A Musical Medley
For Your Mind





Mini-Music  Q & A

The Secrets of Music Theory
Prof. Nicole Biamonte

Comments from attendees:

  • Loved the visualization of the notes - great (they would make a great quilt)

  • Professor Nicole Biamonte is enchanting and a really good teacher - great notes

  • Very pleasant and engaging lecture - well presented, makes theory come alive

  • Fabulous lecture - learned where do-re-me comes from

  • Theory can be so simple

  • Learned something about the way I like to listen to music  

Questions and Answers:

1 - How do you define "perfect pitch" and do people who have perfect pitch hear music differently?

Perfect pitch (also called absolute pitch) is the ability to sing a note, or identify any note or group of notes, without using any other established pitch as a reference. It is much more rare than relative pitch, which is the ability to sing or identify a note or group of notes using a reference pitch.

People who have perfect pitch learn to recognize the frequencies of notes, usually in early childhood, possibly in a way similar to how most of us learn to recognize and identify colors. In contrast, relative pitch relies on learning to calculate the distances between notes, possibly like doing a very simple math problem, and is developed by many musicians at some point during their training.

Researchers think that perfect pitch is learned through exposure to music, although it may also have a genetic component. People who speak tonal languages, in which changes of pitch can change the meaning of a word (Chinese dialects, for example), are more likely to have absolute pitch. Some animals have also demonstrated the ability to recognize specific pitches, which might be related to mating or food-finding behavior.

People with perfect pitch do not necessarily make better musicians, but it is easier for them to tune an instrument, to play in tune, and to transcribe music that they hear into notation. The downside of perfect pitch is that people who possess it are more likely to notice and be bothered by performances that are out of tune or in nonstandard tunings, or by hearing pieces that have been transposed away from their original key to a different key.

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