Discussion:
Are there any great pianists who *don't* have perfect pitch?
(too old to reply)
Grams
2004-04-15 04:02:25 UTC
Permalink
I was reading Andrew Kazdin's (poorly written) book about Glenn Gould, and
in it, he made some crack about how ironic it was that almost all recording
pianists have perfect pitch, yet it doesn't help them at all. I found the
statement rather absurd, for one should probably assume that it helps quite
a bit if almost all of the greats have it. Does anybody know of a "great"
pianist who *doesn't* have perfect pitch?
Richard Hofheimer
2004-04-15 13:17:06 UTC
Permalink
Good question. Most pianists don't have it. Most great pianists? Don't know.

Josef Hofmann had it, and he said that it was not particularly helpful. He
said it was even a distraction sometimes when he would play on instruments
that were tuned differently.
Post by Grams
I was reading Andrew Kazdin's (poorly written) book about Glenn Gould, and
in it, he made some crack about how ironic it was that almost all recording
pianists have perfect pitch, yet it doesn't help them at all. I found the
statement rather absurd, for one should probably assume that it helps quite
a bit if almost all of the greats have it. Does anybody know of a "great"
pianist who *doesn't* have perfect pitch?
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-15 14:30:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Grams
I was reading Andrew Kazdin's (poorly written) book about Glenn Gould, and
in it, he made some crack about how ironic it was that almost all recording
pianists have perfect pitch, yet it doesn't help them at all. I found the
statement rather absurd, for one should probably assume that it helps quite
a bit if almost all of the greats have it. Does anybody know of a "great"
pianist who *doesn't* have perfect pitch?
What exactly is perfect pitch, anyway?

For someone with "perfect pitch", what frequency do they hear A above
middle C at? 438? 440? 442? 444? Just wondering, because those tunings
are somewhat arbitrary, depending when and where you live.

Also, what tuning system does someone with perfect pitch hear in?
Equal-tempered? Mean-tone? Pythagorean?

Since there's really no such thing as a perfect pitch, shouldn't perfect
pitch really be called pitch memory?


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Tom Shaw
2004-04-15 16:04:46 UTC
Permalink
Oh no! Not again. Hello space...we have beaten this one to death several
times before. Consult Google before you come back.
TS
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Grams
I was reading Andrew Kazdin's (poorly written) book about Glenn Gould, and
in it, he made some crack about how ironic it was that almost all recording
pianists have perfect pitch, yet it doesn't help them at all. I found the
statement rather absurd, for one should probably assume that it helps quite
a bit if almost all of the greats have it. Does anybody know of a "great"
pianist who *doesn't* have perfect pitch?
What exactly is perfect pitch, anyway?
For someone with "perfect pitch", what frequency do they hear A above
middle C at? 438? 440? 442? 444? Just wondering, because those tunings
are somewhat arbitrary, depending when and where you live.
Also, what tuning system does someone with perfect pitch hear in?
Equal-tempered? Mean-tone? Pythagorean?
Since there's really no such thing as a perfect pitch, shouldn't perfect
pitch really be called pitch memory?
**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-15 16:22:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Shaw
Oh no! Not again. Hello space...we have beaten this one to death several
times before. Consult Google before you come back.
TS
Why should I have to do that? This is a newsgroup, for discussion. I'm
discussing my views on the subject. I don't see why it's incumbent on me
to research everything that has ever been said on this subject in this
newsgroup.

Rather, I would say that if you find the topic boring, then skip over it.



**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Tom Shaw
2004-04-15 20:21:00 UTC
Permalink
Okay. Ride your horse. A little touchy today aren't you?
TS
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Tom Shaw
Oh no! Not again. Hello space...we have beaten this one to death several
times before. Consult Google before you come back.
TS
Why should I have to do that? This is a newsgroup, for discussion. I'm
discussing my views on the subject. I don't see why it's incumbent on me
to research everything that has ever been said on this subject in this
newsgroup.
Rather, I would say that if you find the topic boring, then skip over it.
**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Michael
2004-04-16 07:52:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Why should I have to do that? This is a newsgroup, for discussion. I'm
discussing my views on the subject. I don't see why it's incumbent on me
to research everything that has ever been said on this subject in this
newsgroup.
This one has been done as well. Anything else?
--
Michael.
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-16 21:26:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Shaw
Oh no! Not again. Hello space...we have beaten this one to death several
times before. Consult Google before you come back.
TS
I finally did get around to doing a google search, and was surprised to
find that there are a lot of other supporters of replacing the term
'perfect pitch' with 'pitch memory', going back many years.

Dammit! I thought I had invented the term :-)


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
eromlignod
2004-04-15 18:22:58 UTC
Permalink
In what key do you hear music in your head? Is it not in the original
key? So your brain is transposing it (all instruments) to some other
key? What key? Sounds complicated. Why would your brain do this?
Does your memory of a person's deep voice get transposed so that they
sound like Mickey Mouse? It seems to me that your brain would
"record" music just like it does any other sound, e.g. birds tweeting,
train whistles, car sirens, etc. What makes it become corrupted?

Go to your record collection and pick out a song that you like, but
that you haven't heard for a while. Before you play it, go through
the song in your head. Then play it and see how close you were. You
might be surprised at your own ability.

I still contend that this is a fairly common skill. I think the only
thing that could quantify the degree that one posesses this trait is
by determining how many cents one is "off".

Don

--------
Alan wrote:

You don't seem to realize that "perfect pitch" is a bit of a misnomer.
A better term for what is being discussed is "absolute pitch," and you
certainly seem to have it.

Yes, it is a natural gift, like the ability to see color (compared to
the color-blind). But millions of people is not many out of the
billions on earth.
Post by eromlignod
I would venture a guess that nearly every poster in
this group can tell when their piano is eight cents out of tune.
No, not by any means. I could tell perhaps if it was 30 or 40 cents
off, but the piano's tone is very distinctive. If a note on a violin
or
organ was off by even a half-step, I wouldn't notice it without a
*recent* point of comparison.
Post by eromlignod
So, in my opinion, not only is perfect (or nearly-perfect) pitch
possible, it is undoubtedly commonplace. One has to give the
complexities of the human mind some credit here.
Not-so-commonplace, AFAIK.
--
Alan
http://www.hummingbear.net/~aayoung/Jazz/jazz.html

"Pray every day to every god."
-- Kurt Elling, "Resolution"
Tom Shaw
2004-04-15 20:16:53 UTC
Permalink
All I know is that I can "hear" a melody in the right key but the minute I
hit a note on an instrument to try to play it I automatically transpose my
mental picture to the key that I played and the "absolute pitch" goes down
the drain.
TS
Post by eromlignod
In what key do you hear music in your head? Is it not in the original
key? So your brain is transposing it (all instruments) to some other
key? What key? Sounds complicated. Why would your brain do this?
Does your memory of a person's deep voice get transposed so that they
sound like Mickey Mouse? It seems to me that your brain would
"record" music just like it does any other sound, e.g. birds tweeting,
train whistles, car sirens, etc. What makes it become corrupted?
Go to your record collection and pick out a song that you like, but
that you haven't heard for a while. Before you play it, go through
the song in your head. Then play it and see how close you were. You
might be surprised at your own ability.
I still contend that this is a fairly common skill. I think the only
thing that could quantify the degree that one posesses this trait is
by determining how many cents one is "off".
Don
--------
You don't seem to realize that "perfect pitch" is a bit of a misnomer.
A better term for what is being discussed is "absolute pitch," and you
certainly seem to have it.
Yes, it is a natural gift, like the ability to see color (compared to
the color-blind). But millions of people is not many out of the
billions on earth.
Post by eromlignod
I would venture a guess that nearly every poster in
this group can tell when their piano is eight cents out of tune.
No, not by any means. I could tell perhaps if it was 30 or 40 cents
off, but the piano's tone is very distinctive. If a note on a violin
or
organ was off by even a half-step, I wouldn't notice it without a
*recent* point of comparison.
Post by eromlignod
So, in my opinion, not only is perfect (or nearly-perfect) pitch
possible, it is undoubtedly commonplace. One has to give the
complexities of the human mind some credit here.
Not-so-commonplace, AFAIK.
--
Alan
http://www.hummingbear.net/~aayoung/Jazz/jazz.html
"Pray every day to every god."
-- Kurt Elling, "Resolution"
Radu Focshaner
2004-04-15 22:32:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by eromlignod
Go to your record collection and pick out a song that you like, but
that you haven't heard for a while. Before you play it, go through
the song in your head. Then play it and see how close you were. You
might be surprised at your own ability.
I had "absolute hearing" until the age of 8. Afterwards ... zilch. Forty
years later, I go to my record collection and pick out a song ( song ??? )
that I like, but I haven't heard for a while. Before I play it, I go through
the song (song ???) in my head. Then I play the record and I see that I am
very close ! I was surprised by my ability !

My 15yo son, recognizes pitches and memorizes Bach (everything, even the
toccata in D minor, though he still cannot play it well). But his teacher
said that this is nothing and is temporary ....

R (who is amazed if he can memorize two simple pages) F.
Don A. Gilmore
2004-04-15 22:43:49 UTC
Permalink
"Radu Focshaner" <***@writeme.com> wrote in message news:c5mv16$3c995$***@ID-21508.news.uni-berlin.de...

Forty
Post by Radu Focshaner
years later, I go to my record collection and pick out a song ( song ??? )
that I like, but I haven't heard for a while. Before I play it, I go through
the song (song ???) in my head.
Aw, give me a break. I know the difference. I just figured that most
people would be thinking about popular songs (yes, "songs").

Don
Radu Focshaner
2004-04-15 23:53:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don A. Gilmore
Post by Radu Focshaner
the song (song ???) in my head.
Aw, give me a break. I know the difference. I just figured that most
people would be thinking about popular songs (yes, "songs").
Just kidding.....
Don A. Gilmore
2004-04-15 23:19:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Radu Focshaner
Just kidding.....
I know; so was I.
Alan Young
2004-04-16 00:37:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by eromlignod
In what key do you hear music in your head? Is it not in the original
key? So your brain is transposing it (all instruments) to some other
key? What key? Sounds complicated. Why would your brain do this?
Since you seem honestly perplexed by this most common of human
conditions, let me explain it another way.
Most of us learn music by the *relationship* between pitches. If I hear
pitch 1, down a minor 3rd, down a fourth, that could be the beginning
of "Misty" regardless of what the actual pitches are. That's how us
un-gifted masses have to go about learning music, and yes, it's a lot
of work.

