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Thread: Perfect Pitch

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    Default Perfect Pitch

    Greetings!

    I am new to this forum and this is my first post. I wanted to let you know my lifelong problem with interacting with music and would appreciate help if anyone feels qualified to give it.

    I can identify any pitch on the piano but not on any other instrument. In college, I made straight A's (no pun intended) during ear training exercises. These exercises and examples were all played on the piano. When it came to sight singing, I was lost. In addition, I have never been able to recall a pitch by singing it. Some people say I have perfect pitch, others say no. Can anyone explain what I am experiencing and if I can develop the other aspects of perfect pitch that I am currently lacking? No one has been able to give a reasonable explanation to my problem.

    Please provide as much detail as possible, if you can, please explain this issue, because I have been dealing with this problem for about 40 years with no direction on how to improve my ear through ear training and sight singing.

    Thank you for reading my post!

    Pianoyesmh

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    It sounds to me like you have a unique case of relative pitch that is based around your memory of how notes sound on a piano. It is not possible to develop perfect pitch as an adult, but you can improve your relative pitch by doing ear training exercises like practicing singing scales and intervals. Practice with a piano or other instrument nearby to check your progress.
    Last edited by tdc; Jun-27-2019 at 01:19.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    What are you trying to accomplish in music? That counts for something. Purpose. It’s a motivator. Sing? Play an instrument? If you have a good relative pitch, you don’t need perfect pitch and can still sing. Most singers do not have perfect pitch but they have good relative pitch, which means that they can sing a melody in tune once they have been given the initial pitch. If somebody can play a note on the piano and you can match it, that is usually a very good sign that one has singing ability if the quality of the voice is also good. I would say that the main question is whether you need perfect pitch or not to enjoy music. The people that I know who have it do not require a piano in order to identify the pitch or chord... and they don’t have to work at developing it. It’s just there without effort, without development, and without thinking. But relative pitch usually requires practice to develop it and keep it sharp. I do not have perfect pitch, but I can easily identify pitches when I’ve been practicing my flute, clarinet or saxophone even when away from those instruments. There’s tonal memory that comes into play that can be very useful.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jun-27-2019 at 01:36.
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    Thank you for your responses. What am I trying to accomplish? I would like to to be able to tune a guitar or violin without the need of a reference pitch and yes, I would like to be able to sing a pitch on command without a reference pitch or reference instrument. As I lead a choir, I'd like to be able to sing the correct pitches in a score, to help choristers who may be singing out of tune. I'd like to be able to listen to a recording and transcribe a part and figure out what key it is in. Those are some of the things that I would like to be able to do. If a pop song comes on the radio, if it is played on the piano, I generally can tell you what key it is in but not if you change the instrument. Are things things possible by developing relative pitch or is perfect pitch a necessity? Thanks.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pianoyesmh View Post
    Thank you for your responses. What am I trying to accomplish? I would like to to be able to tune a guitar or violin without the need of a reference pitch and yes, I would like to be able to sing a pitch on command without a reference pitch or reference instrument. As I lead a choir, I'd like to be able to sing the correct pitches in a score, to help choristers who may be singing out of tune. I'd like to be able to listen to a recording and transcribe a part and figure out what key it is in. Those are some of the things that I would like to be able to do. If a pop song comes on the radio, if it is played on the piano, I generally can tell you what key it is in but not if you change the instrument. Are things things possible by developing relative pitch or is perfect pitch a necessity? Thanks.
    This might not be the answer you’re looking for, but if you’re not already playing the piano or another instrument, I would encourage you to do so. You could use it to transcribe anything and use it for many other purposes rather than trying to rely on perfect pitch and not having an instrument as a frame of reference. Your self-expectations seem very high and they can put pressure on you. Find a way to take the pressure off yourself and really enjoyed the music in your choir. It’s not necessary to rely on perfect pitch to tune a violin or guitar. That’s what 99% of the musicians in the world do and it’s not a sign of weakness. All that’s necessary is a reference pitch. It seems like you’re trying to do everything the hard way, and I would really take a look at how to simplify your life musically so you can still be effective but relax and enjoy. All you need is the starting note and good relative pitch can be developed. Helping others sing in tune is not necessarily dependent on perfect pitch. If I were to suggest anything, it would be that you start depending more on relative pitch rather than perfect pitch. All that’s required for that is a reference tone on the piano or some other type of tuner or pitch pipe no matter how unexciting that might seem. With knowledge of an instrument or the piano, you have that as a frame of reference to transcribe anything and check keys and pitches. In the meantime, it may be that your expectations could be slightly beyond your reach and it’s time to find a better or another way. Music is supposed to be a joy, a celebration, and it’s easier when one is feeling unburdened, and it may be that you do not have the full requirements of perfect pitch and it’s time to let that expectation go. Even some of the greatest of composers have had relative and not perfect pitch. Best wishes.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jun-28-2019 at 09:16.
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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Larkenfield is right imv. If you are autodidactic you can easily devise an aural course for yourself (there is probably stuff online too). One could start say, with learning diatonic intervals, first by playing the two notes separately (melodically) and once assimilated (through endless repetition over a period of time) play them together. Slow, patient and consistent methodology, (practising as you would an instrument) will reap rewards eventually. Don't over face yourself with too much, perhaps just get used to a perfect 5th until you can sing it and hear it combined in your head and then move on.

    You should be able to find recordings of intervals online, so pop them on to your mp3 player and play anytime - even going to sleep with them on a loop might be a good idea (just one interval at a time that is).

    At some stage you may feel able to introduce more chromatic movement but I would start off diatonically. Figuring out keys is another matter altogether and requires a lot more technical knowledge.

    I have relative pitch (I'm a composer) as do a lot of musos and as Larkenfield says, it is no shame. It can be more flexible than PP if audio recordings are off and it can make score reading easier when following transposed instruments. (I knew somebody who had terrible trouble marrying the actual sound of french horns with the written part).
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jun-28-2019 at 14:23.
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    It doesn't sound like Pianoyesmh has perfect pitch; otherwise, he'd be able to recognize pitches from any source. I suggest that he look at this video, and others by Rick Beato on this subject.

    https://youtu.be/t3Cb1qwCUvI

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jun-28-2019 at 17:18.

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