Why is it so difficult to get perfect pitch? Is it necessary at all?

The latter question is easier to answer: It is not necessary to have perfect pitch! You always can reach perfect pitch, if you have relative pitch: by a tuning fork or pipe. So it is nice if you are independent of such little helpers, but do not be ashamed to use them. Nobody will blame you, because most people do not have a tuning fork, and therefore they feel less confident to name a note. Your results by using a tuning fork will be remarkable, and after a while you will need the tuning fork less and less. But, did you buy a tuning fork? Probably not, because of the first question.

The problem to name a pitch without a reference lies in your trust into your memory. You hear a beautiful clear single instrument sound. What pitch does it have? To assign it a name, you need a reference system. If somebody helps you and tells you the name of the sound, and plays the sound again, you will identify the sound as the same sound. Easy! If the person now tells you that he will play either the same sound or a sound which is much higher or lower. You will still be able to identify the sound. Now the person plays two sounds, at the beginning the second sound is much higher or lower then the first sound: You tell the person if the second sound was higher or lower. This game continues until you are unsure if the second sound was higher or lower. So the helper person goes back and plays the sounds you still felt comfortable with. It must be easy because you still feel comfortable. But what happens if the person increases the time between the reference note and the second note – lets say he lets pass a minute. All of a sudden you are no more sure if the second sound was the same or higher or lower, because you have forgotten the original sound!

Two Sounds a few Seconds apart

It is easy to recognize if a sound was the same sound or not after a few seconds.

Two sounds several minutes apart

However, because so many different sounds needed our attention during a longer time period, it may be difficult to recognize if a sound was the same or not. If the sound was a song, it is easier to recognize than a single note. This is because the sounds form a pattern, which we can easier categorize and remember. The same is true for complex sounds like the human voice: We will categorize the voice according to several different characteristics. Sounds will be recognized as words, and words will be taken together to phrases and paragraphs with meanings.

Why do we forget a single sound so fast? Because, even during the sleep, you cannot close your ears. That means your ears are always busy analyzing sounds. And if it is not important, lets say it is not the beginning of a sentence, that is, it is just an ordinary background sound, then the ear will throw the heard sounds away. It doesn't make sense to keep information of little importance. However, if an unusual sound happens, your full attention is required (even during sleep). So the newer sounds dominate your brain.

Sometimes the problem is that you can tell if a note is higher or lower, but if you hear a random sound as the second sound and you should move a slider, which changes the second sound accordingly, to match the first sound, you get totally lost. That is because the actual (second) sound dominates your brain. You must learn to keep a sound in your “inner ear” despite other sounds. The easiest way to do this is by physically singing the note, which is of course no more the “inner ear”. But by doing so and keeping your vocal chords in a certain position you have a physical reference. Now all you have to do is not to physically sing, but imagine and holding the vocal chords in your mind. You do that in a way that if you would open the mouth and would let the air swing with the vocal chords the sound would physically be hear-able. To keep the reference note start with normal singing and then try to do it softer and softer, until it is no more hear-able, but the vocal chords are still ready to sing the note.

Listening Singing Teacher helps you to keep a pitch over a time, by giving you visual feedback – of course, only for hear-able sounds. Listening Singing Teacher also has exercises for singing (hearing) intervals. Intervals are relative to a first note and therefore allow you to have perfect pitch, if used together with a tuning fork as a reference.  In addition Listening Singing Teacher helps you to acquire perfect pitch by using the solfege system. In the absolute solfege system, you use different syllables (Do – Re – Mi – Fa – So – La – Ti - Do) for different pitches. This helps your brain to remember and associate pitches to names and vice versa. So now that you know why it is difficult and what to do to get relative pitch and - in the beginning with a little helper – perfect pitch, start practicing today. There is no way to acquire perfect pitch without practicing. Even professionals would loose their perfect pitch if they would not use their listening skills for a longer period of time. Okay, if you know how to bike you know how to bike your whole life. However, if you did not use the bike for five years, you will not feel as secure as if you were using it regularly.

So if you like music, your ability to hear and distinguish sounds is given. All you have to do is use a reference sound, e. g. a tuning fork, and practice to determine the relative distance from the reference sound. Listening Singing Teacher helps you to improve your auditory memory and recognizing intervals.

