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  1. #21
    floobydust's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidepipes View Post
    Question -- Is their perfect pitch LP A=440, A=442, or HP 457?
    My guess is that their perfect pitch is referenced to A = 440 because that is the standard that was used as they were learning what all of the notes are called.

    And if they have to play/tune to A=457, they would do it and can still play with the rest of the band. They would just think they are playing everything a bit sharp but they would just roll with it.

    -floobydust

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  3. #22
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidepipes View Post
    To all you alto players, can you hear the eight bar held note, (F# on alto. concert A) at the end of Harlem Nocturne, in your head? I can, but is this perfect pitch? -- Still learning!
    Hearing notes in your head is not perfect pitch (my sax playing son can hear notes in his head and he does not have perfect pitch). The only way to determine if you have perfect pitch is if someone plays a random note to you blindfolded and you instantly know and can say what note it is. A keyboard/piano (in tune) is probably the easiest instrument to have someone play you random notes to test this.

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  4. #23
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    I know singers with perfect pitch have a hard time, especially if they have to sing with a group like a quartet.
    Two guys in my undergrad had it, both trumpet players. Their perfect pitch was based on the note for trumpet. Unlike saxophonists, they mostly played one transposition. I imagine they had a hard time when playing piano.
    Remember perfect pitch is really pitch memorization. So if an alto player memorized the alto saxophone note A, even though he is playing C in actuality, that is irrelevant to him.
    Issues occur when changing across transposing instruments. I don't have perfect pitch, but I sure had a hard time in college in aural theory because I regularly played Bb and Eb transposing instruments as well as flute and piano in concert pitch.
    “If you transcribe me, you're my student, but if you transcribed who I've transcribed, you're my peer.”
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  5. #24
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by floobydust View Post
    The only way to determine if you have perfect pitch is if someone plays a random note to you blindfolded and you instantly know and can say what note it is.
    I don't think that is entirely true. You can have sort of "memorized" a note, a frequency and by having relative pitch you can say what every random note you hear is.
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  6. #25
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by kreacher View Post
    I don't think that is entirely true. You can have sort of "memorized" a note, a frequency and by having relative pitch you can say what every random note you hear is.
    If you need a reference note then it is not perfect pitch. Again, I can only tell you what my sons have told me about what they experience (I was very interested in it). There is no comparison to another note. They just instantly know the note that is heard much like how most people can instantly recognize and name a color seen without the need of a "reference color." It's not memorizing the notes per se, they can hear the notes without any confusion that they are distinct. The memorizing part comes with what to call the notes much like the memorization of colors is just the names of colors you can already distinguish. Much like once you know what the color blue is, you would never mistakenly call yellow as "blue." And you don't need to remember red as a reference color to correctly identify/name blue.

    Wikipedia is not perfect but this entry on perfect pitch matches much of what my sons describe:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_pitch

    And it isn't just instruments. Random everyday sounds are recognized for their correct notes, like car horns, alarms, glass breaking, hitting a hammer to a metal chair, etc.

    -floobydust

  7. #26
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    I always find perfect pitch to be a somewhat confusing subject, but I would think it wouldn't get in the way of learning and playing the sax. I don't believe that someone with perfect pitch should have any more trouble with transposing than anyone else, since it's a mental exercise, mostly in note naming, and doesn't have anything to do with accuracy of pitch. A good quality instrument can be played well in tune. It's A=440. What problems could there be? I suppose there's going to be aggravation with out of tune playing from others, but mostly music gets played pretty well in tune and almost without exception, it's A=440.

    I do think that's funny about Floobydust's sons with perfect pitch having a low opinion of singers .... That could be a clear disadvantage to having perfect pitch. Probably, mostly it's better to not hear so precisely when it comes to listening to singers.

    I wonder what would happen to someone with perfect pitch if they tuned a guitar, for example, down to A=432 and tried to sing with it. I do this sometimes and with my relative pitch, I have a short period where everything sounds a bit flat but that actually goes away and then it all sounds right, like it's perfectly on key (after a song or two). I'm guessing that, for someone with perfect pitch, it would never "go away" (the flat sound of it all). I think that relative pitch allows your brain to make the adjustment .... and another adjustment when you go back to A=440. It's sort of like, with my relative pitch, I have a pretty short "pitch memory". Someone with perfect pitch has a very long pitch memory.


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  8. #27
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by andre251 View Post
    I know singers with perfect pitch have a hard time, especially if they have to sing with a group like a quartet.
    Two guys in my undergrad had it, both trumpet players. Their perfect pitch was based on the note for trumpet. Unlike saxophonists, they mostly played one transposition. I imagine they had a hard time when playing piano.
    Remember perfect pitch is really pitch memorization. So if an alto player memorized the alto saxophone note A, even though he is playing C in actuality, that is irrelevant to him.
    Issues occur when changing across transposing instruments. I don't have perfect pitch, but I sure had a hard time in college in aural theory because I regularly played Bb and Eb transposing instruments as well as flute and piano in concert pitch.
    My sons started in piano, so maybe that is why transposition is not an issue.

