening in order for her to sing higher than her eye/ears were accustomed. I had to quit a show in town because of the out of tune performances of the headliner; and it was the highest payed gig in town. After each show, I completely lost my voice and suffered from intense headaches.

    8. “I believe that some have this gift/curse and that there is no easy explanation for the mechanism. I do think that most professional players develop a sense of pitch that is very predictable and stable. That is why they nick less notes. This is a learned mechanism and is not perfect pitch”.

    Absolutely correct on all but the last assumption!

    9. “My theory teacher said I did and I did.
    Every choir rehearsal we do chord warmups and we don't know the notes”.

    If your theory teacher was qualified to recognize this, chances are you do have or did have perfect pitch. In my case, when I was in undergraduate theory class, I failed every melodic dictation until my teacher finally realized that every melodic phrase was exactly one note too high. He called me in and asked if I had perfect pitch to which I answered, “What is perfect pitch”? He explained my “transposed” perfect pitch situation and from then on, I never missed a note. If I heard a “C”, I wrote down “Bb”. I shared this information with my father that same evening to which he shouted “Nobody Is Perfect”, and I never brought it up again in his presence.

    If anyone has any questions about perfect pitch as being a blessing or a curse, as one who has been repeatedly proven to have this condition, continue this discussion for few have perfect pitch and this subject seldom is understood, even by those with it.

    Thank you for your comments.

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