But you do the same thing, I bet, when you learn to find your way
around in space. Where is your house? Doesn't it have a fixed latitude
and longitude? If you had "perfect location" you could just *go* there
from wherever you were,, but you don't. So to find your way home, you
have to memorize a lot of turnings, landmarks, and distances? Sounds
complicated. Why would your brain do this?
--
Alan
http://www.hummingbear.net/~aayoung/Jazz/jazz.html

"Pray every day to every god."
-- Kurt Elling, "Resolution"
Tim Smith
2004-04-16 06:29:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
For someone with "perfect pitch", what frequency do they hear A above
middle C at? 438? 440? 442? 444? Just wondering, because those tunings
are somewhat arbitrary, depending when and where you live.
I *believe* that research has shown that (1) most people with perfect pitch
grew up in a house where they were exposed a fair amount to a musical
instrument (e.g., someone played the piano a lot), and (2) it is that
instrument that they get tuned to.

So...if you've got young kids at home, keep your musical instruments in
tune! It would not be nice to give them perfect pitch, but mistuned.
--
--Tim Smith
Thomas F. Unke
2004-04-16 10:08:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Smith
I *believe* that research has shown that (1) most people with perfect pitch
grew up in a house where they were exposed a fair amount to a musical
instrument (e.g., someone played the piano a lot), and (2) it is that
instrument that they get tuned to.
Makes sense to me. I don't have it, but my younger sister who had to
listen to my piano playing from her early childhood.
Gary Rimar
2004-04-16 11:39:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
For someone with "perfect pitch", what frequency do they hear A above
middle C at? 438? 440? 442? 444? Just wondering, because those tunings
are somewhat arbitrary, depending when and where you live.
Ok, lets set some real definitions:

"Perfect pitch" is a commonly-used misnomer for what is accurately named
absolute pitch memory (APM). "Absolute" in context is contrasted against
the word "relative." In other words, a person with APM doesn't need a
reference note (relative pitch) to know what the note is that is being
played. They are their own reference.

Absolute is not an ego boost to how well someone can recognize a pitch. I
qualify as having APM because I can hear a note played on an instrument,
tell you what the note is, and if the note is far off I can tell you if it
is sharp or flat. I don't have to be better than this to qualify as having
APM. I am better than that, but it is like needing a car and owning a Buick
instead of a Chevy.

Said more shortly, APM doesn't suggest the prowess Richard implies - not by
a long shot.
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-16 12:30:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gary Rimar
"Perfect pitch" is a commonly-used misnomer for what is accurately named
absolute pitch memory (APM). "Absolute" in context is contrasted against
the word "relative." In other words, a person with APM doesn't need a
reference note (relative pitch) to know what the note is that is being
played. They are their own reference.
I don't think you need the word "absolute" in there to constrast it to
relative pitch memory, because relative pitch isn't about memory, it's
about the ability to instantly recognize intervals, and, moreso, to
understand those intervals in a harmonic context, I would say. So,
Relative Pitch seems like a reasonable name for that, although I haven't
really thought about it that much - perhaps there's a better name for it.
Let me think about that.
Post by Gary Rimar
Absolute is not an ego boost to how well someone can recognize a pitch. I
qualify as having APM because I can hear a note played on an instrument,
tell you what the note is, and if the note is far off I can tell you if it
is sharp or flat. I don't have to be better than this to qualify as having
APM. I am better than that, but it is like needing a car and owning a Buick
instead of a Chevy.
Sharp or flat relative to what, though? A piano tuned to 440? I think
that I object to the term "absolute" because it implies that there is some
objective "gold standard" pitch against which everything can be measured.
That's not the case, is it? Rather, we all get acclimatized to a certain
standard (440) and a certain tuning system (equal-tempered), and it seems
to me that the person with Pitch Memory is able to remember accurately what
that equal-tempered 440 piano sounds like.
Post by Gary Rimar
Said more shortly, APM doesn't suggest the prowess Richard implies - not by
a long shot.
I don't think I suggested that it implies any prowess beyond having a
really good memory for pitches. I posed some questions about what it
really means, and then offered my theory, which is that what it really
means is the ability to accurately remember previously-heard pitches.


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Radu Focshaner
2004-04-16 14:44:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Sharp or flat relative to what, though? A piano tuned to 440? I think
that I object to the term "absolute" because it implies that there is some
objective "gold standard" pitch against which everything can be measured.
That's not the case, is it? Rather, we all get acclimatized to a certain
standard (440) and a certain tuning system (equal-tempered), and it seems
to me that the person with Pitch Memory is able to remember accurately what
that equal-tempered 440 piano sounds like.
Frankly, in my youth (about 10-14yo), no piano student ever cared about
"absolute hearing". On the other hand, my friends the violinists cared very
much. It's true that many of them used the four pipes (camerton ?) tuning
device from time to time, but I think that they constantly trained their
ears during practicing and playing because they had to compare the sound
produced by the violin to a mental "sound standard" in order to know if they
are producing the correct sound. I, as a piano player was amazed to hear
from my friend that C# and Dflat are two different sounds for him. And I
must recognize that I still have no idea if the string players ever heard
about tuning systems like meantone, ET or other systems used for
fortepianos.

R.

The orchestras tune to A442
peterb
2004-04-16 14:05:11 UTC
Permalink
How can C# sound different to Db??

Radu Focshaner wrote:

<SNIP>
I, as a piano player was amazed to hear from my friend that
C# and Dflat are two different sounds for him.
Edgar
2004-04-16 14:48:25 UTC
Permalink
It depends on the temperament/tuning and on the instrument. In equal
temperament or on a piano, etc. (with 12 "firmly" set notes per
octave) C# and Db have the same frequency; in Pythagorean, Meantone,
etc. or on instruments where you can influence the frequency of the
note more freely (e.g. violin family) they are different.
Post by peterb
How can C# sound different to Db??
<SNIP>
I, as a piano player was amazed to hear from my friend that
C# and Dflat are two different sounds for him.
ptooner
2004-04-16 14:37:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Radu Focshaner
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Sharp or flat relative to what, though? A piano tuned to 440? I think
that I object to the term "absolute" because it implies that there is some
objective "gold standard" pitch against which everything can be measured.
That's not the case, is it? Rather, we all get acclimatized to a certain
standard (440) and a certain tuning system (equal-tempered), and it seems
to me that the person with Pitch Memory is able to remember accurately
what
Post by Richard Whitehouse
that equal-tempered 440 piano sounds like.
Frankly, in my youth (about 10-14yo), no piano student ever cared about
"absolute hearing". On the other hand, my friends the violinists cared very
much. It's true that many of them used the four pipes (camerton ?) tuning
device from time to time, but I think that they constantly trained their
ears during practicing and playing because they had to compare the sound
produced by the violin to a mental "sound standard" in order to know if they
are producing the correct sound. I, as a piano player was amazed to hear
from my friend that C# and Dflat are two different sounds for him. And I
must recognize that I still have no idea if the string players ever heard
about tuning systems like meantone, ET or other systems used for
fortepianos.
Apparently most folks don't realize that nearly all instruments except piano
tune "on the fly". I'm a reed player, and all the brass and reed
instruments are rough tuned in some way - by sliding the mouthpiece in and
out on it's cork for instance - and then tuned on the fly by the musician to
match what he hears. That is done on reeds for instance by varying your
embouchure (how you hold your mouth) slightly and/or varying how much you
open the hole or valve. But all that is in relation to the sound one hears,
not to some magic pitch in one's head.

Gerry
Gary Rimar
2004-04-17 05:17:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Gary Rimar
"Perfect pitch" is a commonly-used misnomer for what is accurately named
absolute pitch memory (APM). "Absolute" in context is contrasted against
the word "relative." In other words, a person with APM doesn't need a
reference note (relative pitch) to know what the note is that is being
played. They are their own reference.
I don't think you need the word "absolute" in there to constrast it to
relative pitch memory, because relative pitch isn't about memory, it's
about the ability to instantly recognize intervals, and, moreso, to
understand those intervals in a harmonic context, I would say. So,
Relative Pitch seems like a reasonable name for that, although I haven't
really thought about it that much - perhaps there's a better name for it.
Let me think about that.
Relative pitch" as a descriptor is fine. "Absolute pitch memory" is
appropriate, because it is about memory (since you don't have anything to
relate another pitch to other than your memory). You said it yourself, and
were right when you did.
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Gary Rimar
Absolute is not an ego boost to how well someone can recognize a pitch. I
qualify as having APM because I can hear a note played on an instrument,
tell you what the note is, and if the note is far off I can tell you if it
is sharp or flat. I don't have to be better than this to qualify as having
APM. I am better than that, but it is like needing a car and owning a Buick
instead of a Chevy.
Sharp or flat relative to what, though? A piano tuned to 440? I think
that I object to the term "absolute" because it implies that there is some
objective "gold standard" pitch against which everything can be measured.
That's not the case, is it? Rather, we all get acclimatized to a certain
standard (440) and a certain tuning system (equal-tempered), and it seems
to me that the person with Pitch Memory is able to remember accurately what
that equal-tempered 440 piano sounds like.
You're splitting hairs. The difference between a 435 A and a 440 A isn't
enough to make a difference in the real world. If you're off by 25-50
cents, then we're talking about a point of concern.

First you disagree with the name of the standard definition as quoted in all
of the research papers on the subject, and then you make it clear why their
choice for a name is appropriate.
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Gary Rimar
Said more shortly, APM doesn't suggest the prowess Richard implies - not by
a long shot.
I don't think I suggested that it implies any prowess beyond having a
really good memory for pitches. I posed some questions about what it
really means, and then offered my theory, which is that what it really
means is the ability to accurately remember previously-heard pitches.
Again, absolute pitch isn't about being a human frequency counter. It's
about having enough recognition capability to discern between notes, which
have a decent amount of space between them.

When I'm listening to a piece of music that's a bit off-key (think cassette
player), I know that it's off, but if I have to learn it I imagine it either
a bit sharper or flatter than it is, so I can shift it into the key
required. As an example, if a piece sits halfway between E and F, I will
pretend that it is in one key or the other and then using relative pitch
will calculate the ratios needed for the chord progressions.

Yes, even though I can tell you what note is produced when a spoon hits a
partially-filled water glass, I do use relative pitch when learning music.
It is faster to get the intervals down, and then lets me transpose more
easily.

