February 6, 2023

About the Author: Laura Bevan

Laura Bevan is a 23 year old piano teacher at the London Piano Institute. She has been playing the piano since she was 7 years old and since then has studied at the conservatoire in Leeds gaining a degree in both Classical and Popular music.

Most people have heard of the wonders of perfect pitch. But what exactly is it? Is it an innate ability? Can you learn it over time? Follow this article for an answer to all of your questions.

Perfect pitch is considered a highly sought-after skill in the music industry, as it allows musicians to instantly identify and produce any musical note without the need for a reference. Musicians with perfect pitch are able to instantly recognise notes and chords, making it easier for them to compose, improvise, and transcribe music. They can also identify and correct pitch errors in their own performances and in the performances of others.

Some musicians with perfect pitch have the ability to identify notes and chords by ear, even when they are played in a different octave or on a different instrument. This ability is particularly useful for composers, arrangers, and producers, as they can easily transpose a piece of music to different keys or instruments.

tuning fork on music sheet

Most people believe that approximately one in 10,000 people are thought to have perfect pitch. However, perfect pitch is actually a little more common: Some say that around 4% of people have acquired perfect pitch and can be found in the general population rather than just the musical circle, you just have to openly look for them.

Perfect pitch is also known as absolute pitch, they share the same definition. But, absolute pitch is the technical term, although perfect pitch is the wider known term. However, you may have also heard the term relative pitch; this is a little different as it describes the process of when people can identify notes, but only in reference to one another. Usually, using notes of the scale, a person can determine how much higher or lower one note is relative to another. This way of thinking is more common among musicians than perfect pitch is. Both people with perfect and relative pitch can often play music by ear. However, the difference is that those with perfect pitch can always tell whether a song has been transposed into another key from its original recording, whereas those with relative pitch may not have this ability.

male pianist playing the piano

Perfect pitch is highly valued in music education. Musicians with perfect pitch can easily identify and correct pitch errors in their own performances and in the performances of their students. They can also easily identify and correct harmonic and melodic errors in a student’s composition.

However, having perfect pitch does not guarantee success in the music industry. Many other skills, such as good timing, dynamics, and expression, are also important for a musician to be successful. Additionally, some people with perfect pitch may find it can be a hindrance, as it can make it difficult to sing or play in tune with other people/instruments who do not have the ability and are not perfectly within the same range.

There are many theories as to why some people develop perfect pitch while others do not. Some researchers believe that it is a genetic trait that is inherited, while others believe that it is a result of early exposure to music and musical training. Some research suggests that the age of onset for musical training and exposure to tonal music play a role in the development of perfect pitch.

female pianist writing notes

In addition, some research has suggested that individuals with perfect pitch have a different brain structure than those without it. Studies have shown that people with perfect pitch have a larger planum temporale, (a region of the brain associated with processing sound), than people without perfect pitch. Other studies have found differences in the way the brain processes pitch. Though perfect pitch was thought to be a rare ability happening in childhood, auditory learning studies at the University of Chicago have shown that some individuals can learn to identify musical notes by ear even later in life with core training.

Some of the greatest classical composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Handel all had perfect pitch; and it’s not so rare in the pop world either. Mariah Carey has it, as did Michael Jackson. Charlie Puth, was even supposedly bullied at school for having perfect pitch.

hands playing the piano

So there you have it, perfect pitch, or absolute pitch is a rare skill that allows a musician to instantly identify and produce any musical note without the use of a reference. It is highly valued in the music industry, as it makes it easier for musicians to compose, improvise and transcribe music. While some people are born with perfect pitch, early exposure to music and musical training may increase the likelihood of developing this skill. However, it is important to note that perfect pitch is not a necessary skill for success in the music industry and other skills are just as important. So don’t stress if you don’t have the ability, most people don’t, but ask your friends, your family, and your music teachers and see if you can find anyone that does have perfect pitch.

If you enjoy our articles and are feeling inspired to start piano lessons then don’t hesitate and contact us to find out more info. We have a great group of professional, motivating, and friendly teachers that would love to help you on your musical journey.

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