 

Do I have to be a singer to get perfect pitch?

No. If you are an autistic person or have other means to remember sounds accurately, there is no need to sing. However, if this is not the case, it is the fastest way to get perfect pitch. Have you observed musician, tuning an instrument? If they get the lead tone and they have to tune their instruments, you often can hear them hum the note. Even if the musicians know how play several instruments, they usually still use their vocals to feel a note. It is the most natural place for a human, to keep a tone, since the vocal chords are the only parts in the body that can produce such a wide range of pitches. Even if your pitch range is limited, it is still the only instrument you have, and usually the voice has more than an octave in range. Which is sufficient, since notes an octave higher or lower are physically related: One of the pitches is the first overtone of the other. This makes it easy to identify notes, even if they are not within your singing range. Maybe not in the beginning, but with the time and practice you will get the feeling for overtones. Physically, the first overtone, the octave, is the strongest overtone, since it is physically the easiest form to resonate: The first overtone has half the wavelength of the fundamental and thus fits twice within the wavelength of the fundamental. You have to use this relationship, if your singing range is not 4 octaves or more.

So you do not have to be a singer, if you can develop a way to remember sounds accurately, one sound is sufficient if you can recognize intervals, but it helps a lot. In fact, besides the ear the vocal chords are the only dedicated organs where you can feel pitches. Therefore they are your best helpers for acquiring perfect pitch. You don't have to be a professional singer with a full range or voluminous sound, it is enough to hum.

 

How long do I have to practice to get perfect pitch?

First, there is no answer to that question. It depends on each individual, and if you are older than 9 years it is very unlikely, or at least it is a very ambitious goal.

Second, do not get hooked to the idea that perfect pitch is the absolute thing in music! As mentioned above, relative pitch is easier and of much more use. If you have to sing along with a piano, which is mis-tuned by a quarter note all over the range, do not sing the perfect pitched notes. You as a singer can adapt, the piano cannot get re-tuned in a few seconds. If you adapt to the piano, you will sound in perfect harmony! In nature there are no preferred frequencies, but if a frequency is chosen, the harmony is defined by the overtones of that frequency. As you can see, relative pitch is the secret to harmony and not absolute pitch.

As for Perfect Pitch, studies have shown, that languages which use pitch to convey information, have a lot more people who have Perfect Pitch (up to over 90 %): "Unlike English, many East Asian languages, such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese, are "tonal," so that a word's meaning often depends on the tone in which it is said" (see Tone Language is Key to Perfect Pitch). In contrast to Perfect Pitch, "Relative Pitch is common among non-musicians and can be developed through ear training" (see Wikipedia: Relative Pitch). However, if you master Relative Pitch, you are only one reference note apart from Perfect Pitch. One thing is for sure: Reading does not lead to Perfect Pitch and the only way to make a step towards Perfect Pitch is, when you can feel something or hear something with your inner ear. To develop this ability your voice is your best friend, since the voice gives you the closest experience for pitch related feelings.

To give an answer to the question above for relative pitch, let us discuss a well known sentence: "If you can't sing the notes, you can't hear them". As mentioned above, singing helps a lot. Why? To train pitch recognition you have to do exercises. But what kind of exercises? A useful exercise is building a tonal memory. As in the beginning told, to name a pitch, you must have the pitch in your memory. To increase tonal memory a good exercise is to listen to notes, and then repeat them (this could be on an instrument or by singing). Listening Singing Teacher starts slowly, first you just listen to one note and then you have to sing the note back. With the pitch curve, you get immediate feedback, so you do not start learning wrong patterns. Then the program continues with two notes,still following the scale. After that you have to listen to three notes in random order, memorize them, and sing them back. The program continues with five and finally with eight notes. If you master eight notes, it is a very good sign that you are on the right track. This is because, by singing 8 random notes back, you are forced to remember the notes over a longer time period in which you actively sing other notes. What is the advantage of singing over a fixed tuned instrument as the piano? Simply, because you have to better listen to the pitch, because you have to reproduce it correctly. On a piano you you do not have to recall the precise pitch, it is sufficient if you press the right key. In other words, on the piano you could just identify the notes while you listen, and then play back the identified notes without remembering the actual pitches. But with the voice you could sing the notes slightly too low or too high. That this does not happen, you have to listen carefully and remember the pitch exactly. Actively singing back notes, is one of the best ways to proof your tonal memory. Replaying the notes on a piano only proofs your reciting memory. Since Listening Singing Teacher gives you feedback on the sound you produced - that is the sound as you remembered it - your progress to reach your goal is much easier.

