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Re: perfect pitch


In my experience, people with perfect pitch (sic) live on a different
planet from people without. I'm not sure where this 'not transposing
[well]' myth originated, but it might be that PP'ers 'hear' and then work
out the 'relationships', whereas non-PP'ers hear the relationships, and
then have to work out what they have heard (that's me!).

Also, many of the PP'ers I have met are also synesthetes. Are you?


Hi Kevin,

Yes, I do have strong color associations with notes (though I don't
hallucinate the colors!).

I don't see why people with perfect pitch need to use it in order to
work out pitch relationships - there's no reason why the two
processes can't take place in parallel.

Concerning the matter of 'octave errors', one might expect these to
occur in particular when you are listening to different types of
instrument - either simultaneously or in succession. You have to
decide which octave to attribute depending on the instrument being
played, because you are dealing with different spectral compositions.
Now one might argue that these instrumental differences are simple a
matter of timbre. However, when one is asked to arrange a number of
instrument tones in terms of height, with each tone at A 440, the
differences in perceived height become very clear.

The following demonstration works well. Begin with a full harmonic
series, with a fundamental at, say  A 220,  with the components at
equal amplitude. Then smoothly glide down the amplitudes of the
odd-numbered harmonics until you are left with only the even-numbered
ones. At this point you now have  a full harmonic series with A 440
as the fundamental - and you have moved up an octave. Notice that as
you play this changing tone its height glides smoothly up in pitch,
though you remain throughout in the same pitch class, bypassing the
other notes of the chromatic scale. (This demo is fun to play with -
there is often a hysteresis effect, so that when play the changing
note backwards the point at which you decide that you are in a
different octave occurs further 'down' than when you play it




Dear Kevin,

Thanks for your note. As someone who has perfect pitch (though it's
become less reliable of late) it seems that it is the subject of an
amazing amount of misunderstanding. The idea that  perfect pitch is
associated with an inability to transpose is one that I've come
across many times, and I wonder how they think that Mozart managed -
or most of the 'great' classical composers for that matter.



  >Dear Kevin,
I just read your note in the Auditory List about perfect pitch and
wonder if you have the reference to the Liszt story.

Best regards,



It's one of those 'stories' that I've carried around in my head for 25
(or so) years. There's probably a "Virtuoso Pianists"-List (oops!) and
someone there c/sh/would know.

OT: I also got an email from someone asking what the difference was
between perfect pitch and relative pitch -- I gave a short answer and
directed them to the list.
Diana Deutsch
Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

tel:       858-453-1558
fax:       858-453-4763
e-mail: ddeutsch@ucsd.edu