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Jul. 6th, 2009 @ 09:56 pm Relative Pitch over Perfect Pitch?
Why is it that some perfect pitch possessors claim that relative pitch is more important then perfect pitch alone when playing music?

That's all folks!

Elcon
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elconscious:
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From:por_que_no
Date:July 6th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
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...because it is?

No, seriously...you can very quickly tell when someone has AP but doesn't have (good) relative pitch. It's really important for understanding various aspects of the language of music...I got lucky and developed good RP without really trying, probably because I'm a composer, but anyone who doesn't have a high degree of it should work on that.

Here's a good test to see how good your relative pitch is: If someone were humming a piece you sort of knew, but in the wrong key, would you recognize it? Some AP possessors wouldn't.
From:elconscious
Date:July 6th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
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Indeed, I have read about some PPP's not being able to recognize a song in another key and if I may be a little serious...I just don't buy much of that!

Anyway, I was hoping for a little more then "important for understanding various aspects of the language of music". How does perfect pitch fail to succeed on such a task?

Could anyone be more specific how RP either assists them so much more or even, how ridiculous it may sound, hinder their musical processing?

Well, about that piece in another key?
I guess I know what it's like, but I may just be a bit unsure if every interval would be the same as the key I first got acquainted with.

On the other hand, I sometimes try to consciously intent to transpose a song but could not do it for some odd reason. In the end, that's what you were saying ;)

Take care,
Elcon
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From:por_que_no
Date:July 6th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
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Well, for example...relative pitch is what helps you appreciate the tension of an unresolved dominant 7th chord, the beauty of a suspension resolving, or the juxtaposition of distantly-related chords...with only AP you're not tihnking so directionally, but harmonic direction is so important in tonal music. It's almost like grammar in a language...even if you know all the words individually, you'll need to know how to string them together for the best effect. (and there are plenty of "tonal" composers who don't, and their music sounds awkward because of it!)
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From:matthras
Date:July 6th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
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Say hello to the reason I feel like avoiding all my music theory/composition classes at University. I can't hear the whole 'resolving' thing at all :( I just hear clashy-chord clashy-chord clashy-chord =P

It seems that every other AP possessor in my year at University also has RP so I'm probably the only one at a major disadvantage.
From:elconscious
Date:July 7th, 2009 09:19 am (UTC)
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Not hearing any 'resolving' can happen to anyone, even those who lack perfect pitch like myself. I never liked how some would try to convince me about some chords being resolved or something. If I don't hear it, it does not exist!

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From:sharp11
Date:July 8th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
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Indeed, I have read about some PPP's not being able to recognize a song in another key and if I may be a little serious...I just don't buy much of that!

Well... five or six years ago, I couldn't do it. We used to play games in high school jazz choir along the lines of "name that tune", and I'd always lose because of this.
From:elconscious
Date:July 7th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)

Improved Perfect Pitch Perhaps

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Say...In perspective of having perfect pitch, what would have been the best thing in RP training that you've learned and learned to apply that may have improved your hearing and understanding of musical tones?

Do you actually feel that your perfect pitch got somehow better as in speed recognition and thus, what do you feel were these specific exercises that contributed to this improvement?
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From:matthras
Date:July 6th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
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This is something that is probably more easily explained by sending you a bunch of studies/research...drop me an email at matthras AT live DOT com and I'll be happy to oblige. I don't have a whole lot, but hopefully it should be enough to convince you.

- If a note's out of tune, an AP possessor will still end up naming the note and this can cause confusion with intervals. One study describes something like...if you were identifying an interval between one note that is slightly flat as opposed to one note which is slightly sharp. AP possessors will still identify the note (i.e. rounding the tuning up or down) before identifying the interval, as opposed to using RP which can identify the interval clearly by the interval alone.
- Like por_que_no says, AP possessors have trouble recognising errors in transcribed melodies. Another study played a melody and then a transcribed version of the melody with a mistake, and the subjects were to specify where the mistake was. Turns out the AP possessors were worse than those who used RP.
- AP is a cognitive process. RP is mostly instinct. Guess which is faster? ;)
- A typical habit of AP possessors is that they have to assign something to each note/key. It can be a feeling, elaboration, environment, etc. and as such they don't hear music as 'naturally' as the general populace does.
- I don't know if you're aware of the model of pitch chroma or not, but as far as I'm aware as an AP-only possessor, I certainly can't hear/perceive music that way.

