Re: Perfect Pitch Problem (Tom Maglione )

Subject: Re:  Perfect Pitch Problem
From:    Tom Maglione  <maglione>
Date:    Mon, 26 Oct 1998 23:12:52 -0500 (EST)

I want to throw in my two cents on this issue and present a pet theory of mine about perfect pitch: I believe people learn perfect pitch by becoming attuned to certain resonances in their own heads, such that by perceiving the proper mixture of resonance, they find it easy to narrow it down to one of say 88 pitches from the piano keyboard. I myself do not have perfect pitch, but my relative pitch is pretty good when kept in practice. When studying ear training in music school, I met a woman from Japan with perfect pitch which fascinated me. She would talk about how she and her boyfriend were compatible because of the harmonic resonance of their teeth! Remarks like that caused me to become skeptical, so I would test her by playing up to ten non-harmonic random simultaneous keys on the piano which she would proceed to quickly pick out, so her talent could not be denied. It was her mention of the teeth that made me think about the resonance idea. This concept of resonance may explain why perfect pitch'ers have a hard time with slightly mistuned musical samples: their resonances do not line up with the expected learned tunings! This could be studied somewhat due to regional differences; I understood that certain orchestras used A444 for tuning instead of A440, maybe one would expect someone with perfect pitch in one region would be thrown off by the tuning in another region, although a change from A440 to A444 is only about 16 cents which is small but not negligible. One reference is from Backus "The Acoustical Foundations of Music", 2nd ed. 1977 W.W.Norton & Co, Inc. N.Y. Backus even refers to the learning of perfect pitch as maybe being due to early "imprinting", and gives some other references. Buon Solfeggio, Tom Maglione Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY(at) LISTSERV commands should be sent to listserv(at) Information is available on the WEB at

This message came from the mail archive
maintained by:
DAn Ellis <>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University