Gary (eschew obfuscation) Rimar
Ed Foote
2004-04-17 11:32:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Sharp or flat relative to what, though? A piano tuned to 440? I think
that I object to the term "absolute" because it implies that there is some
objective "gold standard" pitch against which everything can be measured.
That's not the case, is it? Rather, we all get acclimatized to a certain
standard (440) and a certain tuning system (equal-tempered), and it seems
to me that the person with Pitch Memory is able to remember accurately what
that equal-tempered 440 piano sounds like.
Post by Gary Rimar
You're splitting hairs. The difference between a 435 A and a 440 A isn't
enough to make a difference in the real world. If you're off by 25-50
cents, then we're talking about a point of concern. >>

Umm, If I may interject a few points here?
In the middle of the piano, the difference between 435 and 440 IS 20 cents.
It is a large difference to most musicians. Why? well, let's take a look at
what "cents" really means.
There are 100 cents between each equally tempered semitone, yet on the
piano, there are only 1.6 Hz. difference between the lowest A and the Ab above
it. Down there, a cent equates to less than .02 cycles per second. At the
other end of the keyboard, the differnce between the highest B and the top C is
more than 230 Hz, so a cent is equal to 2 cycles per second. In the middle of
the keyboard, 4 cents is equal to 1 Hz, or "beat per second".
So, how far off does a note have to be for a "good" ear to hear it? Most
tuners will recognize a fifth that is off from Just by less than a cent. We
all recognize a unison that has 1 cent discrepancy in it. Octaves above middle
C may be stretched by as much as 2 cents in the fifth octave to as much as 10
cents in the top octave,(and this is in addition to the normal stretch
associated with inharmonicity), without anybody hearing it as "out of tune".
Indeed, some artists desire far more sharpening than that.
So, what sort of deviation from equal temperament is needed to create a
well-temperament? The Thomas Young tuning, which is recognized as the
idealized form of WT, requires only 6 cents sharpening of the C, F, and A#,
four cents lowering of the D# and G, and less than 2 cents change among the
others. This is a very small alteration, but the tuning sounds very different
than ET.
When someone says that they have perfect pitch, or perfect absolute pitch,
etc. it is not unreasonable to ask, "how perfect" they are talking about.
Keep in mind, also, that singers often have a vibrato that is easily 20
cents wide, and horn players regularly lip their intonation around by at least
6 or so cents.
Regards,



Ed Foote RPT
http://www.uk-piano.org/edfoote
CD's at Gasparo.com.
GSCD #332, "Beethoven In the Temperaments"
GSCD #344 . "Six Degrees of Tonality"
Caution, these CD's contain pure intervals and extensive liner notes!
Gary Rimar
2004-04-17 14:10:18 UTC
Permalink
Okay. To make this shorter, Ed, here's how I look at it.

I can tell if a note is closer to an A or an Ab, and I happen to base this
on a 440 A. If notes are in tune, I can tell you what they are by hearing
them with no other reference point than my own brain. To me, this qualifies
as absolute pitch memory. If someone else can reliably do this, and be no
better than that, they too have absolute pitch memory.

Now, if a note is flat or sharp, I happen to be able to hear that too. If
it is reasonably close, I can adjust my interpretation of the note, knowing
that it really is trying to be an A, but isn't quite getting there (assuming
it is slightly flat). After a while, however, an A gets so flat that it
instead becomes a very sharp Ab.

I happen to be able to hear with more precision than that, knowing if my
clarinet player in my Klezmer band is 10-20 cents sharp or flat without
having to compare him to my keyboard. I do a good job of matching my
results to his electronic tuner. Does this level of recognition require
more pitch discrimination skill? Yes. Is this higher level of recognition
called something different? No. A car is a car whether it is a Chevy or a
Cadillac.

I'm aiming for concise and complete (which compete). Does this work?
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-17 18:47:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gary Rimar
Relative pitch" as a descriptor is fine. "Absolute pitch memory" is
appropriate, because it is about memory (since you don't have anything to
relate another pitch to other than your memory). You said it yourself, and
were right when you did.
In the final analysis, these are just names, so it doesn't matter a whole
lot what we call these things, as long as everyone knows what we're talking
about. I think it's important to understand what they really are, though.

Anyway, do you need the word 'absolute'? If it's about pitch memory, then
all we need to call it is Pitch Memory. Adding the word absolute is
unnecessary.

If the word absolute is in there to distinguish it from Relative Pitch
Memory, then again, it's not necessary because one is about memory (pitch
memory) and the other one is not about memory, it's about interval
recognition (relative pitch, which is really Interval Recognition)
Post by Gary Rimar
Again, absolute pitch isn't about being a human frequency counter. It's
about having enough recognition capability to discern between notes, which
have a decent amount of space between them.
I don't follow what you mean in that sentence, 'notes, which have a decent
amount of space between them' Are you referring to the intervals between
them, or the time between notes?

I have relative pitch, which should be renamed Interval Recognition, which
is what it really is, so I can describe what it is. I was born with this
ability, to some extent, and I've also been developing it for decades, so
at this point, the recognition is almost intantaneous. In fact, to me, it
seems instantaneous. But it's also connected to my understanding of
theory. So that hearing intervals in a simple diatonic piece is easy, but
hearing intervals in a non-diatonic twentieth-century type of piece, or in
an up-tempo post-bop jazz peice is much more difficult. Let me re-phrase
that. Hearing the intervals does not get harder in those cases, but
putting those intervals and chords into a harmonic context gets harder. I
can transcribe some easy peices in one pass, the first time I hear them.
Others I have to labour over, with repeaated listenings. It's not because
hearing the intervals is any harder; it's if the harmonic context is
complex or difficult, or if it's a fast tempo, or if there's so much clash
of timbres that it's hard to distinguish individual notes....

In a nutshell, here's my position:

Pitch Memory: the ability to remember specific frequencies. When hearing a
sound, the person is able to compare it to a known (i.e. remembered) pitch.
Sometimes called 'perfect pitch' or 'absolute pitch', 'absolute pitch
memory'.

Interval Recognition: the ability to hear and recognive the intervals
between two or more pitches. If listener knows harmonic theory, he can
place what he's hearing into a harmonic context as he is hearing it.
Sometimes called 'relative pitch'.
Post by Gary Rimar
Gary (eschew obfuscation) Rimar
That's what I'm trying to do: eschew obfuscation. I love that tag line!
You also post on the MusicPlayer Keyboard Forum dont't you? I recognize
the tag from there. Whassup, dude?

Anyway, I'm all for giving things descriptive names, based on what they
really are.


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Don A. Gilmore
2004-04-17 20:54:38 UTC
Permalink
The term "absolute pitch" is appropriate. The modifiers "relative" and
"absolute" are common scientific terms that go hand in hand. For example, a
measuring system that can measure the relative distances between two objects
in space is "relative". Conversely, a measuring system that determines each
objects position on a universal scale (based on a zero reference) is an
absolute system. It's like referring to the distance between two marathon
runners, or referring to how far each is from the starting line

Relative pitch would indicate that you can tell the distance (pitch ratio)
between any two notes. Absolute pitch would indicate that you can tell the
actual pitch of each note. Whether you can assign a standard musical letter
name (like Bb) to it is immaterial--that's just a matter of memorizing. The
point is that you hear the pitch exactly at where it belongs in the gamut
every time.

I'm not disagreeing with your moniker of "pitch memory" at all. But it's
certainly no gift, any more than being able to see in color. If you see a
car of a certain color and then see it again in a year and can tell that
it's faded or changed colors, then you have "color memory". And I'm sorry,
but I wouldn't find that ability particularly impressive at all.

It seems to me that if you had acute enough pitch recognition that you could
indeed tune a piano without aid. The problem would be that though you can
hear a slight difference between the heard tone and the tone in your head,
you wouldn't experience a "beat" since there are no actual waves interacting
in the air. It would basically be like tuning a piano by playing a note on
a "correct" piano, then playing it on the piano you are tuning. That would
probably be more difficult (and risky) than the normal methods.

Don
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Gary Rimar
Relative pitch" as a descriptor is fine. "Absolute pitch memory" is
appropriate, because it is about memory (since you don't have anything to
relate another pitch to other than your memory). You said it yourself, and
were right when you did.
In the final analysis, these are just names, so it doesn't matter a whole
lot what we call these things, as long as everyone knows what we're talking
about. I think it's important to understand what they really are, though.
Anyway, do you need the word 'absolute'? If it's about pitch memory, then
all we need to call it is Pitch Memory. Adding the word absolute is
unnecessary.
If the word absolute is in there to distinguish it from Relative Pitch
Memory, then again, it's not necessary because one is about memory (pitch
memory) and the other one is not about memory, it's about interval
recognition (relative pitch, which is really Interval Recognition)
Post by Gary Rimar
Again, absolute pitch isn't about being a human frequency counter.
It's
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Gary Rimar
about having enough recognition capability to discern between notes, which
have a decent amount of space between them.
I don't follow what you mean in that sentence, 'notes, which have a decent
amount of space between them' Are you referring to the intervals between
them, or the time between notes?
I have relative pitch, which should be renamed Interval Recognition, which
is what it really is, so I can describe what it is. I was born with this
ability, to some extent, and I've also been developing it for decades, so
at this point, the recognition is almost intantaneous. In fact, to me, it
seems instantaneous. But it's also connected to my understanding of
theory. So that hearing intervals in a simple diatonic piece is easy, but
hearing intervals in a non-diatonic twentieth-century type of piece, or in
an up-tempo post-bop jazz peice is much more difficult. Let me re-phrase
that. Hearing the intervals does not get harder in those cases, but
putting those intervals and chords into a harmonic context gets harder.
I
Post by Richard Whitehouse
can transcribe some easy peices in one pass, the first time I hear them.
Others I have to labour over, with repeaated listenings. It's not because
hearing the intervals is any harder; it's if the harmonic context is
complex or difficult, or if it's a fast tempo, or if there's so much clash
of timbres that it's hard to distinguish individual notes....
Pitch Memory: the ability to remember specific frequencies. When hearing a
sound, the person is able to compare it to a known (i.e. remembered) pitch.
Sometimes called 'perfect pitch' or 'absolute pitch', 'absolute pitch
memory'.
Interval Recognition: the ability to hear and recognive the intervals
between two or more pitches. If listener knows harmonic theory, he can
place what he's hearing into a harmonic context as he is hearing it.
Sometimes called 'relative pitch'.
Post by Gary Rimar
Gary (eschew obfuscation) Rimar
That's what I'm trying to do: eschew obfuscation. I love that tag line!
You also post on the MusicPlayer Keyboard Forum dont't you? I recognize
the tag from there. Whassup, dude?
Anyway, I'm all for giving things descriptive names, based on what they
really are.
**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-17 21:12:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don A. Gilmore
The term "absolute pitch" is appropriate. The modifiers "relative" and
"absolute" are common scientific terms that go hand in hand. For example, a
measuring system that can measure the relative distances between two objects
in space is "relative". Conversely, a measuring system that determines each
objects position on a universal scale (based on a zero reference) is an
absolute system. It's like referring to the distance between two marathon
runners, or referring to how far each is from the starting line
I see what you're saying, and it makes sense when you talk about celestial
objects, which are in a known position, which everyone can agree on. The
only problem I have with it is that it implies that there's a universal
musical scale, based on a zero reference, to use your term. This doesn't
exist, as far as I know. The zero reference is the person's memory, and it
depends on what that person is accustomed to hearing.

