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  1. #1

    Fostering Perfect Pitch in a kid

    This morning my nine year old picked up her violin after a couple of weeks of not playing during the break. After she played a tune I asked her if she wanted me to help her tune it to pitch with a tuner since it got out of tune during the break. She said yes and told me that the low string was fine but the other three were off. I picked it up and played all the strings and thought it was the other way around, only the low one was off but she insisted. I pulled the tuner and she was right. The low string was in tune and the other three were, while in tune between themselves, all low.

    She has done a few things like finding a note in a piano on the first try, coming up with tunes from memory with no trouble and things like that.

    So what I'm thinking is how to foster that potential without making it boring and annoying. I don't think perfect pitch is a must-have thing but if she has a talent I'd rather help her than not.

    I felt this forum was the right place since many of you are teachers and/or parents and probably can see where I'm coming from.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I’m not sure if it would be helpful, but you might check out some of Rick Beato’s videos on YouTube.

  3. #3
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    Yes Rick Beato seems to be an expert on this:

    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  4. #4
    Sounds like she's already got perfect pitch.

    I believe, without being able to prove, that, like language, certain musical abilities have to be gained early for the learning to be effortless.

    So, I would suggest exposing her to harmony and rhythm. Lots of music.

    I exposed my son to a lot of music, including syncopated music (mostly Brazilian) odd meters, drumming (including learning clave at age 2 or 3 and a lot of harmony. Now, 20, he composes heavily syncopated pop music and odd meters don't bother him a bit. He's come up with guitar chords I've never seen anybody else play, but he heard the harmony.

    I think it's essential that it be fun, not a chore. If the joy drains out of it for the child, it's time to back off. I know some great musicians were pushed heavily as children, but, personally, I wouldn't go there.

  5. #5
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    Most kids have a much better grasp of pitch than adults do i think. When ever i tested my little nephews and nieces, they would always sing at the correct pitch that they learned a tune, or hear it as a different tune if i played or sang something in another key. It is the blank slate i think. My sisters kid, we were spending the summer together and he would hear me practice 5 tunes for my final classical guitar degree exams. Then one day he starts to sing along, and he sang my whole program!! He was about 5, maybe one year of piano lessons. But in most of my young students, the difference in the ones that have a parent that plays an instrument and practices scales in the house is huge.

    I think kids with an ear and a talent for music naturally gravitate towards it. They enjoy it, they are good at it, it comes easy for them..

  6. #6
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    Give the kid access to a fixed pitch instrument. So, most likely a keyboard. Let the kid play with it.
    And obviously, fill your home with music. Make music joy.

    There's no intellectual path to absolute pitch. It's a byproduct of playing with those same pitches over time. They're recognised and memorised. With some kids, that is. It has to be acquired in a young plastically brain. The earlier the better.

  7. #7
    Ask her to play lots of familiar tunes by ear.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ThatRhythmMan View Post
    I’m not sure if it would be helpful, but you might check out some of Rick Beato’s videos on YouTube.

    The Rick Beato claim is that perfect pitch is learned at the baby state and that race is over quite quicky

    In other words either the nine year old has perfect pitch or she hasn't. She is not going to learn it at that age.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Lobomov View Post
    The Rick Beato claim is that perfect pitch is learned at the baby state and that race is over quite quicky

    In other words either the nine year old has perfect pitch or she hasn't. She is not going to learn it at that age.
    It's a claim without enough reasoning behind it. Since it's surely not the most valuable trait in general, also people believing this claim blindly and hence not enough people really care to pursue it. Imo, it very well be like that but there is a big but...
    There is common way to describe the skill : hear a note, say its name. Or play a chord, play the notes by ear.
    But that's not all. After about 4-5ish years of ear training, I've noticed that my fingers sometimes know where is the the note I sing to myself. No clue about the name, just that the finger wants to go to the right spot. It happens often enough that it ain't random luck. Sure not reliable enough to brag about it at all. Just to point out that it does get better.. Not the same magical party trick but heck, gets better. Even when starting at 35 .

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    It's a claim without enough reasoning behind it

    The claim isn't that you can't develop amazing relative pitch as an adult thru practice ... But perfect pitch, where you at any time can hear a note or collection of notes and determine what the pitch(es) is (are) is is not attainable.


    As far as I know, it hasn't been disproved? (Btw Beato himself has not perfect pitch but functions just fine as a musician. His son Dylan is the one with perfect pitch)

  11. Quote Originally Posted by Lobomov View Post
    The claim isn't that you can't develop amazing relative pitch as an adult thru practice ... But perfect pitch, where you at any time can hear a note or collection of notes and determine what the pitch(es) is (are) is is not attainable.


    As far as I know, it hasn't been disproved? (Btw Beato himself has not perfect pitch but functions just fine as a musician. His son Dylan is the one with perfect pitch)
    I just don't believe the claim entirely. It might be trainable but no one cares enough perhaps. That's all.
    What I described - my fingers going to the right place - falls under the perfect pitch category, not relative pitch. That's why I call this claim "too bold". And since there is 0 assignments for improving the "perfect pitch" abilities in music schools whatsoever, they can't say it's the universal truth.

  12. Oh, I'd like to point out that by "perfect pitch" I meant the absolute pitch. The skill itself may be not perfect.. as with all of those.

