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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect'

14 June 2013 

Perfect pitch may not be so 'perfect'

By Melissa Hogenboom
Science reporter, BBC News

People classified with perfect pitch may not actually be as in tune with the notes they hear as they think.

Played a long piece of music, a study group failed to notice when scientists turned the tones ever so slightly flat. They then misidentified in-tune sounds as being sharp.

Researchers say it demonstrates the adaptability of the mind even for those skills thought to be fixed at birth.

They have published the work in the journal Psychological Science.

Only around one in 10,000 people has the ability to correctly classify a note simply by hearing it. This phenomenon is called perfect, or absolute, pitch, and has been made famous by the well-known composers who are believed to have possessed such talents, such as Mozart and Beethoven.

Graduate student Stephen Hedger, from the University of Chicago, US, had perfect pitch identified by objective tests. He explained what it meant.

"I'm able to name any musical note in isolation without the aid of a reference note. Someone with perfect pitch would be able to tell you a car alarm is honking in F sharp, for example. Generally it enables people to identify notes across a wide variety of octaves."  (...)

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