Developing Perfect Pitch (for music)

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liminal
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16 Oct 2018, 10:07 pm

Experiments performed at the psychology department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong have demonstrated that adults can learn perfect pitch (a.k.a absolute pitch).

This shatters the assumptions that perfect pitch either must be learned as a child or is a natural talent that only few people are born with.

The experiments use a computer program that plays a tone and expects the participant to guess the pitch. This sort of thing is not new - there already exist websites and apps that do exactly this. But the problem with these apps is that they tend to train relative pitch rather than absolute pitch. The reason is that, when we use these apps, our memory sets a reference pitch (e.g. we memorise the C note) and we make our guesses by how far away the pitches seem to be from our reference. Annoyingly this is something that our brains want to do, and it is what prevents us from learning absolute pitch.

Fortunately these experiments solve the reference problem in a very simple way - a 15 second glissando sound is played every round, effectively clearing the participant's memory of the notes and leaving their minds in a fresh and ideal condition for learning absolute pitch.


Full PDF of study can be downloaded:

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/07/03/355933


A reddit thread discussing the experiment:

https://old.reddit.com/r/musictheory/co ... through_a/

Some people in the thread mentioned that they are interested in creating their own program based on the protocols from the study. So maybe soon one of them will make a github project for this. The thread submitter even posted the program design and the sound files to help:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/ ... Wpkf1ReGAL


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Chummy
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17 Oct 2018, 1:59 pm

Interesting.

My music professor told our class last year that autists tend to have greater inclination to have perfect pitch than the general population, based on empiric evidence. I wonder whether it has to do with "hyperfocus" - that is determination to learn and pursue music as a special interest.

I guess that's true for me, so I'm +1 for the statistics.



liminal
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Today, 12:47 am

Do you find that having perfect pitch helps a lot with composition?

I'm really trying to get into composition, so that's the reason for my interest in this topic. I'm pretty much self-taught so I'm always looking for new ways to improve my abilities :)


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