Relative pitch (or Interval Recognition, as I like to refer to it), is
completely independent of any universal scale or zero reference. It's
about hearing intervals.
Post by Don A. Gilmore
Relative pitch would indicate that you can tell the distance (pitch ratio)
between any two notes. Absolute pitch would indicate that you can tell the
actual pitch of each note. Whether you can assign a standard musical letter
name (like Bb) to it is immaterial--that's just a matter of memorizing. The
point is that you hear the pitch exactly at where it belongs in the gamut
every time.
It makes a lot of sense when you put it that way. And really, it doesn't
matter what we call these things as long as we understand what they are,
right? I can see that converting the world to my naming system is unlikely
to happen. I just want to explain the reasons behind it.

You made the point "assigning a musical letter to it like Bb is
immaterial". Is it? Isn't that really what people with Pitch Memory do?
They say "that note is a Bb". Where do they get Bb from? From their
memory, not from an objective, external reference.
Post by Don A. Gilmore
I'm not disagreeing with your moniker of "pitch memory" at all. But it's
certainly no gift, any more than being able to see in color. If you see a
car of a certain color and then see it again in a year and can tell that
it's faded or changed colors, then you have "color memory". And I'm sorry,
but I wouldn't find that ability particularly impressive at all.
But Pitch Memory is not as common as colour memory. I wonder what
percentage of the population has pitch memory?


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Don A. Gilmore
2004-04-17 22:14:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
I see what you're saying, and it makes sense when you talk about celestial
objects, which are in a known position, which everyone can agree on. The
only problem I have with it is that it implies that there's a universal
musical scale, based on a zero reference, to use your term. This doesn't
exist, as far as I know. The zero reference is the person's memory, and it
depends on what that person is accustomed to hearing.
Sure it exists. All frequencies are relative to the frequency of 0 Hz, just
like all volumes are relative to silence. All pitches have a frequency.
This frequency is absolute and is based on the standard unit of one second.
The pitch of 440 Hz is universal, repeatable and measurable. If I can
remember the pitch "440" in my head and can say, "yes, that note is 440"
when I hear it again, then obviously I can discern absolute pitch. The fact
that it is 440 is something I memorized when I heard it the first time so
that I would have a way to express myself, just like most people all agree
that a red object is red. I'm not literally counting the 440 vibrations. I
can just as well remember it as "A4". The point is that I hear it as the
same pitch every time, just like I can see a runner pass a mile marker every
time. What the mile marker says isn't really important; the fact that I can
say that every runner that passes that marker is "x" miles from the start is
important. The color green has an absolute frequency of electromagnetic
radiation. If I see it as green every time, without having to compare it to
another color, that is absolute color perception.
Post by Richard Whitehouse
But Pitch Memory is not as common as colour memory. I wonder what
percentage of the population has pitch memory?
I'm not sure how to take a categorical statement followed by the admission
that you don't know! ;-)

Did you try my experiment of thinking of a song and then playing the
recording to see if you are right?

Don
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-18 19:40:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don A. Gilmore
Sure it exists. All frequencies are relative to the frequency of 0 Hz, just
like all volumes are relative to silence. All pitches have a frequency.
This frequency is absolute and is based on the standard unit of one second.
The pitch of 440 Hz is universal, repeatable and measurable. If I can
remember the pitch "440" in my head and can say, "yes, that note is 440"
when I hear it again, then obviously I can discern absolute pitch. The fact
that it is 440 is something I memorized when I heard it the first time so
that I would have a way to express myself, just like most people all agree
that a red object is red. I'm not literally counting the 440 vibrations. I
can just as well remember it as "A4". The point is that I hear it as the
same pitch every time, just like I can see a runner pass a mile marker every
time. What the mile marker says isn't really important; the fact that I can
say that every runner that passes that marker is "x" miles from the start is
important. The color green has an absolute frequency of electromagnetic
radiation. If I see it as green every time, without having to compare it to
another color, that is absolute color perception.
I think we're actually agreeing here.

Sure, 440 hz exists and is repeatable. But what's arbitrary is calling it
A, as you said.. That's a system imposed on nature by man. We could just
as easily call it Bb or F. Mother Nature may have created 440hz, but man
named it A4. Some men call 438 A4. Others call 444 A4 - it's an arbitrary
naming convention.

I think people without Pitch Memory (aka perfect pitch) also hear 440hz the
same way every time; but they're not able to recall it from memory later.

I don't know what the actual practical range is before strings start
breaking, but let's say for the sake of argument that you have 30 pianos.
The first is tuned to A425, the next to A426, and so on up to A455. Which
one is 'absolute'? Can the person with Pitch Memory pick out the A440
piano?

I think that even without Pitch Memory, I'd be able to pick the right one
pretty close, just based on timbre.
Post by Don A. Gilmore
Did you try my experiment of thinking of a song and then playing the
recording to see if you are right?
Do you mean testing myself to see if I have Pitch Memory? I've done that
many times in the past - I already know that I don't have it. I have
excellent Interval Recognition, but with Pitch Memory, I always seem to be
off. Not that I care, I get by fine without it, and besides, I don't think
there's a damn thing I could do about it, even if I wanted to.


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Tom Shaw
2004-04-19 17:06:03 UTC
Permalink
Man also named it "Hertz". Also man invented the description cps, cycles,
seconds, etc. etc.
TS
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Don A. Gilmore
Sure it exists. All frequencies are relative to the frequency of 0 Hz, just
like all volumes are relative to silence. All pitches have a frequency.
This frequency is absolute and is based on the standard unit of one second.
The pitch of 440 Hz is universal, repeatable and measurable. If I can
remember the pitch "440" in my head and can say, "yes, that note is 440"
when I hear it again, then obviously I can discern absolute pitch.
The fact
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Don A. Gilmore
that it is 440 is something I memorized when I heard it the first time so
that I would have a way to express myself, just like most people all agree
that a red object is red. I'm not literally counting the 440 vibrations. I
can just as well remember it as "A4". The point is that I hear it as the
same pitch every time, just like I can see a runner pass a mile marker every
time. What the mile marker says isn't really important; the fact that I can
say that every runner that passes that marker is "x" miles from the start is
important. The color green has an absolute frequency of
electromagnetic
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Don A. Gilmore
radiation. If I see it as green every time, without having to compare it to
another color, that is absolute color perception.
I think we're actually agreeing here.
Sure, 440 hz exists and is repeatable. But what's arbitrary is calling it
A, as you said.. That's a system imposed on nature by man. We could just
as easily call it Bb or F. Mother Nature may have created 440hz, but man
named it A4. Some men call 438 A4. Others call 444 A4 - it's an arbitrary
naming convention.
I think people without Pitch Memory (aka perfect pitch) also hear 440hz the
same way every time; but they're not able to recall it from memory later.
I don't know what the actual practical range is before strings start
breaking, but let's say for the sake of argument that you have 30 pianos.
The first is tuned to A425, the next to A426, and so on up to A455. Which
one is 'absolute'? Can the person with Pitch Memory pick out the A440
piano?
I think that even without Pitch Memory, I'd be able to pick the right one
pretty close, just based on timbre.
Post by Don A. Gilmore
Did you try my experiment of thinking of a song and then playing the
recording to see if you are right?
Do you mean testing myself to see if I have Pitch Memory? I've done that
many times in the past - I already know that I don't have it. I have
excellent Interval Recognition, but with Pitch Memory, I always seem to be
off. Not that I care, I get by fine without it, and besides, I don't think
there's a damn thing I could do about it, even if I wanted to.
**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Alan Jones
2004-04-18 06:23:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don A. Gilmore
It seems to me that if you had acute enough pitch recognition that you could
indeed tune a piano without aid.
I used to own a single-manual harpsichord, which a colleague could readily
tune to e.g. the organ in the church where he was to play continuo. He took
one note from the organ (it didn't seem to matter which, as long it was in
the middle of the range) and then just tuned up and down from it without, as
far as I could tell, counting beats but just twanging and listening briefly
before moving on. Quite a lot of the time he just went up and down the
chromatic scale - not fourths and fifths. The complete five octaves and a
bit, but only one string per note, took him about 15 minutes, and the result
was very satisfactory. The same man could give the choir a note without
reference to a keyboard or any tuning device, and it always seemed accurate
enough for practical purposes. Alas, I don't have either of those skills!

Alan Jones
Van Bagnol
2004-04-22 09:10:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Gary Rimar
"Perfect pitch" is a commonly-used misnomer for what is accurately named
absolute pitch memory (APM). "Absolute" in context is contrasted against
the word "relative." In other words, a person with APM doesn't need a
reference note (relative pitch) to know what the note is that is being
played. They are their own reference.
I don't think you need the word "absolute" in there to constrast it to
relative pitch memory, because relative pitch isn't about memory, it's
about the ability to instantly recognize intervals, and, moreso, to
understand those intervals in a harmonic context, I would say. So,
Relative Pitch seems like a reasonable name for that, although I haven't
really thought about it that much - perhaps there's a better name for it.
There seems to be a dimension of passivity and proaction when it comes
to 'perfect' pitch/APM/pitch recognition (PR), analogous to passive vs
active fluency in a language.

