The accuracy of absolute pitch has often fallen into mythical perspectives, as this rare ability tends to fascinate people through its spectacular results. Many people tend to think that a musician with absolute pitch is always capable of identifying the musical note of any sound in any circumstances. The research literature has revealed that this is rarely true. Although there is a significant difference between real absolute pitch owners and pseudo-absolute pitch owners, the accuracy of absolute pitch is highly influenced by a series of musical factors such as: pitch chroma, pitch height and musical timbre. Therefore, it has been proven that the best absolute pitch accuracy manifests for medium pitch sounds, while very high or very low sounds tend to often be misidentified. Even more, absolute pitch owners tend to make an unusual mistake of misidentifying the octave. The familiar sounds (for example from the instrument the musician has studied in childhood) tend to produce less identification errors. Nevertheless, the piano timbre is usually associated with the best accuracy of absolute pitch. The aim of the present research is to synthetize up-to-date literature regarding the way these factors influence the accuracy of absolute pitch. The study focuses on the idea of normalizing the general perspective of absolute pitch accuracy, as musicians and teachers often tend to have very high expectations regarding this ability. The educational implications of the new perspective drawn here contribute to a better relation between teachers and students, as well as to a better understanding of this interesting musical ability.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.
1. Athos A. Levinson B. Kistler A. Zemansky J. Bostrom A. Freimer N. Gitschier J. (2007). Dichotomy and perceptual distortions in absolute pitch ability. PNAS 104(37) 14795-14800.
2. Baharloo S. Johnston P. Service S. Gitschier J. Freimer N. (1998). Absolute pitch: An approach for identification of genetic and nongenetic components. American Journal of Human Genetics 62 224-231.
3. Giuleanu V. (1975). Principii fundamentale în teoria muzicii București: Muzicală.
4. Granholm E. & Steinhauer S.R. (2004). Introduction: Pupillometric measures of cognitive and emotional processing. International Journal of Psychophysiology 52 1-6.
5. Hsieh I. & Saberi K. (2009). Virtual pitch extraction from harmonic structures by absolute-pitch musicians. Acoustical Physics 55(2) 232-239.
6. Lockhead G. & Byrd R. (1981). Practically perfect pitch. Journal of Acoustical Society of America 70(2) 387-389.
7. Menon V. Levitin D. Smith B.K. Lembke A. Krasnov B.D. Glazer D. Glover G.H. McAdams S. (2002). Neural correlates of timbre change in harmonic sounds. NeuroImage 17 1742-1754.
8. Miyazachi K. & Ogawa Y. (2006). Learning absolute pitch by children: A cross-sectional study. Music Perception 24(1) 63-78.
9. Miyazachi K. (1989). Absolute pitch identification: Effects of timbre and pitch region. Music Perception 7(1) 1-14.
10. Parncutt R. & Levitin D. (1999). Absolute pitch. Grove Dictionary.
11. Schlemmer K. Kulke F. Kuchinke L. Meer E. (2005). Absolute pitch and pupillary response: Effects of timbre and key color. Psychophysiology 42 465-472.
12. Semal C. & Demany L. (1990). The upper limit of “musical” pitch. Music Perception 8(2) 165-176.
13. Takeuchi A. & Hulse S. (1993). Absolute pitch. Psychological Bulletin 113(2) 345-361.
14. Urmă D. (1982). Acustică și muzică. București: Științifică și enciclopedică.
15. Vanzella P. & Schellenberg E. (2010). Absolute pitch: Effects of timbre on note-naming ability. PLoS ONE 5(11) e15449.
16. Zatorre R. (2003). Absolute pitch: A model for understanding the influence of genes and development on neural and cognitive function. Nature Neuroscience 6(7) 692-695.
17. Zattore R.J. Belin P. (2001). Spectral and temporal processing in human auditory cortex. Cerebral Cortex 11 946-953.