I...think that's about it. Might be one or two more things but I'll have to go through the papers again.
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From:por_que_no
Date:July 6th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
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I thought "chroma" was just the term for being able to distinguish a note by its pitch, regardless of octave or instrument (like, a Bb is a Bb is a Bb, no matter what instrument it's played on), as opposed to "piano pitch", where people can only name a note on their own instrument because they know that the timbre of the Bb above middle C sounds like...but take them away from their home instrument and they're just as useless at naming notes as everyone else :P
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From:matthras
Date:July 6th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
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I wouldn't say entirely useless! =P One issue between piano and string players is the tuning of semitones (the piano's well-tempered tuning as opposed to a string's 'correct' tuning) - being a cellist sometimes pianos make me really edgy with their semitones!

To be honest, I've never really understood the definition of pitch chroma, but then all my Music Psychology lecturers are really obsessive people. Or maybe it's because I don't experience it in the way you describe =P *shrug*
From:elconscious
Date:July 7th, 2009 10:12 am (UTC)
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- If a note's out of tune, an AP possessor will still end up naming the note and this can cause confusion with intervals.

I suppose it comes down to the accuracy of the APP.
My ability to mentally reconstruct tones is extremely weak;
* Every impression of sound is more like a shadow behind the forest at night.
* I usually cannot "hear" multiple tones (chords) harmonically

Because of this I do not notice "very small" differences in pitch. By ear I can hear it, but mentally I do not until the distance between each pitch is large enough.

Goodness, fortunately semitones are doable ;)

This is not in my advantage because of how I identify tones actively. As mentioned in "perfect pitch curiosity" by toneblend I usually have to repeat the tones mentally before I'll know what they are absolutely. But we all know how most music and other sounds are not A440 and often they sound smack in the middle to my ear. If I were to more accurately imagine the tone, I would be able to round it up or down.

If all tones would appear this "off pitch" to me then it still does not guarantee an issue in identifying the intervals correctly, would it?


- Like por_que_no says, AP possessors have trouble recognising errors in transcribed melodies. Another study played a melody and then a transcribed version of the melody with a mistake, and the subjects were to specify where the mistake was. Turns out the AP possessors were worse than those who used RP.

This would only occur as an issue when indeed a song needs to be transposed.


- AP is a cognitive process. RP is mostly instinct. Guess which is faster? ;)

Faster how, in what?
This surprises me coming from an "APP only" like you matthras.
Please continue to explain how you feel AP is less fast and instinctive as RP if you will?


- A typical habit of AP possessors is that they have to assign something to each note/key. It can be a feeling, elaboration, environment, etc. and as such they don't hear music as 'naturally' as the general populace does.

Excuse me, but do you really have perfect pitch ;)
No, I'm just playing wit ya. It's just that I have far more often read that tone recognition is always instant and without any conscious effort for those APP's.
Okay, so how and what do you assign each note/key to?

Thank you much for participating "matthras" and "por que no". It makes a good discussion when we have someone with good tonal memory (me), an "APP-only" and an APP with well trained RP. Awesome!


Elcon


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From:matthras
Date:July 7th, 2009 10:58 am (UTC)
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This would only occur as an issue when indeed a song needs to be transposed.

It can go further than that. It's like when you're singing/performing a song in a different key and make mistakes - an APP won't recognise it unless he can transpose notes in his head extremely fast. There are pieces that have been transposed into other keys for convenience of the instrument. I suppose this applies more to string players because they have a greater tendency to be out of tune, but can also apply to other instruments when they hit a wrong note in a transposed melody.

