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Jul. 1st, 2009 @ 12:01 pm perfect pitch curiosity
Hi, my name is julien. I've been interested in AP phenomenon for few years now and I always had a lot of questions I would like to ask to people with perfect pitch. So if you don't mind here are a few:

1) Is it easier for you to recognize pitches on your own instrument kind than on others? Do you feel like you had to sort of learn the pitches on others instrument  ?

2) (linked to 1) Do you think the color of pitch is independant of intrument or dependent on timbre. Therefore do you perceive the tones on different intruments differently ? Do you think the of the individual pitch qualities as a refined timbre perception: timbre allow us to distinguish between different intrument sources whereas pitch color allow us to distinguish between the different pitch sources produced by an instrument?

3)  When you hear a chord. Do you hear it as a whole or do you hear it as several pitches played simultaneously. If you hear both do you hear the individual pitches before?

4) When you hear a chord progression, do you hear in a harmonic way (a succession of tones played in harmony) or as different lines of notes being played in parallel (like hearing the bass line, soprano lines and alto lines evolving simultaneously) ?
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toneblend:
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From:matthras
Date:July 1st, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)
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1. Yes. Electronic/synthesised music sounds sharp to me, and sometimes I can be off by a major third when singing in solfege because I'm unfamiliar with the timbre. (My primary instrument is the cello)

2. I've never really understood how people mean by colours when it comes to music (unless they have synesthesia). However in my experience when I listen to clarinet music I do tend to pitch the notes as if I was identifying notes on the clarinet rather than by concert pitch. (Learnt clarinet in high school)

3. Hear as a whole.

4. Harmonic way.

Please note that my answers to questions 3 and 4 may be biased towards the fact that I'm deaf on the right ear (and use a hearing aid on the left) so I may not actually be able to separate the different notes due to the lack of a second ear.
From:toneblend
Date:July 1st, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for your answsers.

When I say pitch color, It's only figuratively speaking. I only mean whatever quality you hear in pitch that makes it distinct from others. It's always kind of tricky for those who don't have absolute pitch to imagine that pitchs can sound differents for those with AP because others hear more like a single pitch quality that can vary in height.

It's surprising how many people here seem to have hearing problems. I wonder if there is a correlation with absolute pitch. Maybe prefect pitch appears to compensate.
Is your deathness of right ear recent (prior to your absolute pitch) ?
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From:matthras
Date:July 1st, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
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Nope. My hearing impairment's entirely congenital.

The basic idea that I've read in research in developing absolute pitch is due to the stage of development that the child starts learning music. When the child is growing up, at first he'll concentrate on individual sounds, and then later shift to perceiving the relative nature of sounds.

However when I was diagnosed with my hearing impairment at the age of 2, I went straight into speech training which attempted to improve my vocabulary by repetition of words in sentences. i.e. 'The penguin is waddling. Waddling. Waddling.'

My theory is that because I've learnt to focus on individual words, that this has shifted over to my musical training (I started on the cello at five) and hence the development of absolute pitch.
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From:ideealisme
Date:July 1st, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
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3. I would first hear a major chord/minor chord/dom 7/dim 7/whichever and then locate the pitch from the base or top note, if it's a full arpeggio. I would probably subconsciously have a pretty good idea of the chord's pitch at first hearing but would then check.

Edited at 2009-07-01 02:22 pm (UTC)
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From:por_que_no
Date:July 1st, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
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1) no difference. I'm a pianist, if that helps any.
2) independent, for me. An A is an A is an A, no matter which instrument or machine or whatnot is producing it. You mght meet people who have timbre-based "AP", which is not really the same...I refer to it lovingly as "piano pitch" after the instrument whose players most often have it! They can't seem to name notes on instruments besides their own, though.
3) I hear the whole chord in its key, though that might be because I actually have good relative pitch as well. The key and the quality come simultaneously, except for in, oddly enough, the French augmented 6, where I can get the quality first by a split second!
4) I tend to hear a bit more harmonically, as a diehard tonal composer, but I try to pay attention to line as well, especially when I'm writing contrapuntally. If someone weren't hearing at all harmonically, I'd question whether or not they have any relative pitch at all...which, contrary to popular belief, a lot of AP possessors have (and all *should* have) alongside. :)
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From:djproject
Date:July 1st, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
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1. no difference and i've played multiple instruments including voice

2. independent as far as listening and playing. but i do think about timbre when composing and i think that's when they are joined.