If you ask me to give you an Ab, I'll, to within some graciously
forgiving tolerance accuracy, an Ab. It may take me a moment to recall
the right "reference note" and do the work but I can eventually
reconstruct an Ab.

If you give me an Ab, I may not necessarily identify it as such, and
even when I remember my reference note I'll still have to compare it to
see if it matches, or do the 'interval' arithmetic to see if it matches
my library of memorized intervals.

Analogously, ask me to say something in Pig Latin and I can probably do
it, but say something quick to me in Pig Latin when I'm unprepared and I
won't understand it. My 'active' (ability to speak) fluency in Pig Latin
is better than my 'passive' (ability to listen) fluency.

For some skills, people are more passively than actively adept, like
recognizing a good drawing over being able to sketch one, but for other
skills, it's the converse, like being able to dish out criticism but not
take it.

It would appear that the knack for APM (pitch recognition) is one of
those 'passive is rarer than active' talents. The knack for relative
pitch memory (interval recognition) seems to be the other way, although
to a weaker degree.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
ptooner
2004-04-16 13:28:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Richard Whitehouse
For someone with "perfect pitch", what frequency do they hear A above
middle C at? 438? 440? 442? 444? Just wondering, because those
tunings
Post by Richard Whitehouse
are somewhat arbitrary, depending when and where you live.
"Perfect pitch" is a commonly-used misnomer for what is accurately named
absolute pitch memory (APM). "Absolute" in context is contrasted against
the word "relative." In other words, a person with APM doesn't need a
reference note (relative pitch) to know what the note is that is being
played. They are their own reference.
Absolute is not an ego boost to how well someone can recognize a pitch. I
qualify as having APM because I can hear a note played on an instrument,
tell you what the note is, and if the note is far off I can tell you if it
is sharp or flat. I don't have to be better than this to qualify as having
APM. I am better than that, but it is like needing a car and owning a Buick
instead of a Chevy.
Said more shortly, APM doesn't suggest the prowess Richard implies - not by
a long shot.
Put that way makes quite a bit more sense than in the usual way. However,
in these many many years in the business I have yet to meet a single piano
tuner who tuned without some kind of reference pitch.

Gerry
Gary Rimar
2004-04-17 05:09:02 UTC
Permalink
"ptooner" <***@yourlife.com> wrote in message news:mbRfc.7045$***@lakeread03...

[snip]
Post by ptooner
Put that way makes quite a bit more sense than in the usual way. However,
in these many many years in the business I have yet to meet a single piano
tuner who tuned without some kind of reference pitch.
Gerry
Nor have I, nor would I hire one that did.

Gary
eromlignod
2004-04-15 16:01:25 UTC
Permalink
Though I have been a contributor to this group for many years, I have
heretofore refrained from getting into the fray about the subject of
"perfect pitch". But I guess I'll add my observations on the subject.

I hear music in my head. I hear music that I have heard on the radio,
on CD's, live, music I have played, people's voices who are long dead,
etc. I hear it clearly and with all the instruments and voices.
Having said that, I will go on to say that this is not a remarkable
feat of intellectual finesse. In fact, I would guess that most
people, whether musically inclined or not, can and do hear music in
their heads.

I also hear music in the key in which it was written. If you ask me
to start singing "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles, I will sing it in the
same key that you hear it on the radio without having heard it for a
long time. I may not be able to name the key--I don't really care
what the key is--but it will be the correct key. Again, this is no
novelty or parlor trick; plenty of people can do this. Just to be
able to separate keys requires a mental accuracy of 50 cents, and more
realistically, much closer than that.

If a phonograph record is playing a song faster or slower than when it
was "recorded" in my head, I can tell the difference and I tell
whether it is sharp or flat. My mediocre intellect qualifies me for
the title of Idiot Savant at best, so again, I don't think this is any
special talent. I have never measured how far a musical note must be
off before I can discern the difference. I'm going to assume that I
can tell the difference comparing to the song in my head almost as
well as I can tell comparing it to a recording, side by side.

I don't know if this is what people call "perfect pitch", but I would
call it "pretty goddamned good pitch". I have never considered it a
particularly stunning ability and I would guess that there are
millions of other people in the world who are much more gifted in this
respect than I.

If a person with this ability is accustomed to hearing a piece in
A-440 and then hears it in A-442, all of the notes will be about eight
cents sharp...all of the notes, not just A. Eight cents is no
miniscule error. I would venture a guess that nearly every poster in
this group can tell when their piano is eight cents out of tune.

So, in my opinion, not only is perfect (or nearly-perfect) pitch
possible, it is undoubtedly commonplace. One has to give the
complexities of the human mind some credit here.

Don
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-15 16:13:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by eromlignod
Though I have been a contributor to this group for many years, I have
heretofore refrained from getting into the fray about the subject of
"perfect pitch". But I guess I'll add my observations on the subject.
I hear music in my head. I hear music that I have heard on the radio,
on CD's, live, music I have played, people's voices who are long dead,
etc. I hear it clearly and with all the instruments and voices.
Having said that, I will go on to say that this is not a remarkable
feat of intellectual finesse. In fact, I would guess that most
people, whether musically inclined or not, can and do hear music in
their heads.
I also hear music in the key in which it was written. If you ask me
to start singing "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles, I will sing it in the
same key that you hear it on the radio without having heard it for a
long time. I may not be able to name the key--I don't really care
what the key is--but it will be the correct key. Again, this is no
novelty or parlor trick; plenty of people can do this. Just to be
able to separate keys requires a mental accuracy of 50 cents, and more
realistically, much closer than that.
If a phonograph record is playing a song faster or slower than when it
was "recorded" in my head, I can tell the difference and I tell
whether it is sharp or flat. My mediocre intellect qualifies me for
the title of Idiot Savant at best, so again, I don't think this is any
special talent. I have never measured how far a musical note must be
off before I can discern the difference. I'm going to assume that I
can tell the difference comparing to the song in my head almost as
well as I can tell comparing it to a recording, side by side.
I don't know if this is what people call "perfect pitch", but I would
call it "pretty goddamned good pitch". I have never considered it a
particularly stunning ability and I would guess that there are
millions of other people in the world who are much more gifted in this
respect than I.
If a person with this ability is accustomed to hearing a piece in
A-440 and then hears it in A-442, all of the notes will be about eight
cents sharp...all of the notes, not just A. Eight cents is no
miniscule error. I would venture a guess that nearly every poster in
this group can tell when their piano is eight cents out of tune.
So, in my opinion, not only is perfect (or nearly-perfect) pitch
possible, it is undoubtedly commonplace. One has to give the
complexities of the human mind some credit here.
Don
Sounds to me like you have an extremely good memory for pitches, and for
music, that includes the ability to remember the original pitch. That's
why I think 'perfect pitch' should be re-named 'pitch memory'.
Van Bagnol
2004-04-17 06:44:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Sounds to me like you have an extremely good memory for pitches, and for
music, that includes the ability to remember the original pitch. That's
why I think 'perfect pitch' should be re-named 'pitch memory'.
There's 'pitch memory', which Don mentions, and there's absolute pitch.
Absolute pitch is the uncanny phenomenon where you can tell the notes of
a motorcycle engine shifting, the jingle of car keys, a hinge squeak,
and a door knock. Those who aren't blessed with absolute pitch, that is,
we mere mortals having relative pitch, can 'fake it' with pitch memory
of a note to start from and working it from there.

My memory of a pitch is accurate to about a little under a whole step,
but I can't for the life of me identify a note without trying to recall
a 'reference' pitch and going by trial and error to figure out what the
damn interval is, and even then I might be off by over a semitone. And
if there's any distracting background sound, I'm lost.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-17 18:47:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Van Bagnol
There's 'pitch memory', which Don mentions, and there's absolute pitch.
Absolute pitch is the uncanny phenomenon where you can tell the notes of
a motorcycle engine shifting, the jingle of car keys, a hinge squeak,
and a door knock. Those who aren't blessed with absolute pitch, that is,
we mere mortals having relative pitch, can 'fake it' with pitch memory
of a note to start from and working it from there.
My memory of a pitch is accurate to about a little under a whole step,
but I can't for the life of me identify a note without trying to recall
a 'reference' pitch and going by trial and error to figure out what the
damn interval is, and even then I might be off by over a semitone. And
if there's any distracting background sound, I'm lost.
Van
I think Pitch Memory and what you're calling Absolute Pitch are really the
same thing. Being able to identify the pitch of a motorcycle shifting, as
in your example, is Pitch Memory, because the person is able to remember
what a certain pitch sounds like, and compare sounds they are hearing to
those remembered pitches. There's nothing absolute about it except that
the person has an absolutely amazing memory for pitches! The brain learns
to do these types of things very quickly.

The person with Pitch Memory probably has a good memory for timbres also.
In fact, I'm beginning to think that it comes from the ability to remember
pitch and timbre, which is probably how the person is able to remember
pitch. So perhaps an even better name is Pitch and Timbre Memory.

I believe that if that person had been brought up never hearing any music
except from a piano that was tuned a semitone flat from A440, he would say
"that motorcycle is playing an A flat"; if he was brought up hearing
nothing but a piano tuned to A440, he'd say "that motorcycle is playing an
A natural".

If he was brought up in a culture that didn't tune to A440, or in some
earlier time period before equal-temperament was developed, then he might
have said "the bray from that ox remindeth me of the low note of a sacbut"
or something equally peculiar.


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Van Bagnol
2004-04-18 13:57:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
I believe that if that person had been brought up never hearing any music
except from a piano that was tuned a semitone flat from A440, he would say
"that motorcycle is playing an A flat"; if he was brought up hearing
nothing but a piano tuned to A440, he'd say "that motorcycle is playing an
A natural".
If he was brought up in a culture that didn't tune to A440, or in some
earlier time period before equal-temperament was developed, then he might
have said "the bray from that ox remindeth me of the low note of a sacbut"
or something equally peculiar.
True, having names for notes aren't the necessary criteria, but I think
the rare talent for absolute pitch _is_ qualitatively different, like
synesthesia. "Happy Birthday" in Ab would seem almost a different song
than in A natural, or like transposing a piece on a saxophone a third
higher but with all fingers on the original valves.

Someone with absolute pitch would definitely have a good memory for
pitches, but having a memory for pitches (particularly having memorized
certain pitches) doesn't guarantee having absolute pitch.