Faster how, in what?
This surprises me coming from an "APP only" like you matthras.
Please continue to explain how you feel AP is less fast and instinctive as RP if you will?


A cognitive process involves thinking. Because we APPs give a note name to the sounds we hear, we have to link that association. Often we can do it instantaneously because we recognise it quickly and that it's familiar to us.
When I recall a melody, I feel like I'm always translating them into their distinct attributes (so this would be like always translating them into note names) so when I recall it, I think of those attributes and remember the order they were in. At least I think that's slower, but it's hard to describe!

No, I'm just playing wit ya. It's just that I have far more often read that tone recognition is always instant and without any conscious effort for those APP's.
Okay, so how and what do you assign each note/key to?


It's more that we recognise the individual features of each individual tones, rather than every tone on a relative scale. I could liken it to being able to identify each card in a typical 52 card deck because every card is different.
I can't explain how it's instant and not a conscious effort, but as far as I've seen with colleagues who are developing absolute pitch, tone recognition takes a fair amount of listening/repetition to develop (for example I'm fairly sure every violinist with a few years of experience would recognise the tuning 440Hz A when it's played). My theory is that because we've been doing it for all our lives focusing on individual tones, it's a perfectly normal learned process for us.

I can't name every individual tone because I haven't gone that far, but 'G' seems optimistic, 'A' is overconfident, 'Eb' is a nasal and annoying sound. 'C' sounds neutral. 'F' can be a bit lazy. 'F#' I associate with the word yearning. *shrug*

I'm starting to confuse myself, so please take what I said with a grain of salt!
From:elconscious
Date:July 7th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
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A cognitive process involves thinking. Because we APPs give a note name to the sounds we hear, we have to link that association.

Forgive me, but how is this any different from relative pitch where one links the interval to its association, i.e. minor 2nd, Major chord?

When I recall a melody, I feel like I'm always translating them into their distinct attributes (so this would be like always translating them into note names) so when I recall it, I think of those attributes and remember the order they were in. At least I think that's slower, but it's hard to describe!

And you do this whenever you recall any melody or only when transcription is needed?
I enjoy your explanations, could you try to describe some more? What do you mean thinking it's slower?

I can't name every individual tone because I haven't gone that far, but 'G' seems optimistic, 'A' is overconfident, 'Eb' is a nasal and annoying sound. 'C' sounds neutral. 'F' can be a bit lazy. 'F#' I associate with the word yearning. *shrug*

Are you saying that your perfect pitch is "tone limited" or something?
What tones can you not name and/or have difficulties with?
Either way, how does this effect your listening to sounds and music?

I'm starting to confuse myself, so please take what I said with a grain of salt!

What are you confusing yourself with?
I don't understand.

Take care,
Elcon
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From:matthras
Date:July 8th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
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In terms of interval identification, I tend to identify both notes of the interval, and then identify the interval using theory.

I think it's slower, it's debatable, but let me use an analogy. When you're conversing in a second language and your partner just said something to you in the second language. To me absolute pitch is like translating it back to English, formulating a reply in English, and then translating that reply back into the second language. Relative pitch seems like understanding what was just said and replying normally.
I could be wrong, considering I have very little relative pitch to begin with.

It's not so much tone limited or anything. For a musician I don't actually listen to a lot of music so I haven't experienced enough in order to assign something to every note and key. Sometimes I need to read up on the background of the piece or the intention of the composer to fully understand the piece and its keys and then I'll make those associations.
Even when I'm listening to music sometimes I can sit there and wonder 'What's this supposed to mean?' throughout the whole piece. Sure if it's something bright in G Major I could probably pick it up. If it's in a minor key I could probably tell it's meant to be sad, moody, etc. - this is because I've made those associations already. There's very little that actually comes from my own emotional instinct.

When I was typing that last reply I had a few thoughts of 'Err....is that really right in accordance with your experiences?'. I'm a bit absent minded when I'm discussing a topic I can be incredibly obsessive with :)
From:elconscious
Date:July 8th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
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You have an interesting language you write in "matthras", I suppose somewhat like mine. The difficulty is understanding it as intended.

