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#2102978 - 06/15/13 04:33 PM Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect'
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2089
Loc: Suffolk, England
You may find this interesting:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22871651

Quote:

People classified with perfect pitch may not actually be as in tune with the notes they hear as they think.

Played a long piece of music, a study group failed to notice when scientists turned the tones ever so slightly flat. They then misidentified in-tune sounds as being sharp.

Researchers say it demonstrates the adaptability of the mind even for those skills thought to be fixed at birth.

They have published the work in the journal Psychological Science.


Edited by Withindale (06/16/13 12:41 PM)
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2102982 - 06/15/13 04:42 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Nobody is allowed to say I am not perfect , I have golden ears, no corrosion wink

(sometime missing the note by an exact semi tone, but stay true pitch wise - without being pretentious, only at the 440-42 level the precision is somewhat good, for the rest , note names, mostly)
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It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2103049 - 06/15/13 08:58 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2200
Loc: Maine
I've always felt that it had more to do with pitch memory, and memory being what it is, it will be somewhat unreliable.

- Perfect pitch ... tossing a tuba into the dumpster and hitting an accordion. BDB - semipro tech
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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#2103098 - 06/15/13 10:57 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
That Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/11
Posts: 413
Loc: Lincoln, NE
Fascinating... Thanks for sharing.
_________________________
Scott Kerns
"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com

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#2103100 - 06/15/13 11:05 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1344
Loc: Michigan
This has been established in other ways before. One exercise that Owen Jorgenson (author of books about historical temperaments and piano technician for the music department at Michigan State) used to do is to ask people in a music class to identify themselves as having "perfect pitch". Then he would start tuning a note on the piano that was about 1/2 step off. He would announce the note name and ask the perfect pitchers to raise their hands when he had gotten the string to the correct pitch for that note.

It was kind of like a bell curve. Some would raise their hands earlier than others and rarely would anyone be right on. He would try to tune a temperament by "perfect pitch" and it was always horribly way off.

Perfect pitch -- better called pitch memory -- is an interesting phenomenon and possibly useful ability , but nowhere close enough to be sufficient to tune a piano.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2103104 - 06/15/13 11:20 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Very interesting. Thank you.

I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com

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#2103128 - 06/16/13 12:17 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2414
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Having "Perfect Pitch" is something that has been referenced by musicians for well over two centuries. Pitch standards only became more uniform in the last century. Thus the evidence that the "Perfect" part is somewhat flexible has been well established.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2103132 - 06/16/13 12:37 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
I have only known one person who has ever had "perfect pitch". She was a blind, autistic teenage girl that I was contracted by the state to teach piano tuning to. She happened to be a high functioning autistic, and they needed to find a vocation(job skill) for her. They told me, this girl has perfect pitch, and I was skeptical. The first time I met with her, I asked her to take the tuning hammer and set A-49 to where her ears thought it belonged. She fiddled around for about 2 or 3 seconds with the pin, and said, "I have it". I checked the note and it was %100 dead on the money!
_________________________
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...

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#2103136 - 06/16/13 01:23 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
I pity people who have something approaching perfect pitch. With my relative pitch, I find it excruciating enough to listen to guitar players etc play (enthusiastically) on out of tune instruments. Same for other instruments of course.
Anyone with (real) perfect pitch would almost never come across music that they could listen to and enjoy.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2103142 - 06/16/13 01:36 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
It's almost annoying having new customers often asking me if I have "perfect pitch". In a way, I don't want to burst their bubble(since they probably think that if anyone should have perfect pitch, it is the piano tuner). But I am always honest and tell them I don't have "the gift". But more importantly, it's TOTALLY unecessary to have perfect pitch in order to tune a piano. More important is good hearing and great ear training!
_________________________
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...

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#2103143 - 06/16/13 01:40 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
It's almost annoying having new customers often asking me if I have "perfect pitch". In a way, I don't want to burst their bubble(since they probably think that if anyone should have perfect pitch, it is the piano tuner). But I am always honest and tell them I don't have "the gift". But more importantly, it's TOTALLY unecessary to have perfect pitch in order to tune a piano. More important is good hearing and great ear training!
_________________________
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...

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#2103144 - 06/16/13 01:42 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
You can learn how to stop listening pitches but it can be terrible in some extreme cases indeed.

