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Training / talent / AP and vowels

From:    Toth Laszlo <tothl@INF.U-SZEGED.HU>
Subject: Re: Computational ASA -- how many sources can humans perceive?

Exactly my question. How much does this ability depend on training
and/or talent? Is anyone able to learn it? Are there any data on

Well, I mean "statistical" evidence, probably from those who teach
music. How this ability is distributed accross the population, is it
dependent on age or gender, are there "hopeless" students who are
simply not able to learn etc.

I have only anecdotal data (35 years of teaching music), plus my own
experience. My current view is that people come with their own
'natural' limits and training / education allows them to reach these
limits. When this 'limit' is reached a 'learning plateau' is reached
before much more 'learning' can take place. In my own case these
plateaus can last from around 5 - 10  to 30 or more years. I feel it
is less that I "learn", than I 'open' myself. (I sometimes equate it
to plant growth.)

Also in my experience, older people 'open' more slowly, but exhibit
aspects of their capacity very easily. I have done 'quick
ear-training tests' (in the form of 5 minute placement tests) for
something over 2,000 people, and ear-training classes with over 2,000.

For some reason, I have developed the knack of being able to 'feel'
the perceptual limits of many of them simply (?!) by engaging in
conversation for half-a-minute or so.

Having spent much time paying very close attention to intonation
curves and speech rhythms as 'personality markers' (for examples,
listen to Mozart operas), for native english speakers (my mother
tongue), I very often "get" a sense of these limits in that 30
seconds -- the 'testing' (intervals, rhythms (by ear), and melodies)
strongly tends to confirm my first rough assessment.

In my experience, the perceptual (and performance limits) are not
gender dependent, but in my sample group, more singers are female and
more guitarists are male.

Are there 'hopeless' students? I have found this to be highly
contextual. I have met fine instrumentalists who have very poor (or
almost non-existent) pitch reproduction capacity. Learning is often
measured in a one-dimensional mode, characterized by being able to
label the event, and in this case AP people not only discriminate,
but label. I have met "hopeless" people who can 'discriminate' but
not label. ("They are different, but I can't tell you how.)

Most people I have met have different levels of discrimination and
labeling. The example I give is to ask the class to find 10 different
"greens" in the classroom, and then to give them each a name.

From:    Susan Hall <susanhal@DAL.CA>
Subject: Re: AW: absolute pitch & animals

When I played in a band at school, a bunch of us had fun for a while
trying to see who could sing, hum or whistle the tuning note most
closely each morning before the band director played it. We all got
very good at it (none of us were APers). In discussing how we did it,
one possible cue we considered was motor rather than perceptual - for
that one note, we learned the vocal tract conformation (for singing),
or the lip tension (for whistling).

For 10 years or so I started all ear-training classes with having
everyone sing "D", for anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 (or more)
minutes. I encouraged 'visualization' of the environment telling them
to 'see' coming into the room and standing in a large circle and then
to sing the "D". It my have been conditioned reflex development
rather than ear (AP), but many people reported being able to 'sing'
the D at will. Few reported being able to identify it without singing
(or subvocalization).

Date:    Sat, 1 May 2004 23:57:48 -0400
From:    chen-gia tsai <tsai.cc@LYCOS.COM>
Subject: Re: absolute pitch & formant frequency
wrote in part ..

perception of vowels requires an absolute frequency scale, so
everyone should have some type of AP.
Or perhaps they are processes which we label as some kind of AP but
may be something else. I think here of the problems related to
understanding accent and dialect. A vowel is identified "in context".
I speak a strange hybrid of RP and 'kind of Canadian', where these
three words have the _same_ vowel: shore, sure, Shaw, although in my
mind's ear, I hear three different vowels.

In saying the phrase: "I am sure that Shaw stood on the shore." most
speakers I deal with (Canadian students, both native anglophone and
francophone) have more than one vowel (diphthong value) for these,
yet when I use the same value for all three, the difference is
recognized as one of 'accent', not incorrect usage of a word. (I
belive it is not heard as "I am sure that sure stood on the sure.")

I refer to this as being the size of the 'window of acceptability'
for the vowel, which is (I believe) contextual (learned).