Relative pitch seems like understanding what was just said and replying normally.

And that's just what perfect pitch seems to me ;

How do you feel about others saying that perfect pitch is like recognizing colors?
As I understand, to you it would be that relative pitch would act like that, instead of perfect pitch.

For a musician I don't actually listen to a lot of music so I haven't experienced enough in order to assign something to every note and key.

Where do you get the experiences from, other then just "more listening", that will lead to...instant recognition, is it?

Sometimes I need to read up on the background of the piece or the intention of the composer to fully understand the piece and its keys and then I'll make those associations.

What does all this mean?
I cannot make much sense out of this quote.

Even when I'm listening to music sometimes I can sit there and wonder 'What's this supposed to mean?' throughout the whole piece.

I am afraid to ask but...What do you mean by that?

Thank you for your patience,
Elcon
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From:matthras
Date:July 8th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
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I don't understand what people mean by colours, so I've always assumed it's either something that RP people understood, or it's because I only have one ear.

Some of the experiences can be directly linked to visual media. For example if I watch something accompanied by a song in G Major, sometimes the visual media helps in determining what the feeling it meant to be.

You know that composers write to express something in their music. Sometimes I have to research it or have someone tell me what the composer wants to express. For example I didn't get D Minor in general until I learnt and researched Shostakovich's Cello Sonata Op.40 in D Minor.

Last year I sat through a concert featuring Handel's Water Music, and I sat there and I couldn't feel anything, and the music didn't seem to suggest anything to me. This happens a lot when I listen to new music.
From:elconscious
Date:July 8th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
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...One thing I can make out is that alot of it has to do with your feelings.

And about PP and the color analogy, this definately comes from APP's, not RPP's as you thought. They say that AP is like recognizing colors, you look at red and you just know it's red, you don't have to think about it. Same for pitches, so they say.

Maybe I'm a bit color blind, but there are a few colors I do not instantly recognize and thus not "know". I don't believe we really know our colors, we just remember them very well. On the other hand, could we remember a color well enough without being able to recognize it?

I remember seeing the color a car had, it was really beautiful as I very much enjoy colors I cannot instantly identify (though this is the opposite with tones, as I get bothered when I don't) I remember it must have been a mix of yellow, orange, gold and brown. If I could just remember and visualize how it looked like! You understand, I don't remember.

It is fascinating how you seem to process music and their absolute information with feeling.
There is an absolute pitch method out there that promises to teach you how do so; to link alot of feeling (and preferable every sense man has) to each pitch. I did not get to know much more since it will cost you quite a penny!

Are you thus implying to say that the feeling must first be present before you can identify a tone? Is that how you assign pitches, with feelings?

Take care,
Elcon


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From:sharp11
Date:July 8th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
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Hm, seems I came too late to this discussion... but here are a couple practical reasons why I think RP is more useful for me as an APP with well-developed RP.

I am an accompanist for contemporary singers, who often want to change the keys of their songs on the spot, without their sheet music in the right key. I can transpose on the spot (well, mostly!) because of my RP - I am able to hear how the chords and notes relate to each other, and reconstruct those relationships in any key I want to. Using AP, with an absolute value attached to each note, I'd have to first identify the absolute value, then change it to another value, which can't be instantaneous.

Most people without AP, at least that I interact with on a daily basis, talk about music in terms of relative pitch - like, "wow, that was a great bVII7 chord that guy just threw in there". If I can't communicate that way, I can't communicate to most of the musicians I talk to. (Notable exception: I was in a recording session the other day where there were four musicians and a recording engineer. Three of us had AP - me, the bassist, and the engineer. It was a little bit insane, but also awesome!)