Physiologically, hearing intervals (what you called "relative pitch
memory" or "interval memory") is a different level of auditory
processing in the brain than hearing pitches, which is at one of the
lowest levels of sound detection: specific microvilli nerve receptors in
the inner ear. When you hear a pitch, the tone resonates maximally at a
certain point on the tectorial membrane in the cochlea, which stimulates
the receptors at that location. A different pitch stimulates receptors
either farther up or farther down the membrane.

A person with 'perfect/absolute' pitch is essentially able to discern
which nerves along the cochlea are stimulated. A person without absolute
pitch but able to discern intervals is able to 'measure the distance' on
the membrane between stimulated nerves, but that's a higher (further
downstream) auditory function in the brain. It's not to say the two
perceptions are mutually exclusive, it's just that they're different
aspects in neural auditory processing.

The physiology explains how one can have memorized a pitch and 'fake'
having perfect/absolute pitch: one can train oneself to identify a
particular pitch (certain area in the cochlea), and then figure the
interval from the reference pitch, much like playing an octave by
spotting the lower note and then stretching your hand just so to hit the
higher one; you don't usually think about individually putting your
thumb and your pinkie on which note.

Like language, eyesight, and other sensory skills, an internal pitch
sense is probably best cultivated while you're very young, and gradually
lost or made more difficult over time.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Tom Shaw
2004-04-18 15:58:56 UTC
Permalink
This is the first I have heard of pitch recognition being a question of
knowing which microvilli in the ear are responding to the sound. As a
matter of fact I didn't realize there would be so many as to provide a
separate resonant structure for every 10 cents or so of frequency (or
whatever would be needed). It is also remarkable that such small structures
could resonate at bass frequencies since most loudspeakers cant. And they
do all this without processing in the brain.
TS
Post by Van Bagnol
Post by Richard Whitehouse
I believe that if that person had been brought up never hearing any music
except from a piano that was tuned a semitone flat from A440, he would say
"that motorcycle is playing an A flat"; if he was brought up hearing
nothing but a piano tuned to A440, he'd say "that motorcycle is playing an
A natural".
If he was brought up in a culture that didn't tune to A440, or in some
earlier time period before equal-temperament was developed, then he might
have said "the bray from that ox remindeth me of the low note of a sacbut"
or something equally peculiar.
True, having names for notes aren't the necessary criteria, but I think
the rare talent for absolute pitch _is_ qualitatively different, like
synesthesia. "Happy Birthday" in Ab would seem almost a different song
than in A natural, or like transposing a piece on a saxophone a third
higher but with all fingers on the original valves.
Someone with absolute pitch would definitely have a good memory for
pitches, but having a memory for pitches (particularly having memorized
certain pitches) doesn't guarantee having absolute pitch.
Physiologically, hearing intervals (what you called "relative pitch
memory" or "interval memory") is a different level of auditory
processing in the brain than hearing pitches, which is at one of the
lowest levels of sound detection: specific microvilli nerve receptors in
the inner ear. When you hear a pitch, the tone resonates maximally at a
certain point on the tectorial membrane in the cochlea, which stimulates
the receptors at that location. A different pitch stimulates receptors
either farther up or farther down the membrane.
A person with 'perfect/absolute' pitch is essentially able to discern
which nerves along the cochlea are stimulated. A person without absolute
pitch but able to discern intervals is able to 'measure the distance' on
the membrane between stimulated nerves, but that's a higher (further
downstream) auditory function in the brain. It's not to say the two
perceptions are mutually exclusive, it's just that they're different
aspects in neural auditory processing.
The physiology explains how one can have memorized a pitch and 'fake'
having perfect/absolute pitch: one can train oneself to identify a
particular pitch (certain area in the cochlea), and then figure the
interval from the reference pitch, much like playing an octave by
spotting the lower note and then stretching your hand just so to hit the
higher one; you don't usually think about individually putting your
thumb and your pinkie on which note.
Like language, eyesight, and other sensory skills, an internal pitch
sense is probably best cultivated while you're very young, and gradually
lost or made more difficult over time.
Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Van Bagnol
2004-04-20 19:14:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Shaw
This is the first I have heard of pitch recognition being a question of
knowing which microvilli in the ear are responding to the sound. As a
matter of fact I didn't realize there would be so many as to provide a
separate resonant structure for every 10 cents or so of frequency (or
whatever would be needed). It is also remarkable that such small structures
could resonate at bass frequencies since most loudspeakers cant. And they
do all this without processing in the brain.
There are about about 24,000 hair cells in the human cochlea, although
4,000 of them are connected to the auditory nerve fibers. Assuming an
even 'pink noise' distribution spectrum over a range of 20Hz-20KHz,
that's still about 400 hair cells per octave, or one every three cents.

It _is_ amazing how well the ear can amplify sound pressure to the point
of moving cilia that's bathed in fluid. The amount of energy in a sound
wave is miniscule.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Gary Rimar
2004-04-21 02:15:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Van Bagnol
Post by Tom Shaw
This is the first I have heard of pitch recognition being a question of
knowing which microvilli in the ear are responding to the sound. As a
matter of fact I didn't realize there would be so many as to provide a
separate resonant structure for every 10 cents or so of frequency (or
whatever would be needed). It is also remarkable that such small structures
could resonate at bass frequencies since most loudspeakers cant. And they
do all this without processing in the brain.
There are about about 24,000 hair cells in the human cochlea, although
4,000 of them are connected to the auditory nerve fibers. Assuming an
even 'pink noise' distribution spectrum over a range of 20Hz-20KHz,
that's still about 400 hair cells per octave, or one every three cents.
You're assuming that each hair is for a different discrete frequency. You
could be right, but I don't know that there aren't redundant hairs in case
some die.
Tony Elka
2004-04-21 04:08:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gary Rimar
You're assuming that each hair is for a different discrete frequency. You
could be right, but I don't know that there aren't redundant hairs in case
some die.
I'm stealing "Redundant Hairs" for a band name, and there's nothing you
can do about it.

Tony
Gary Rimar
2004-04-21 11:32:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tony Elka
Post by Gary Rimar
You're assuming that each hair is for a different discrete frequency.
You
Post by Tony Elka
Post by Gary Rimar
could be right, but I don't know that there aren't redundant hairs in case
some die.
I'm stealing "Redundant Hairs" for a band name, and there's nothing you
can do about it.
Tony
As a matter of fact, I already have the trademark on the phrase, so there IS
something I can do about it.

Just teasing. Just use the name in good health.

Gary (I won't tell you which names I DO have trademarked) Rimar
Van Bagnol
2004-04-21 17:12:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gary Rimar
Post by Tony Elka
Post by Gary Rimar
You're assuming that each hair is for a different discrete
frequency. You could be right, but I don't know that there aren't
redundant hairs in case some die.
I'm stealing "Redundant Hairs" for a band name, and there's nothing you
can do about it.
Tony
As a matter of fact, I already have the trademark on the phrase, so there IS
something I can do about it.
Okay then, I'm taking 'Perfect Pitch' and 'Gee, Your Hairs Hear
Terrific' for myself, but I'm willing to split 'Sole Hair' with someone.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Van Bagnol
2004-04-21 17:05:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Shaw
Post by Van Bagnol
Post by Tom Shaw
This is the first I have heard of pitch recognition being a question of
knowing which microvilli in the ear are responding to the sound. As a
matter of fact I didn't realize there would be so many as to provide a
separate resonant structure for every 10 cents or so of frequency (or
whatever would be needed). It is also remarkable that such small
structures
Post by Van Bagnol
Post by Tom Shaw
could resonate at bass frequencies since most loudspeakers cant. And
they
Post by Van Bagnol
Post by Tom Shaw
do all this without processing in the brain.
There are about about 24,000 hair cells in the human cochlea, although
4,000 of them are connected to the auditory nerve fibers. Assuming an
even 'pink noise' distribution spectrum over a range of 20Hz-20KHz,
that's still about 400 hair cells per octave, or one every three cents.
You're assuming that each hair is for a different discrete frequency. You
could be right, but I don't know that there aren't redundant hairs in case
some die.
Of course, but my newer physiology text says that just the inner row of
hair cells that are innervated for pitch perception, and the remaining
three rows are populated with the 20,000 others. While my older (1981)
text has an illustration with several rows innervated, perhaps the
recent information is more accurate. Also, it's not that a _single_ hair
cell is affected by a frequency. It's more like a cluster with a peak
excitation somewhere in the middle of the cluster. Auditory processing
in the brain detects pitch by examining the cells that fire and the
surrounding cells that don't, so maybe it's like a bubble level -- a
'bubble' of stimulation spans a number of cells, but it's the edges of
the bubble that tell you where it's centered.

The auditory cortex is interesting, though. There are specific areas
that map to the high-to-low frequencies from the auditory nerves. So if
you had little nanohammers in your skull coupled to a little nano-Renner
action, theoretically you may not need headphones for your digital....

Anyway, the concept of 'perfect pitch' vs tone-deafness makes me wonder.
It could be a tone-deaf person's cochleas have a dearth of innervated
hair cells, malformed cochlear geometry that transduces pressure waves
inaccurately, or just bad auditory-processing 'software'.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-18 19:40:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Van Bagnol
True, having names for notes aren't the necessary criteria, but I think
the rare talent for absolute pitch _is_ qualitatively different, like
synesthesia. "Happy Birthday" in Ab would seem almost a different song
than in A natural, or like transposing a piece on a saxophone a third
higher but with all fingers on the original valves.
Someone with absolute pitch would definitely have a good memory for
pitches, but having a memory for pitches (particularly having memorized
certain pitches) doesn't guarantee having absolute pitch.
I don't see how you could have a good memory for frequencies without having
having the ability to hear them in the first place. But I suppose it
might be possible to have the ability to hear distinct frequencies, but
have a bad memory for them. In fact, I think that's the way it is for
most people. Almost everyone can hear distinct frequencies. What's
different about the person with Pitch Memory is the ability to clearly
recall those frequencies from memory, I think.
Post by Van Bagnol
Physiologically, hearing intervals (what you called "relative pitch
memory" or "interval memory") is a different level of auditory
processing in the brain than hearing pitches, which is at one of the
lowest levels of sound detection: specific microvilli nerve receptors in
the inner ear. When you hear a pitch, the tone resonates maximally at a
certain point on the tectorial membrane in the cochlea, which stimulates
the receptors at that location. A different pitch stimulates receptors
either farther up or farther down the membrane.
I think Interval Recognition is the best name for relative pitch. I don't
care to speculate which of these phenomena are higher or lower on the scale
of sound detection. Understanding the differences between them is enough
for me.
Post by Van Bagnol
A person with 'perfect/absolute' pitch is essentially able to discern
which nerves along the cochlea are stimulated. A person without absolute
pitch but able to discern intervals is able to 'measure the distance' on
the membrane between stimulated nerves, but that's a higher (further
downstream) auditory function in the brain. It's not to say the two
perceptions are mutually exclusive, it's just that they're different
aspects in neural auditory processing.
I think most people hear specific frequencies the same way. But not
everyone can remember it.
Post by Van Bagnol
The physiology explains how one can have memorized a pitch and 'fake'
having perfect/absolute pitch: one can train oneself to identify a
particular pitch (certain area in the cochlea), and then figure the
interval from the reference pitch, much like playing an octave by
spotting the lower note and then stretching your hand just so to hit the
higher one; you don't usually think about individually putting your
thumb and your pinkie on which note.
I don't think you can 'fake' Pitch Memory (aka Perfect Pitch), any more
than you can fake Interval Recognition. Either you can do it or you can't.
Do people exist that can remember one 'reference pitch' but not others?
If they do, I'd be surprised. I've never heard of anyone having that
ability.
Post by Van Bagnol
Like language, eyesight, and other sensory skills, an internal pitch
sense is probably best cultivated while you're very young, and gradually
lost or made more difficult over time.
Van
True. It probably also depends on innate ability.