Does not cause problems with microcontonal music so it is more a reference and memory question probably, but some can get that sort of imprint and other no or not as early.
A tuner also recognise pitch different from what he is used to, also.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2103161 - 06/16/13 02:55 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: David Jenson]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2466
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
I've always felt that it had more to do with pitch memory, and memory being what it is, it will be somewhat unreliable.


This is where I am in this.

There have been so many times someone has tried to prove to me they have perfect pitch by using a piano as a reference.
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2103226 - 06/16/13 09:27 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
I am not exactly sure why people still refer to "perfect pitch" as a gift. There are several researchers on the subject who are convinced we are actually all born with it but around 5 years of age we learn to unlearn it. When we begin to structure things like the alphabet and numerology/math, this structuring interferes with the very different process that perfect pitch requires.

More recent developments in Japan in the past few years indicate that several schools are teaching very young children under the age of 5 to become aware of their inherant abilities on perfect pitch and refine it to a degree where the structured learning that follows later does not interfere with it. They have a very high success rate and it is getting quite popular for parents to enroll their children in the programs.
_________________________
Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#2103307 - 06/16/13 12:33 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: bkw58]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1344
Loc: Michigan
[quote=bkw58]Very interesting. Thank you.

I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch. [/quote

There are some interesting and rare abilities out there. I know an autistic piano technician who can "scratch" a bass string and tell you all the partials and their inharmonicity.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2103311 - 06/16/13 12:42 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
The definition is not so perfect, but singing A 440 makes it. Then all other notes are in memory. What is strange is that I can miss a note name by half a steep.

But I could tune all notes in an octave at probable 10-20 cts near
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2103312 - 06/16/13 12:45 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Gary Fowler]
rxd Online   happy
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1814
Loc: London, England
Originally Posted By: Gary Fowler
I have only known one person who has ever had "perfect pitch". She was a blind, autistic teenage girl that I was contracted by the state to teach piano tuning to. She happened to be a high functioning autistic, and they needed to find a vocation(job skill) for her. They told me, this girl has perfect pitch, and I was skeptical. The first time I met with her, I asked her to take the tuning hammer and set A-49 to where her ears thought it belonged. She fiddled around for about 2 or 3 seconds with the pin, and said, "I have it". I checked the note and it was %100 dead on the money!


You were contracted by the state to teach her.... And the rest of the story?
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#2103637 - 06/17/13 01:48 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: kpembrook]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: kpembrook
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Very interesting. Thank you.

I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


There are some interesting and rare abilities out there. I know an autistic piano technician who can "scratch" a bass string and tell you all the partials and their inharmonicity.


Fascinating. Some really gifted folks out there.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com

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#2103668 - 06/17/13 03:41 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Supply]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1244
Loc: London
Originally Posted By: Supply
I pity people who have something approaching perfect pitch. With my relative pitch, I find it excruciating enough to listen to guitar players etc play (enthusiastically) on out of tune instruments. Same for other instruments of course.
Anyone with (real) perfect pitch would almost never come across music that they could listen to and enjoy.

Jurgen, does this mean that you have problems listening to music at "baroque" pitch?

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#2103707 - 06/17/13 07:14 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2069
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
I'm not sure about Jurgen, but I have this exact problem. I once made the mistake of buying a recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concerti that were played at "baroque" pitch. The interpretation as such is beautiful, but the semitone pitch difference bothers me so badly that I can't listen to the recording any more.

If it's a piece of music I don't know, I just assume the key I hear is the key it's written in. But if I know the music (as I do in the case of the Brandenburgs), I balk at the "wrong" pitch, and my musical experience is completely spoiled. Mind you, I've really tried to "groove" myself into the recording and listen past the exact pitch, but to no avail. It's wrong in my ears.
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.
LinkedIn profile
1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2103728 - 06/17/13 08:16 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mark R.]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
I'm not sure about Jurgen, but I have this exact problem. I once made the mistake of buying a recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concerti that were played at "baroque" pitch. The interpretation as such is beautiful, but the semitone pitch difference bothers me so badly that I can't listen to the recording any more.