3. whole most of the time

4. harmonic and i attribute a lot of it to my experience and training to think tonally (although it's fun to think in different ways and devising/deriving different harmonic progressions).
From:toneblend
Date:July 1st, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
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Thanks everyone for your input. I guess I'm feeling a bit disapointed. I was expecting to find a key difference bewteen people with AP hearing and ours but there doesn't seem to be any (or maybe I ask the wrong questions). You seem to hear music just like us except you know the notes.

The real question behind thoses ones is, in your opinion, is there something different in your way to perceive music that could have AP as a side effect? I realize it's an tuff question if you had AP as long as you remember because you can't know the difference of course.
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From:matthras
Date:July 1st, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Please bear in mind that this is a ridiculously small sample size, for starters =P.

Secondly, there are people who only have absolute pitch (like me) and those who also have relative pitch (so hence, they hear things the same way like the general populace).

Also consider that (quasi-)absolute pitch can be developed. Quasi-absolute pitch is where one can remember a single note by absolute pitch ability, and then reference all other notes to it using relative pitch.

There's a foundation of research by a guy called Miyazaki which actually points out that absolute pitch-only possessors are at a major disadvantage compared to the rest when perceiving music. Some of the studies are actually quite interesting to read.
From:toneblend
Date:July 2nd, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
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I have heard about quasi-absloute pitch already but it seems to be quite different. If I remember correctly people with QAP don't have instantaneous tone recognition even for their reference tone. It's more like they have to consciously compare a heard pitch to their memorized one so it's slower (but better than nothing I agree).

Would you say that each pitch has a disctinct feeling or is it more like an information (this is just a pitch that happens to be a B flat)?
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From:matthras
Date:July 2nd, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
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To be honest I haven't met anyone who claims QAP. My younger brother's a violinist without absolute pitch, but he can recognise the concert A when it's played (obviously because he tunes to it!) so I think that people are able to develop QAP once they learn to play a tone in their head that they are familiar with.

Both, actually. Although for me it's more an information aspect because I tend to struggle to find emotion in music in a general sense. However I do feel that 'G' is a happy note, 'A' sounds overconfident, 'Eb' is annoying, etc. but I usually identify them in an information aspect.
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From:ideealisme
Date:July 1st, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
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This probably doesn't answer your Q, but every song I know well enough to sing, I have a pitch memory of what key it's in. For example, just thinking of a song off the top of my head, "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles, I remember that as being in D and could start singing it in that key now (NB I have not checked this). Or "Hold me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me" by U2 is in E flat (I actually use that as one of my indicators for finding E flat in my head) The song and the key info are "saved" in the brain together. God knows how much of my brain is occupied by this interesting if useless stuff.

OK I just looked up "We can Work It Out" to verify this and I was probably off by maximum an eighth of a tone. So it's defo in D.

(ETA: this can be irritating if something is being played on the radio in a different key than it is on the version you know.)

Edited at 2009-07-01 10:24 pm (UTC)
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From:sharp11
Date:July 4th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
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AP doesn't come because of how we perceive music - we perceive music how we do through the filter of AP. You won't get AP by listening a certain way. Personally, I think it's something to do with genetics, but I don't think science has conclusively proven that... :) I think this because my brother has AP but no musical training - for example, if he's humming a song from the radio he'll always be in the right key, and if I play a song on the piano in a different key - even a half-step away - he'll tell me I'm playing it wrong, even though he won't know why.

