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Absolute pitch discussion
More on AP:
On 6 Sep 2007, at 17:57, Kevin Austin wrote:
Sorry, it's probably not a very scientific term, but it is an idea
well known among musicians being an ability to sing or recognize a
note. I have heard it called "body tone" as well. I used to teach
two versions of it in class, one being the "D" in the middle of the
piano, and the other in the form of having people sing and
'register' their "lowest" comfortable note.
At G an 11th below middle C, in the middle of the day, my singing
voice is 'clear', but not "full", at F#, my voice is no longer
"clear" or "full". Fullness comes into my voice around A or Bb.
Given a piece, I will sing my lowest comfortable note (around G)
and then compare it to some given note in the piece I am listening
to. I then continue on with my relative pitch to work out harmony,
modulations etc, or in the case of (for example) Berg songs, I use
my 'abstracted intervals' to hear where I am.
I know a singer who carries a tuning fork in her purse, and in
order to 'hear' and A, she reaches in and touches it, and her aural
memory produces an oral memory. In doing testing of string
applicants who claim not to have AP, I ask them to pretend hold
their instrument and play the A (or E on guitar), and then to sing
the note. Many can do this but hadn't realized it. I also call it
physiological pitch. I'm sure that researchers have much better
terms for these things, I just don't know the names of things any
I am sorry for my ignorance, but I have never heard about 'reference
pitch'. I know about relative and absolute pitch, but not
What is that?
Thanks for the ideas.
My experience, not based on lab research but rather the
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
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
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),
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
singing of D above middle C. Towards the end of each year (2 - 3
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
and preparing to sing the "D".
When everyone was settled, I would play a note on the piano, and
if it was "the D". I would get up to 80% "correct" responses. In
when I would play (for example) the Eb, some people would say,
high." They would work out how much too high (a minor second),
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
My 'non-lab' testing cycle was a 10-15 minute individual
six times per year, which amounts to up to 50 hours per year for
I don't have a control group and the only documentation I have
database of the grading of the exams, and the limiting factor of
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
relative pitch. My reference tones are all a fourth off.
Computer and Information Science and Engineering
University of Florida
Web page: www.cise.ufl.edu/~acamacho