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Van Bagnol
2004-04-20 18:31:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Van Bagnol
The physiology explains how one can have memorized a pitch and 'fake'
having perfect/absolute pitch: one can train oneself to identify a
particular pitch (certain area in the cochlea), and then figure the
interval from the reference pitch, much like playing an octave by
spotting the lower note and then stretching your hand just so to hit the
higher one; you don't usually think about individually putting your
thumb and your pinkie on which note.
I don't think you can 'fake' Pitch Memory (aka Perfect Pitch), any more
than you can fake Interval Recognition. Either you can do it or you can't.
Do people exist that can remember one 'reference pitch' but not others?
If they do, I'd be surprised. I've never heard of anyone having that
ability.
I agree that either you have it or you don't, but 'faking' it is indeed
_faking_ it. Memorizing a reference pitch is like, to use the analogy in
your other post, carrying a little swatch of the pillow fabric to the
store to compare the store pillows against, so you can impress your
girlfriend and say 'too dark' or 'needs to be more pastel'. You can even
carry a bunch of swatches, just like you can memorize several reference
pitches. (If I concentrate I can remember the starting notes of a couple
of 'burned in' pieces like Fur Elise, Chopsticks and a few Sonatinas.)

But if I hear a note I have to stop, set it aside, try to remember a
reference note, and measure the distance.
Post by Richard Whitehouse
Post by Van Bagnol
Like language, eyesight, and other sensory skills, an internal pitch
sense is probably best cultivated while you're very young, and gradually
lost or made more difficult over time.
Van
True. It probably also depends on innate ability.
Indeed, it starts with whatever you're born with, and goes downhill from
there. :-)

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Tony Elka
2004-04-20 19:29:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Van Bagnol
But if I hear a note I have to stop, set it aside, try to remember a
reference note, and measure the distance.
I bet that if you try, you can hear the exact three notes in your head
that sound when NBC broadcasts it's logo. Then go pick em out on the
piano. That's three intervals you'll always know. There are probably
more like that stored upstairs, you'd be surprised what memory can do.
Post by Van Bagnol
Indeed, it starts with whatever you're born with, and goes downhill from
there. :-)
Whatever you start with can almost always be improved. But you gotta
use it or lose it as well.

Tony
Don A. Gilmore
2004-04-20 23:02:16 UTC
Permalink
I read an article by Dave Barry once where he mentioned the fact that all
basketball audiences anywhere in the US all sing the same two musical notes
when they chant "air ball" (when a player completely misses the basket on a
shot). He did an experiment by figuring out what the two notes were on his
guitar and then comparing with as many taped NBA games as he could find.
Apparently it is true: everyone sings the same two notes no matter what city
and without having heard it immediately beforehand.

Figure that one out!

Don
Post by Tony Elka
I bet that if you try, you can hear the exact three notes in your head
that sound when NBC broadcasts it's logo. Then go pick em out on the
piano. That's three intervals you'll always know. There are probably
more like that stored upstairs, you'd be surprised what memory can do.
Tony
Gary Rimar
2004-04-21 02:19:28 UTC
Permalink
I generally don't have to do this before recognizing a note, but every once
in a while I feel a need to "check" my "calibration." My reference is the
first two chords in Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concertio. I have my C, I
have my F, and I have an Ab thrown in for good measure.

The NBC sound is a good idea too. I was once at a very fancy dinner where
they had to call us into the dining room and the woman who was trying to do
so was carrying an three-note xylophone, with those notes. She kept hitting
out the NBC theme until she walked by me and I sung "N-B-C" at her. She
giggled, and changed her note selection and number.

Gary
Post by Tony Elka
Post by Van Bagnol
But if I hear a note I have to stop, set it aside, try to remember a
reference note, and measure the distance.
I bet that if you try, you can hear the exact three notes in your head
that sound when NBC broadcasts it's logo. Then go pick em out on the
piano. That's three intervals you'll always know. There are probably
more like that stored upstairs, you'd be surprised what memory can do.
Post by Van Bagnol
Indeed, it starts with whatever you're born with, and goes downhill from
there. :-)
Whatever you start with can almost always be improved. But you gotta
use it or lose it as well.
Tony
Van Bagnol
2004-04-21 16:15:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tony Elka
Post by Van Bagnol
But if I hear a note I have to stop, set it aside, try to remember a
reference note, and measure the distance.
I bet that if you try, you can hear the exact three notes in your head
that sound when NBC broadcasts it's logo. Then go pick em out on the
piano. That's three intervals you'll always know. There are probably
more like that stored upstairs, you'd be surprised what memory can do.
DRAT! I tried it just now and it turns out I was off by a MINOR 3RD! (We
tape ER every Thursday so I have not only the NBC notes, but the
starting flourish for the Jay Leno Tonight Show. I watch _that_ often
enough to remember it, but....aaauugh!)

Normally, if I think of Fur Elise or the latest piece I'm working on,
I'm accurate to a whole step. Still not good, but not as bad a a minor
3rd.
Post by Tony Elka
Post by Van Bagnol
Indeed, it starts with whatever you're born with, and goes downhill from
there. :-)
Whatever you start with can almost always be improved. But you gotta
use it or lose it as well.
I used to bring a pitch pipe with me on the commute drive, to see if I
can (1) memorize pitches, and (2) hit high 'A', (3) reduce boredom. Now
I don't commute, but the pitch pipe practice didn't help as much as I
thought. I did learn the harmonica, though. :-)

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Richard Whitehouse
2004-04-19 03:13:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Van Bagnol
A person with 'perfect/absolute' pitch is essentially able to discern
which nerves along the cochlea are stimulated. A person without absolute
pitch but able to discern intervals is able to 'measure the distance' on
the membrane between stimulated nerves, but that's a higher (further
downstream) auditory function in the brain. It's not to say the two
perceptions are mutually exclusive, it's just that they're different
aspects in neural auditory processing.
Have people done scientific tests of this? It does sound interesting.
Maybe there is something physiologically different about people with
Frequency Recognition (my new proposed name for it.) But I think memory
must be component of it also. That would be easily provable by asking the
person with Frequency Recognition to sing an A 440 or some other frequency,
without having heard any music for several hours. If they can accurately
recall it from their memory, then that means that the cochlea is not the
whole explanation. Maybe it's part of it, though.

Maybe it's similar to the way some women seem to have a better perception
of colour than men. A guy would say 'that's red', but a chick would say
'no, it's cartreuse', or something like that (is chartreuse a shade of red?
I'm not sure, but you get the point). They'd know the exact shade of red.
Not only that, they can go to a store, and pick out a pillow that matches
the colour of one of the sub-colours of a couch or something, and it
matches it exactly, which means they have a really good memory for shades
of colour. Maybe people with Frequency Recognition perceive pitches in a
similar way, with more detail than most people.


**************************************
** http://www.richardwhitehouse.ca **
**************************************
Van Bagnol
2004-04-20 18:15:36 UTC
Permalink
This post might be inappropriate. Click to display it.
Tom Shaw
2004-04-20 18:38:58 UTC
Permalink
Thanks a lot :-). All I needed today was a new and different illustration
of the difference between genius and 99.99999% of the rest of us.
TS
snip
Post by Van Bagnol
[*] There's an interesting anecdote about chess genius Bobby Fischer.
While in Reykjavik he was supposed to meet his friend, Iceland's
grandmaster Frederick Olaffson, so he phoned him. Olaffson wasn't there,
but a little girl, who spoke no English, answered, and of course wasn't
able to help Fischer, who knew no Icelandic. Several hours later,
Fischer mentioned the episode to another chessplayer, including what the
girl (Olaffson's daughter) said, which Fischer repeated in Icelandic by
imitating the sounds with perfect inflection. The chessplayer was able
to translate to Fischer what she said, word for word.
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
ptooner
2004-04-20 21:24:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Van Bagnol
[*] There's an interesting anecdote about chess genius Bobby Fischer.
While in Reykjavik he was supposed to meet his friend, Iceland's
grandmaster Frederick Olaffson, so he phoned him. Olaffson wasn't there,
but a little girl, who spoke no English, answered, and of course wasn't
able to help Fischer, who knew no Icelandic. Several hours later,
Fischer mentioned the episode to another chessplayer, including what the
girl (Olaffson's daughter) said, which Fischer repeated in Icelandic by
imitating the sounds with perfect inflection. The chessplayer was able
to translate to Fischer what she said, word for word.
While Bobby Fischer was certainly a great chess player in his day I think
you'd have to go far out on a limb to refer to the "D" student high school
drop out as any kind of a genius. Chess does require an excellent memory,
so the anecdote could be possible.
Gerry
mememe
2004-04-21 16:35:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by ptooner
While Bobby Fischer was certainly a great chess player in his day I think
you'd have to go far out on a limb to refer to the "D" student high school
drop out as any kind of a genius. Chess does require an excellent memory,
so the anecdote could be possible.
Gerry
I'm not sure success in school is a reliable test for genius. There are many
reasons some don't do well in school. You might enjoy this account of
Einstein's inauspicious scholastic beginings:

"Einstein's childhood was a normal one, except that to his family's
irritation, he learnt to speak at a late age. Beginning in 1884 he received
private education in order to get prepared for school. During the same year
he started learning to play violin. Beginning in 1885 he received his
primary education at a Catholic school in Munich (Petersschule); in 1888 he
changed over to the Luitpold-Gymnasium, also in Munich. However, as this
education was not to his liking and, in addition, he did not get along with
his form-master he left this school in 1894 without a degree and joined his
family in Milan where they had settled meanwhile.

