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Absolute pitch discussion
Thanks for the ideas.
My experience, not based on lab research but rather the concentrated
individual testing of may hundreds of music students over a period of
a decade is that there is not 'real' continuum. There are a number of
musicians who lodge a reference note in their mind (such as the
violinist who can sing A, D, G and E in the octave of the violin
strings) but do not demonstrate strong octave equivalence, and it is
my understanding from Diana's work that AP is octave equivalent.
My experience is that there are two groups, AP, and non-AP. The
non-AP have skills ranging from nil (poor pitch discrimination),
through varying degrees of relative pitch, and a group of 'reference
note' hearers. The reference note hearers may or may not have good
In my experience with people 17 to 77, AP cannot be taught or
trained. Reference pitch can be. I used to start every class with the
singing of D above middle C. Towards the end of each year (2 - 3
classes per year for over 20 years), one day I would have the class
sit and without playing, I would ask them to imagine themselves
walking into class and preparing to sing the "D".
When everyone was settled, I would play a note on the piano, and ask
if it was "the D". I would get up to 80% "correct" responses. In some
cases when I would play (for example) the Eb, some people would say,
"That's too high." They would work out how much too high (a minor
second), but they did not "hear" Eb, as my AP students did.
I found virtuoso performers with dreadful relative pitch, but upon
their having "learned" the melody, were fine. They couldn't find a
descending major sixth without singing a descending minor scale out
My 'non-lab' testing cycle was a 10-15 minute individual examination
six times per year, which amounts to up to 50 hours per year for a
I don't have a control group and the only documentation I have is my
database of the grading of the exams, and the limiting factor of
course, as in any such experiment / test, is the limitations on my
own pitch perception, and I guess you just have to take my word that
I have ok relative pitch. My reference tones are all a fourth off.
I have another question about AP and where it takes place, but that will wait.
----- Original Message -----=20
From: "Etienne Gaudrain" <et.gaudrain@xxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, September 01, 2007 11:01 AM
Subject: Re: Absolute pitch discussion
Is there any chance that the bimodal distribution found in Athos et
al. could be explained by the way to compute scores ? What I
understood is that exact correct answer gave a score of 1, and an
error of a semitone gave a score of .75. But this way to compute
scores does seems to me to advantage bimodal distribution.
I'm far from being a specialist ... but I tried to imagine what could
be the different kind of subjects that would populate the
distribution : - Very good AP subject =3D> gives score of 36.
- Quite good AP subject. For example, knows a few absolute tones, and
has very good relative pitch. May do some mistakes, but only a few and
small errors (<1 semitone) =3D> should give a score >36=D7.75=3D27, i.e.
considered as AP.
- Not so good AP subject. Knows fewer absolute tones, and has only quite
good relative pitch. For example, we can imagine that for intervals
greater than an octave, the error can exceed one tone. Such a subject
may probably produce a lot a errors limited to 1 tone. But since 1 tone
error count as zero... The overall score would probably be close to zero.
- Subject without AP but good relative pitch. Since the test is a
sequence of tones, the subject with good relative pitch should be able,
if he adopts such a strategy, to refine his judgement along the test. He
should then make smaller errors than the last category.
- Subject without AP and without relative pitch. Should answer
approximately at random.
So it seems to me that the continuum between AP expert and subject
without any pitch naming skill exists, but that the way to compute
scores advantages the apparition of a bimodal distribution. Do you think
it is possible ?
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End of AUDITORY Digest - 1 Sep 2007 to 4 Sep 2007 (#2007-200)