    Thought that it might be a bit messy topic again

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    I just don't believe the claim entirely. It might be trainable but no one cares enough perhaps. That's all.
    What I described - my fingers going to the right place - falls under the perfect pitch category, not relative pitch. That's why I call this claim "too bold". And since there is 0 assignments for improving the "perfect pitch" abilities in music schools whatsoever, they can't say it's the universal truth.
    What you’re describing sounds like pitch memory to me, which is well described, and does not fall under perfect pitch.

    Thanks to hearing Stairway to Heaven ad nauseum as a small child, I can still usually identify A3 and A4 when I hear them out of context, but nothing else pops in my head quite like that.

    On the other hand, it still may be relative pitch. When soloing, my fingers know instinctually where to go based on the changes and what note I want at that time. That has nothing to do with perfect pitch.

  14. #14
    Only feed your kid if he/she guesses the note correctly.

    Too many errors may require beatings.

    They will thank you when they are older.
    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates
    "Every chord is every other chord." - Anon

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    It's a claim without enough reasoning behind it. Since it's surely not the most valuable trait in general, also people believing this claim blindly and hence not enough people really care to pursue it. Imo, it very well be like that but there is a big but...
    There is common way to describe the skill : hear a note, say its name. Or play a chord, play the notes by ear.
    But that's not all. After about 4-5ish years of ear training, I've noticed that my fingers sometimes know where is the the note I sing to myself. No clue about the name, just that the finger wants to go to the right spot. It happens often enough that it ain't random luck. Sure not reliable enough to brag about it at all. Just to point out that it does get better.. Not the same magical party trick but heck, gets better. Even when starting at 35 .
    You're just memorising pitches at the best of your ability. Absolute pitch is memory, but it is burned into those young brains as they grow and create paths. There is no guessing or thinking involved. It's like seeing colours. The "memory" that grown ups can achieve is not even remotely comparable to the instant recognition of pitches that can be acquired at a very young age.

    So, give yer kids access to a keyboard while growing up!

  16. #16
    Can you develop perfect pitch beyond the earliest years?
    There are those that say no. Are they right? I don't know.
    It is important as improvising musicians to hear as much as possible.
    Therefore, I suggest ignoring pseudo science experts and for all
    to continue and develop our ears to the highest degree of nuance
    we are capable of. Sounds like your daughter is off to a great start.

  17. #17

    Fostering Perfect Pitch in a kid

    Thank you very much everybody for the thoughtful discussion!

    We have a piano prominently in the middle of the living room and she consistently sits down every now and then to figure out tunes by ear even though it’s not her instrument.

    I’ll check the Beato videos to start with and try a few fun exercises and see how it goes.

  18. Memory is strange. Try to write all the letter buttons of your keyboard in correct order... It's a hard but not impossible job to recall the letters. Yet we type so fast without even thinking about it. This has something to do with absolute pitch memory.. I'm sure

  19. #19
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    in many situations the perfect pitch is rather a bit of a problem for a professional musician than an advantage.
    I accompanied singers with perfect pitch and saw the problems when they had to sight read in transposition.
    And pianists that could not play a piano because it was all 'a bit off'..
    My friend had problems whne he playef in baroque orchestra in 415 and then problems of switching back to 440...

    Not that it is a disaster... but I would rather focus on relative harmonic hearing... hearing realtions between intervals, different temperaments (since she plays violine)...
    By the way it is interesting that my friend did not adjust intonation for his daughter when he taught her violine... I asked why... and he said: 'I clearly see she can hear important realtions and she corrects everything herself by ear I do not want to imply 'correct intervals' from outside - eventually she will just learn to control it and work it out...'
    It is very interesting because I even saw teachers using tuners to correct a kid'd intonation (which is terrible I think)

  20. #20

    David Burge?

    A childhood friend of mine has perfect pitch. He made no specific effort to attain it, but he did start piano lessons at 4 years old and grew up in a very musical household: the parents were into musical theatre and all the kids took lessons on one or more instruments from an early age.

    David Burge claims that he can train anyone to have perfect pitch. Have any of you investigated this course? What are your thoughts?

    At one time I was in a study group of about 5 or 6 people that met once a week to listen to the course and work through the exercises together. It kind of fell apart after only a couple months, with none of us noticing any breakthroughs. The leader of the group had purchased the entire course; the rest of us had not. We would listen to a lesson, do the exercises together, then go home and do them ourselves daily till the next meeting of the group. So the failure of the effort was not due to lack of daily practice.

    The group had a wide range of skills, from total beginners through intermediate and advanced players. I was one of the latter, with a highly developed sense of relative pitch due to a couple years of university-level ear training and theory coursework, as well as over ten years of daily playing experience on guitar and other instruments. My challenge was to avoid using relative pitch to cheat at the exercises. But, as I mentioned, none of us had breakthroughs, regardless of prior skill level.

    I have not felt like I'm missing out by not having completed this effort; as others have pointed out, a good grasp of relative pitch works just fine for most musicians, including most pros. But I'm curious to hear from anyone who has worked through the Burge course. How did it go for you?

  21. #21
    Perfect pitch is generally understood to be a natural gift.

    Having perfect pitch is not necessarily a good thing.
    Last edited by Drumbler; 01-13-2019 at 10:51 AM.
    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates
    "Every chord is every other chord." - Anon

  22. #22
    I have never met or heard of anybody who attained perfect pitch by using that course.

    I've heard of lots of people that tried.

    Anyone here succeeded?

  23. #23
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    Q: What's the definition of perfect pitch? A: When you toss a banjo in the garbage and it hits an accordion

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Q: What's the definition of perfect pitch?
    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates
    "Every chord is every other chord." - Anon

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