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Perfect Pitch

Discussion in 'Ask Anthony Wellington [archive]' started by iwearpumas, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. iwearpumas


    Aug 12, 2011
    Middletown, NY
    I think I saw a video where you said you have perfect pitch. I could be wrong, but i remember seeing a video where you were calling notes out when you heard them. Is there any way to practice to get perfect pitch, or is it something that happens over years of playing and practicing? Some say perfect pitch is a curse, do you think it is good to have?
  2. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    I think it's BS
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    "Perfect pitch," as I understand it, refers to the ability to identify a note (say, C-sharp) directly, without any context: You can just hear the note and say, "that's C-sharp." There are lots of (expensive) programs out there that claim to be able to teach you how to be able to do this (e.g., a two-page ad in most issues of BP Magazine); other people believe it is something you are "born with" or not.

    I don't know if any of these programs actually work or not, or whether "perfect pitch" is a genetic gift or not. What I am pretty sure of, though, is that having "perfect pitch" is much less important than having a good ear for "relative pitch": i.e., the ability to determine the interval between one given note and another. Perfect pitch would allow you to rapidly figure out the key of a given piece of music -- which, admittedly, would be handy if you can do it -- but relative pitch is what will allow you to figure out what's going on within the music (in whatever key it happens to be in).
  4. iwearpumas


    Aug 12, 2011
    Middletown, NY

    It sounds like Relative Pitch is more theoretical, like it helps you understand what the music is, whereas perfect pitch is just something like common knowledge.
  5. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab ACME,QSC,Fame/Hondo/Greco user & BOSE Abuser Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    South Texas
    My brother and I got this "training" in our youth as Mom was an organist and older sister was practicing 24/7 on piano(scales and classical). This training lasted from the time we were born until we left home. I can sing a scale into a strobe tuner with a mic plugged into it and the scale notes are exactly on center. I did this on a whim to check a Peterson strobe I was selling on eBay years ago. I was so shocked, I called my wife to show her and repeated the "trick". OK, it can be learned over time.

    Helps you sing better, pick out harmonies, and "automatically" know which notes fit a chord or song.

    In a way because it makes listening to ANYTHING out of tune painful. It makes hearing a band attempt and fail harmony vocals painful. It made listening to certain "great rock bands" in my youth intolerable because they were ALWAYS(live and studio) out of tune slightly.

    I would not pay to learn/obtain such "perfect pitch". If you so desire it, you could create mp3's or sound files with you or someone else singing a note name ON PITCH. Do the same for all notes up and down the entire "musical range" and then listen to this for days, months, years. Practicing scales while mentally naming the notes as you play does this too. Pick what works for you if you want it.
  6. iwearpumas


    Aug 12, 2011
    Middletown, NY

    Ima try the practice scales while you sing the notes. That sounds very beneficial.
  7. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    I have extremely good relative pitch. Not perfect pitch. But there are some frequencies that I can 'usually' pull out of thin air, the 4 open strings of a bass guitar. After you've tuned a bass for 25 years you should be able to 'recite' those pitches without reference.

    Also, I can generally pull out an 'Ab' because the very first song I owned was 'I Want You Back' by the Jackson 5. I usually hear that bass line in my mind 'in key'. It's the pop song I've heard the longest in my life.

    Because I have good relative pitch I usually can get any note I want after I have a reference pitch.

    But like someone said earlier, one is theory related and the other isn't. Just because someone can hear a 'C' and hear an 'E' doesn't mean they will know that that interval is a Major 3rd. That has to be learned. I think hearing frequencies and hearing the distance(intervals) between notes are totally separate skills. I think a combination of the two is ideal.

  8. IronLung1986


    May 19, 2010
    Exeter, NH
    I knew a guy back in high school who had honest-to-God perfect pitch. Our band instructor tried to stump him and never could. It is definitely real and for the record he had basically perfect relative pitch also.
  9. VBassRookie


    Dec 20, 2012
    My ex wife had perfect pitch. She could name the chord progression of any song that she had heard. If you gave her a sheet of blank music staff she could write out the notes as the song was being played even if she didn't know the song. I used to sit in the other room from her and play chords on the guitar and she would call them out correct every time. Came in handy when you wanted to figure a song out. She could also grab her keyboard and play any song you asked of her as long as she had heard it before. I have never seen anyone else do that, even my music teachers I had in school.
  10. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    It's real for sure! I know folks with 'honest to God' perfect pitch and I know people with perfect tempo also.

    But the name of chords and notes as they pass,...

    I can do that. Having 'good' relative pitch will allow you to do that once given a reference pitch. But the good thing about relative pitch is that because its theory based. I can do it in any key. Meaning I can listen to a song in the key of A and transcribe it in real time in the key of Eb. It's because I'm related distances. A person with perfect picture who hasn't studied theory or intervals can't do that. Having perfect pitch is not music related. It's like seeing color. And being able to see the color red doesn't mean that you can paint or understand color tone.

    I know some non-musicians who have perfect pitch. They know just enough to know the names of the pitches and that's it. I think that's pretty cool. No attachments.

    Like I said earlier, having both skills would be ideal. But if I could only have one I'd go with great relative pitch because its knowledge based.

  11. I'm another with partial perfect pitch. I can hear 'G's, 'Ab's (the top of my vocal register), open strings, and all the notes on the B-string. I just relate the sound to the timbre of the instrument I play and I suddenly know what I personally would play. Then, I relate that using relative pitch, so I can figure out pitches given enough time.

    Not perfect, but close. At least I'm not bothered by A=434.
  12. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    My perfect pitch has gotten worse with age to where I no longer have it, but I do still have awesome relative pitch ;)
  13. ACB0015


    Oct 27, 2010
    Portland, Maine
    Perfect pitch as I understand it is when you toss the accordion into the dumpster and it lands on the banjo.
  14. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    And when you toss out your mother-in-law and she lands on your wife that would be 'relative' pitch!

  15. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    I knew a perfect pitch guy in college. He was infallible in identifying multiple notes on the piano at the same time. Perfect pitch is perfect ALL the time.

    ...But Relative pitch is more useful to a musician. But alas, I have neither! I know theory pretty well, but cant always identify stuff by hearing it. Common stuff, yes. Rhythm changes, blues, other cadences...

    To me having a 'good ear' is synonymous with relative pitch.
  16. moldyboy


    Aug 9, 2013
    I have perfect pitch and perfect relative pitch. I learned that I had it at a fairly young age when i knew that our microwave cooks in the key of B natural. I am also terrible at reading music because usually if I am playing a song I know, I can learn it much faster if I just play the notes I hear in my head.
  17. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    I hate you moldyboy!!!
  18. iwearpumas


    Aug 12, 2011
    Middletown, NY
    I hear its more of a curse than a blessing. Especially if a someone isn't properly tuned or the keyboardist is hitting wrong notes in a chord.
  19. KristinBidwell1


    Jul 5, 2013
    Baltimore, MD
    Professional Bassist, Private Instructor
    Haha... "Relative" pitch. Ant, you're super goofy :)