About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us
Medindia LOGIN REGISTER
Advertisement

'Perfect Pitch' of Musical Notes in Humans Not Uncommon as Previously Believed

by Tanya Thomas on August 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM
Font : A-A+

'Perfect Pitch' of Musical Notes in Humans Not Uncommon as Previously Believed

"Perfect Pitch" is not as elusive to non-musicians as once thought. The term refers to a person's ability to identify and recognize a tone sans reference. A University of Rochester study has revealed that this talent is more common among people without an ear for music than previously believed.

Experts at the university's Eastman School of Music and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences have revealed that their new test is based on a technique to discern how infants recognize words in a language they are learning.

Advertisement

"Tests for perfect pitch have always demanded that subjects already have some musical training or at least familiarity with a particular piece of music, which really limits the pool of candidates you can test," said Elizabeth Marvin, professor of music theory at the world-renowned Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

"That means nobody really knew how prevalent perfect pitch is in humans in general," she added.

While making a presentation at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in Sapporo, Japan, recently, the researchers revealed that they began their study by looking into research on pitch perception in animals and found that perfect pitch was widespread in the animal kingdom, even though it's very rare in humans.
Advertisement

Previous studies had shown that animals such as birds, for instance, can identify a series of repeated notes with ease, but when the notes are transposed up or down even a small amount, the melody becomes completely foreign to the bird.

This holds true for almost all animals, but not humans, which suggests that, ironically, common relative pitch hearing may require more brainpower than perfect pitch.

With a view to determining the cognitive basis for perfect pitch, Marvin and her colleague Elissa Newport wanted to test the basis for pitch perception and memory in people who had never been musically trained in order to get a better idea of exactly how common perfect pitch is in humans.

During the study, both musicians and non-musicians listened to groups of three notes, with the groups played in a continuous stream in random order for 20 minutes.

The researchers observed that just like the human mind quickly begins to identify new sound sequences (words) in a foreign language, the students learned to identify the groups of notes embedded in the stream, though they could not identify and remember the names of particular notes as they were constantly coming in the 20-minute stream.

Marvin and Newport then tested the students by replaying the note groups, as well as new groups that the students had not heard before. The students were then asked whether each group of notes was familiar or unfamiliar.

Some of the original note groups had been transposed to a different key without the knowledge of the students.

Students who unconsciously used perfect pitch to identify notes stumbled over the transpositions, and heard them as a new group of notes they had never heard before.

On the other hand, students who relied on relative pitch heard the transposed notes and automatically and unconsciously recognized them as familiar, the notes seemed to be of the same group heard before.

Marvin and Newport says that, surprisingly, there were a number of non-musicians who used perfect pitch to identify groups of notes, but did not know they had perfect pitch.

The team is now investigating the other cognitive abilities of this new group of listeners with perfect pitch, to determine what might distinguish them from the more numerous listeners with only relative pitch perception.

They are also planning to investigate a controversial hypothesis that native speakers of tonal languages like Chinese, which utilize pitch to distinguish different words, have their perfect pitch abilities enhanced by their language's necessary attention to pitch.

Source: ANI
TAN/L
Advertisement

Advertisement
News A-Z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
News Category
What's New on Medindia
Is COVID-19 Vaccination during Pregnancy Safe?
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.


Recommended Reading
Work may Be the Cause for Vocal Cord Dysfunction
The researchers from the UAB and the Vall d'Hebron Hospital have diagnosed two patients with vocal ....
Contraceptive Pills can Help Female Singers to Attain Perfect Pitch
A piece of advice for female singers who are striving for vocal perfection - start taking ......
Singers Less Likely to Perceive Vocal Problems
American Idol contestants, beware - singers who don't get paid to perform are also less likely to .....

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2021

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use