Basically, what I tend to use AP for now is transcribing without checking what key I'm in, and identifying keys of pieces for people who don't know where they want to sing/play them, or keys of tunes on the radio or something. My RP isn't as developed as I'd like it to be, but it's getting there. I'm lucky that I can back it up with AP, but RP is certainly the much more desirable skill.
From:elconscious
Date:July 8th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)

...and also I'd like to mention

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Today I believe to have figured out that my brother has Piece-AP.
Yes, perfect pitch that is, only for recognizing if a song, hence "piece", is in the same key one has heard it in. Other then that his musical abilties pretty much sucks which bothers me a bit, but I am sooo exited and thrilled because of this. Just awesome!

"Sharp11", thank you for joining...

I can transpose on the spot (well, mostly!) because of my RP - I am able to hear how the chords and notes relate to each other, and reconstruct those relationships in any key I want to.

Much of what has been discussed is still about transposing and recognizing songs in different keys, am I missing something perhaps?

Most people without AP, at least that I interact with on a daily basis, talk about music in terms of relative pitch - like, "wow, that was a great bVII7 chord that guy just threw in there".

This is theoretical RP information and has not to do with how one hears it, which surely can be done with AP.

My intention is to better understand, other then transposing issues, why APP's claim that RP is more important and/or essential to listening and playing music.

Basically, what I tend to use AP for now is transcribing without checking what key I'm in, and identifying keys of pieces for people who don't know where they want to sing/play them, or keys of tunes on the radio or something.

Indeed, all this can be done without AP and should merely be a matter of seconds to find the absolute information.

What else do you feel your AP is good for where most RPP's would fail or have so much more difficulties with that it takes them far more then a few seconds?

My RP isn't as developed as I'd like it to be, but it's getting there. I'm lucky that I can back it up with AP, but RP is certainly the much more desirable skill.

Are you going about the theoretical RP information alone, or is it what adds to your hearing?


Take care,
Elcon
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From:sharp11
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
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My intention is to better understand, other then transposing issues, why APP's claim that RP is more important and/or essential to listening and playing music.

Well, I think we're all kind of giving you transposing issues as a for-instance, because it's the easiest one to put into plain English. It's kind of a "sum is greater than the parts" thing. While listening through the lens of AP, I hear parts of the music that aren't related to eachother. G, C, D, E, whatever. Listening through the lens of RP, I hear the sum of those notes, their relationships to each other, and in my opinion - and, I would imagine, most of the APPs saying RP is more important - the relationships between the notes are what make the music what it is.

While listening through the lens of RP, I tend to listen with numbers. So I have I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viio, instead of C, d, e, F, G, a, bo. And all the tensions on each chord (like, 9s, 13s, and various alterations thereof, especially on dominant chords.) Personally, I find it easier and faster to identify a chord number and the tensions on it. "Oh, that's a V7/iii with a b9 and #5" is faster in my head than "Okay, that's a B D# F## A C". AND, listening for note names does not give me the relationship between the notes I'm hearing and the key I'm in. As I've said before, that is what makes the music for me. Listening through the lens of AP, I have to get the notes, then identify the relationships from the notes. Who wants to add another step to a process? Listening through the lens of RP, I get the relationships instantly.

Remember, we're listening to the same music - it isn't changing. RP and AP are just filters I can listen through.

Indeed, all this can be done without AP and should merely be a matter of seconds to find the absolute information.

Yeah, and I can cut the grass in my lawn with a pair of scissors or with a lawnmower. I'm going to pick the lawnmower every time. The scissors will work, no question... it'll just take longer. Like I said before... AP adds another step to the process. Nobody likes the middleman.
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From:djproject
Date:July 9th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
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i think r.p. and a.p. have their place and function in music, especially in performing.

when i was a choir director, i had to utilize relative pitch several times because someone would be off and i had to make sure the setting was still harmonically in tune even i knew "we were off." so in that sense, having r.p. is a way of making the music still work in a performance. but if you want to take steps to correct it and make the performance run better (i.e. on pitch), you also need a sense of a.p. it's important to have standards (a.p.) but it's also important to understand the relationships and be versatile with any situation (r.p.).

i find i don't think about a.p. or r.p. whilst composing since it's more about satisfying an instinct and making sure it's intellectually sound as well (not necessarily "following the rules" but making sure you can explain what it was you did naturally).