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What is Perfect Pitch, and Do You Have It?

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What is Perfect Pitch:

Perfect pitch (also referred to as absolute pitch) is an ability to instantaneously identify or sing any given musical note without a reference pitch. There are two types of perfect pitch: active and passive. A person with active perfect pitch is able to sing or hum any given pitch; that is, if they are asked to sing a B flat without hearing the said note or any reference note, they can, whereas a person with passive perfect pitch cannot.

You Know You Have Perfect Pitch If:

  • You are able to name a musical note played on any instrument, including musical tones emanating from common objects like the hum of a kitchen appliance, car horn, and/or doorbell
  • You are able to identify the key signature of any given piece of music
  • You are able to sing any note without a reference pitch
  • You are able to name multiple notes played simultaneously

The Pros and Cons of Perfect Pitch:

For many, perfect pitch can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. The blessings are that the possessor of perfect pitch can tune a musical instrument without aid, correctly judge whether or not a piece of music is being played in the correct key, and identify specific instruments as playing in or out of tune. The curses are that those with perfect pitch find it harder to enjoy music; like seasoned wine connoisseurs, they can hear all of a performance’s flaws in intonation. They also find it harder to enjoy music not played in their original keys, as to them it is being played out of tune.

Famous Possessors of Perfect Pitch:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer
  • Yo-Yo Ma, cellist
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, composer
  • Frederic Chopin, composer
  • Nat King Cole, singer
  • Stevie Wonder, singer

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