Also, this QAP thing - I don't know people who claim to have QAP, but I know lots of people with QAP who claim to have AP :P

And, I have relative pitch AND perfect pitch - I got the RP because an ear-training teacher of mine back in college transposed all the ear-training exercises in our books so I couldn't learn them through AP. In all honesty, as a contemporary musician, the RP has come in much more usefully, but the AP is certainly still nice to have :)
From:toneblend
Date:July 5th, 2009 09:21 am (UTC)
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Ok, the way you perceive music is more a consequence of AP not the reverse. That makes senses.

As for the genetic origin of AP, I think it's true that some have predisposition that makes AP activation more likely even without musical training but there are other studies that tend to prove that AP may be acquired by most of us if it's enabled during the critical learning period (I think it goes to 12 years old).

Anyway it's certainly to late for me but I can leave without it :-)

However, I wonder if the critical period thing is also a requirement for "absolute piano" (The ability to recognize notes by their timbre on your own instrument). Do you guys have any stories of people having learned this skill in adulthood?

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From:sharp11
Date:July 4th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
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1. Nope, I can recognize them all the same. The only time it gets hard is when pitches are extremely high or low - the five or six highest and lowest notes on a piano.

2. I don't perceive pitch differently depending on instrument - if any instrument is playing an A, they're playing an A. I don't hear pitch colours, necessarily - I'm not synesthetic. The INSTRUMENT sounds different, not the pitch.

3. The whole chord.

4. Harmonically.
From:elconscious
Date:July 6th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)

Quite something, hu

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I guess you scored better thusfar on your questions, though I'll post another after this one ;)

My tonal memory is pretty good and hereby announce not to have perfect pitch, but if I too may answer your questions...

1) Is it easier for you to recognize pitches on your own instrument kind than on others? Do you feel like you had to sort of learn the pitches on others instrument?

Not perse on my own instrument, which are a Casio CTK-631 and Hohner CX12 Harmonica.
I have no understanding how it works but some timbres I can get by ear, but mostly not.

Because of this I would not know if I got any better, but when I cannot get the tones by ear I use my tonal memory to analyse the absolute information of each tone. This means to hear the tone and mentally play it back and thus know what the tone was/is.

2) (linked to 1) Do you think the color of pitch is independant of intrument or dependent on timbre. Therefore do you perceive the tones on different intruments differently ? Do you think the of the individual pitch qualities as a refined timbre perception: timbre allow us to distinguish between different intrument sources whereas pitch color allow us to distinguish between the different pitch sources produced by an instrument?

The color of pitch by ear is probably dependant on timbre, I suppose, but not when drawing from tonal memory. Though it does seem easier when imagined in a familiar timbre.

Probably, as mentioned, I feel that it is more like a refined timbre perception, when done by ear.

3) When you hear a chord. Do you hear it as a whole or do you hear it as several pitches played simultaneously. If you hear both do you hear the individual pitches before?

At the moment I am working with random 4 tone chords in square wave timbre where I need to identify each tone absolutely. I find it yet pretty tough to do though. The more I easily recognize the tones, the more it seems as if I am indeed hearing "several pitches being played simultaneously" instead of it being a "chord". (Do we actually realize how silly it is since there is actually no difference in us naming it "chord" or "pitches played simultaneously"?)

Anyway, it rarely happens for me to instantly realize all absolute value's of each tone within the chords. I wonder if it ever did, though I do have these moments with 3 tone chords ;)

Usually it just sounds like a mess (chord perhaps ;), untill I start to identify each tone within it.

"If you hear both do you hear the individual pitches before?"

Well, when the recognition of the tones is instant...Guess
Usually, in my case, first the chord.

4) When you hear a chord progression, do you hear in a harmonic way (a succession of tones played in harmony) or as different lines of notes being played in parallel (like hearing the bass line, soprano lines and alto lines evolving simultaneously) ?

Same thing here, it all has to do with either instant recognition or having to draw from tonal memory.

Take care,
Elcon