If it's a piece of music I don't know, I just assume the key I hear is the key it's written in. But if I know the music (as I do in the case of the Brandenburgs), I balk at the "wrong" pitch, and my musical experience is completely spoiled. Mind you, I've really tried to "groove" myself into the recording and listen past the exact pitch, but to no avail. It's wrong in my ears.

A pianist friend of mine, who has perfect pitch, also sang in a baroque chamber choir for a while. She had to quit because she found it too difficult to sing well in tune.

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#2103730 - 06/17/13 08:31 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com

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#2103733 - 06/17/13 08:36 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2069
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
If it ain't B'roque, don't fix it.
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.
LinkedIn profile
1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2103752 - 06/17/13 09:48 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: bkw58]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.

Yeah, well try singing Beethoven 9 at 440. It was bad enough to perform at 420-430, but at 440, the chorus and soloists just scream and make a truly ugly sound. The guy hated women, I think.

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#2103753 - 06/17/13 09:49 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mark R.]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
If it ain't B'roque, don't fix it.

Well said.

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#2103759 - 06/17/13 10:10 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mwm]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.

Yeah, well try singing Beethoven 9 at 440. It was bad enough to perform at 420-430, but at 440, the chorus and soloists just scream and make a truly ugly sound. The guy hated women, I think.


ASO did the 9th once or twice, but I have no idea what pitch the Maestro ordered for the day. I understand his major was voice, so perhaps he knocked it down a notch or two? I don't know.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com

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#2103766 - 06/17/13 10:21 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: bkw58]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1241
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: bkw58


I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


Greetings,
There was an oboist here that could tell if the pitch on the piano was at 439, and demonstrated it several times. I have a lot of customers that can not only tell you what note you just played, but they can also tell you every one of the 8 notes you play in a big chord. Scares me, sometimes.
Regards,

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#2103770 - 06/17/13 10:33 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Ed Foote]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Originally Posted By: bkw58


I have only known of one - a blind client - who could identify any of the 88 by hearing alone. Most people think of this as "perfect pitch." It is really relative pitch. She could not identify A440 as opposed to A439 or 441 without aid of a fork or ETD. When someone comes along who can, for me that will be perfect pitch.


Greetings,
There was an oboist here that could tell if the pitch on the piano was at 439, and demonstrated it several times. I have a lot of customers that can not only tell you what note you just played, but they can also tell you every one of the 8 notes you play in a big chord. Scares me, sometimes.
Regards,


Thanks, Ed. If I understand you correctly, the oboist could do so by listening to the piano alone. This is amazing.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com

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#2103787 - 06/17/13 11:11 AM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Withindale]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2503
Loc: Olympia, WA
I have this discussion with people on a regular basis. I tell people that the idea of "perfect pitch" is a sloppy use of the word "perfect". I also tell them that as a piano tuner I don't believe in perfect pitch. Every piano tunes a little bit differently inharmonicity. If different pianos have slightly different pitches for middle C, which one is perfect? Still, some people are skeptical. Many people seem to enjoy the idea that some individuals can do impossible things.



Edited by rysowers (06/17/13 11:12 AM)
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#2103852 - 06/17/13 01:32 PM Re: Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect' [Re: Mwm]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2466
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Pitch - either "perfect" or otherwise - is where the boss says it is. smirk

When harpsichordists performed chamber works with the ASO, I always asked where to set the pitch. (Dowd French Double Concert). Invariably, the answer was, A440. When the Maestro himself both conducted and played the Brandenburg Concerti - all in one program - he too requested A440. Only once was I asked to slide the transposing manual down a semitone for a guest performer (roughly "Baroque pitch").

The A440 performances were very good - lively. To my ear anything set below A435 makes even a C major performance seem like a dirge.

Yeah, well try singing Beethoven 9 at 440. It was bad enough to perform at 420-430, but at 440, the chorus and soloists just scream and make a truly ugly sound. The guy hated women, I think.


I was the tenor soloist for a performance of the CPE Bach Magnificat last fall here locally. Having never done it before, I listened to a couple of recordings, and, while it was still at the limits of my range, I found it singable for me. I get to orchestra rehearsal, and it's nearly impossible for me (what a difference a half step makes!). The conductor was running it at A440, and the recordings were 1/2 step down; the way it's mostly performed, according to the conductor.

In the end, I surprised myself at my ability at singing lyric Baroque tenor...
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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