You hate the sentence "If you can't sing the notes, you can't hear them", because you know it is not true. You just do not like to sing. There might be several reasons why you do not like to sing. You are shy, you cannot control your voice (i. e. you want to produce a sound, but something else is coming out), nobody helps you, you do not like your voice (e. g. on recordings the voice sounds different), etc. With Listening Singing Teacher you can learn where and when you want, so you do not have to give up your shyness. With the pitch feedback curve you can learn to control your voice and thus eliminate the errors of wrong pitch production. And the program is always ready and tells you where you have placed the notes.

So, we did not answer the question, and we do not give any warranties with Listening Singing Teacher that you will gain perfect pitch. But we have showed you why we think, singing is a key factor on the road to better listening skills. Perfect Pitch is not about to be a perfect singer, it is okay, if you only hum the notes. And it is not about that perfect pitch is mandatory for a good musician, all you should care about is making progress towards a good tonal memory. In this way start with relative pitch and if you sing, your inner ear will improve. The solfege system (Do, Re, Mi) helps you in this process by assigning a syllable to each pitch. And as you make progress, you will see that if you start singing a solfege note, you will be near or even perfect to the desired pitch. And if you are lucky, you will find a note where you can feel something special. Use this note as a reference point for the transition from relative pitch to perfect pitch.

If you do not find a reliable tone, from which you can derive the other notes, do not be sad. Remember Perfect Pitch is not as important as Relative Pitch in music. Doing ear training will definitively help you to improve your tonal memory and thus your relative pitch. But studies show that to improve in absolute pitch is a very long and tedious task for adults. If you believe that something you can see or feel can guide you, singing is a good way to feel the pitch. And with feedback you will make faster progress towards your goal.

Another way to improve towards perfect pitch is tonal memory. Tonal memory is the memorization of sounds. This could be a series of random notes. Listening Singing Teacher has exercises to listen to two, three, five and eight random notes (You can construct your own exercises with more tones). That is the teacher sings a few random notes and your task is to reproduce the notes by singing them back.

The solmization syllables (Do, Re, Mi, ..) help you to remember the sound and ease the production of the desired pitch. The solfege system is especially useful if it comes to random notes and more than two notes.

After a little practice you will see, that just by singing a specific solmization syllable, you will produce a sound, which hits the pitch or at least comes very close. In fact that is a little bit of cheating. You may start to identify the note by reading its solmization syllable and instead of remembering the sound, you just try to remember how you did produce the desired pitch last time. But that is okay, everything that helps in the beginning is okay. One aspect of the music
helps to develop the other.

The continuous pitch range of the voice, allows for better feedback on how close you did with the pitch accuracy. When rehearing an exercise with Listening Singing Teacher, use the option "Pitch Sensitivity". This option allows you to see how good you would have done with a narrower setting. For example if we set the pitch accuracy to 25 cents, we most likely will get less green markings than with an accuracy of 50 cents.

If you master to remember eight notes, you are on the right track towards Perfect Pitch.

And look at it as a bonus:
With Listening Singing Teacher you have to use your aural memory, since you have to reproduce the pitch with your voice. Making similar exercises with a piano, only proofs that your ear analysis and reciting memory is good. But matching the pitch with your voice, - compared to hitting a key on the piano, -involves the aural memory. To be able to reproduce the note, you must hear the note with your inner ear. To hit the right key on the piano, does not need an inner ear, only the analysis part is necessary.
Many of you may now say that the analysis property is what they want, they would like to get Perfect Pitch. But the inner ear is more important: If you can remember one hundred notes with your inner ear, I am pretty sure you have reached Perfect Pitch. Or even better: You are a very good musician. So start building your tonal memory.


Building Tonal Memory

One way to increase tonal memory is to repeat an increasingly random note series (within your singing range).

See also www.listening-singing-teacher.com/LearnToSingWithFeedback.

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