In order to be admitted to study at the "Eidgenössische Polytechnische
Schule" (later renamed ETH) in Zurich, Einstein took his entrance
examination in October 1895. However, some of his results were insufficient
and, following the advice of the rector, he attended the "Kantonsschule" in
the town of Aarau in order to improve his knowledge. In early October 1896
he received his school-leaving certificate and shortly thereafter enrolled
at the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule with the goal of becoming a
teacher in Mathematics and Physics. Einstein, being an average student,
finished his studies with a diploma degree in July 1900. He then applied,
without success, for assistentships at the Polytechnische Schule and other
universities."

Cheers,

K.
ptooner
2004-04-21 19:34:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by mememe
Post by ptooner
While Bobby Fischer was certainly a great chess player in his day I think
you'd have to go far out on a limb to refer to the "D" student high school
drop out as any kind of a genius. Chess does require an excellent memory,
so the anecdote could be possible.
Gerry
I'm not sure success in school is a reliable test for genius. There are many
reasons some don't do well in school. You might enjoy this account of
I would certainly not argue that there is a full parallel between success in
school and genius. OTOH, there is generally at least some relationship.
Barring that, we look for attainment in other intellectual fields. Would
you argue that being the tops in ones field is an automatic qualification?
Consider boxers and some football players. Consider some rock stars.
My doubt as to Bobby Fischer's qualifications stem from a total lack of
attainment in any area except the one narrow field of competitive chess.
Besides that, if you ever hear him speak I can assure you it will leave no
doubt in your mind of his level of intellect.

Gerry
Post by mememe
"Einstein's childhood was a normal one, except that to his family's
irritation, he learnt to speak at a late age. Beginning in 1884 he received
private education in order to get prepared for school. During the same year
he started learning to play violin. Beginning in 1885 he received his
primary education at a Catholic school in Munich (Petersschule); in 1888 he
changed over to the Luitpold-Gymnasium, also in Munich. However, as this
education was not to his liking and, in addition, he did not get along with
his form-master he left this school in 1894 without a degree and joined his
family in Milan where they had settled meanwhile.
In order to be admitted to study at the "Eidgenössische Polytechnische
Schule" (later renamed ETH) in Zurich, Einstein took his entrance
examination in October 1895. However, some of his results were
insufficient
Post by mememe
and, following the advice of the rector, he attended the "Kantonsschule" in
the town of Aarau in order to improve his knowledge. In early October 1896
he received his school-leaving certificate and shortly thereafter enrolled
at the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule with the goal of becoming a
teacher in Mathematics and Physics. Einstein, being an average student,
finished his studies with a diploma degree in July 1900. He then applied,
without success, for assistentships at the Polytechnische Schule and other
universities."
Cheers,
K.
Van Bagnol
2004-04-22 18:14:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by ptooner
Post by ptooner
While Bobby Fischer was certainly a great chess player in his day
I think you'd have to go far out on a limb to refer to the "D"
student high school drop out as any kind of a genius. Chess does
require an excellent memory, so the anecdote could be possible.
Gerry
Fischer by many anecdotal accounts was said to have a prodigious memory.
For example, he was able to recall move by move a blitz game he played
some 15 years earlier. See
<http://bobbyfischer.net/bobby02.html>
for others.
Post by ptooner
I would certainly not argue that there is a full parallel between
success in school and genius. OTOH, there is generally at least some
relationship. Barring that, we look for attainment in other
intellectual fields. Would you argue that being the tops in ones
field is an automatic qualification? Consider boxers and some
football players. Consider some rock stars.
On the subject of genius, I did qualify my statement by referring to
Fischer as a _chess_ genius. Was Mozart a musical genius? I'd be
reluctant to deny _him_ the title 'genius' because of his financial
expertise.

In the case of boxers and football players, according to Gardner's
theory of multiple intelligences they may actually be what is called
kinesthetically gifted, as are many pianists and dancers. BTW,
heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis is a pretty good chessplayer, whose
principles he applies to boxing. I don't know whether he qualifies as
genius, but he's certainly gifted.
Post by ptooner
My doubt as to Bobby Fischer's qualifications stem from a total lack of
attainment in any area except the one narrow field of competitive chess.
Perhaps it stems from a total lack of interest in any other area. Is the
literature by Mozart on any required reading lists? The music of
Einstein?
Post by ptooner
Besides that, if you ever hear him speak I can assure you it will leave no
doubt in your mind of his level of intellect.
Then again, his politics is not an indicator of his chess intellect any
more than Mozart's was of his musical intellect. Gosh, I hope not.


Back to pitch: my point was that psychologists have evidence that chess
experts perceive the board cognitively different and therefore file them
in memory differently from nonplayers. I wonder whether those with
'perfect pitch' perceive notes differently enough that their memories of
them are also qualitatively different, which would lead to a knack of
absolute pitch _memory_.

Van
--
Van Bagnol / v b a g n o l at earthlink dot net / c r l at bagnol dot com
...enjoys - Theatre / Windsurfing / Skydiving / Mountain Biking
...feels - "Parang lumalakad ako sa loob ng paniginip"
...thinks - "An Error is Not a Mistake ... Unless You Refuse to Correct It"
Michael
2004-04-22 03:40:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by mememe
Post by ptooner
While Bobby Fischer was certainly a great chess player in his day I think
you'd have to go far out on a limb to refer to the "D" student high school
drop out as any kind of a genius. Chess does require an excellent memory,
so the anecdote could be possible.
Gerry
I'm not sure success in school is a reliable test for genius. There are many
reasons some don't do well in school. You might enjoy this account of
Well yeah, but it's largely selective facts and a spoonful of myth though.

Excellent / outstanding at some subjects and ignoring others is not the
same as an average student.

Reading the early chapters of Denis Brian's biog, it wouldn't be
surprising to anyone who saw what he was good at when he was 13 learning
that he later went onto become outstanding in Physics / maths and not greek.

His early prowess at maths and latin, his maths teacher when he left the
gymnasium said he was so proficient at math there was nothing else he
could teach him, his "paper" written for an Uncle about light / the
ether [wrong we now know but not exactly what the average student / high
school dropout does], his studying higher maths at 13 by himself and -
at 16, although he did fail the Zurich entrance exam [in liberal arts]
the physics prof was so impressed with his science / math scores he
asked him to audit his lectures.

A bit later and he got a doctorate in physics - sounds pretty successful
at school, even if he'd stopped there....
--
Michael.
Alan Young
2004-04-15 17:21:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by eromlignod
I don't know if this is what people call "perfect pitch", but I would
call it "pretty goddamned good pitch". I have never considered it a
particularly stunning ability and I would guess that there are
millions of other people in the world who are much more gifted in this
respect than I.
You don't seem to realize that "perfect pitch" is a bit of a misnomer.
A better term for what is being discussed is "absolute pitch," and you
certainly seem to have it.

Yes, it is a natural gift, like the ability to see color (compared to
the color-blind). But millions of people is not many out of the
billions on earth.
Post by eromlignod
I would venture a guess that nearly every poster in
this group can tell when their piano is eight cents out of tune.
No, not by any means. I could tell perhaps if it was 30 or 40 cents
off, but the piano's tone is very distinctive. If a note on a violin or
organ was off by even a half-step, I wouldn't notice it without a
*recent* point of comparison.
Post by eromlignod
So, in my opinion, not only is perfect (or nearly-perfect) pitch
possible, it is undoubtedly commonplace. One has to give the
complexities of the human mind some credit here.
Not-so-commonplace, AFAIK.
--
Alan
http://www.hummingbear.net/~aayoung/Jazz/jazz.html

"Pray every day to every god."
-- Kurt Elling, "Resolution"
Gary Rimar
2004-04-16 03:55:36 UTC
Permalink
There are plenty of great pianists who don't have perfect pitch.
ptooner
2004-04-15 20:12:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by eromlignod
Though I have been a contributor to this group for many years, I have
heretofore refrained from getting into the fray about the subject of
"perfect pitch". But I guess I'll add my observations on the subject.
I hear music in my head.
Damn! You hear them too? I thought it was just me!!!
Sorry, I couldn't resist. ;-)

Gerry
Mobutu Mbwawe
2004-04-15 23:16:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by ptooner
Post by eromlignod
I hear music in my head.
Damn! You hear them too? I thought it was just me!!!
Something evil this way comes !
Ippolyti
2004-04-19 18:57:33 UTC
Permalink
so kids, I can hear the pitch of the piano notes, violines, trumpets,
noises that chairs make, cars corns, etc .. I also hear,when erything
is silent a certain vague tonality spread in the air (usualy sib or
la)... but I can not understand the pitch when someone is singing nor
can I sing in the correct pitxh... am I crazy or what? is that
absolute pitch or not???
:)
Tony Elka
2004-04-19 19:42:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ippolyti
so kids, I can hear the pitch of the piano notes, violines, trumpets,
noises that chairs make, cars corns, etc .. I also hear,when erything
is silent a certain vague tonality spread in the air (usualy sib or
la)... but I can not understand the pitch when someone is singing nor
can I sing in the correct pitxh... am I crazy or what? is that
absolute pitch or not???
:)
Play scales and sing along with them for a couple of weeks. Then do
intervals, start with fifths.

You'll get it soon enough, it's all about getting pitch memory into the
brain.

Tony
Patrick L.
2004-04-21 15:16:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Grams
I was reading Andrew Kazdin's (poorly written) book about Glenn Gould, and
in it, he made some crack about how ironic it was that almost all recording
pianists have perfect pitch, yet it doesn't help them at all. I found the
statement rather absurd, for one should probably assume that it helps quite
a bit if almost all of the greats have it. Does anybody know of a "great"
pianist who *doesn't* have perfect pitch?
Yes, me. Just kidding. Most do not.


If you are an orchestrator, it is a blessing. If you play a sitar, a
terrible hindrance.


Patrick
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