    -floobydust

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    As far as I am concerned, slight variance in pitch can be tolerated as long as the player is not grossly out of tune. Before I play, I see to it that I get my sax in tune with a digital tuner but of course in the course of playing, I don't expect myself to be in perfect tune.

  10. #29
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    In music theory class in college, I was taught that the one certain symptom of perfect pitch is to find the standard piano tuning horrifying.

    For perfect pitch people, A = 440 means that the octave must be 880, which I think is called "just intonation."

    The same must be true for every note, which is not possible when you change keys while playing on a limited set of strings.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation

    I was told that for such people, every keyboard should have a designated key and be tuned mathematically to that key only.

    Any variation from this would be found irritating. Apparently such people have to put up with a lot of irritation.

    On the bright side, I think playing a saxophone, with it flexibility in tone production, would be a help, as such a person would learn to make the note played match the requirements of the ideal sounding in their head. Could not do that on a piano.

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    A scientist studying Chinese made the discovery that all native speakers have the same iinfIections, the modulation of the pitch in a phrase.
    This guy recorded many peoples and was able to make a song out of them using certain phrases.
    Every person was interchangeable (sometime s octave displaced).
    Does that mean the whole Chinees population has perfect pitch?

  12. #31
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by click View Post

    For perfect pitch people, A = 440 means that the octave must be 880, which I think is called "just intonation."
    I believe the octaves will always be multiples of the basic note frequency, whether equal temperament or just intonation (apart from stretched tuning)

    It's all the interval between the octave where the difference becomes apparent.
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    I knew a guitar player with perfect pitch who had a hard time with listenng to music. He could not enjoy anything that was slihgtly off pitch . Even if it was played that way intentionally. ( as in blues or blues related music where people bend notes) he could not lsten to Coltrane either, way too sharp in the upper register. Eventually he stopped playing music alltogether.

  14. #33
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by toughtenor View Post
    he could not lsten to Coltrane either, way too sharp in the upper register. Eventually he stopped playing music alltogether.

    sshhhh, don't let on Coltrane was out of tune
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  15. #34
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by adamk View Post
    A scientist studying Chinese made the discovery that all native speakers have the same iinfIections, the modulation of the pitch in a phrase.
    This guy recorded many peoples and was able to make a song out of them using certain phrases.
    Every person was interchangeable (sometime s octave displaced).
    Does that mean the whole Chinees population has perfect pitch?
    Chinese is a tonal language in that tone inflections are a part of distinguishing spoken words. Mandarin has 4 tones while Cantonese uses 6 tones (my parents who come from a rural part of Canton uses 5 tones, it just sounds like Cantonese with a deep hickish accent...sort of y'all in Cantonese). So, the listener must be able to hear the inflections to understand, and likely it would require good relative pitch to identify the tonal inflections. My perfect pitch trombone son is a Chinese major learning Mandarin. The irony is that although he is learning Chinese, he cannot speak to my parents because Mandarin and Cantonese are completely different spoken languages (incomprehensible to the other side). Although the written language is mostly the same, so apparently he does text to his grandmother in Chinese. Other tonal languages include Korean and Vietnamese.

    That said, there is a hypothesis that because tonal recognition is so important to these languages that native speakers may have a boost in the critical early phase of perfect pitch acquisition. Some scientists have noted that the percentage of perfect pitch in the population is a bit larger compared to native speakers of other languages. This is just a hypothesis and I don't believe that it has been proven though.

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Thomas View Post
    I believe the octaves will always be multiples of the basic note frequency, whether equal temperament or just intonation (apart from stretched tuning)

    It's all the interval between the octave where the difference becomes apparent.
    That 880 will not be quite right if it is not an octave, which is what I intended to convey with the next sentence "The same must be true for every note, which is not possible when you change keys while playing on a limited set of strings."

    That same 880 must serve on a piano for every position in every scale, depending upon the tonic, and the math don't add up.

  17. #36
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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Ok, here's an amusing story of perfect pitch, math, and frequencies. My perfect pitch trumpet playing son is very good in math (and is now studying engineering in college). When he was in high school, he was a member of the school's physics olympics team. They would compete against other high schools in regional physics olympics competitions. One of the school's physics teachers was the team "coach" who is in charge of preparing the teams for competition and for recruitment of members.

    One day while he was in his physics class, the teacher mentions towards the end of class that in the upcoming physics Olympiad competition, there will be a new event on estimation, which included estimation of physical dimensions, weight, and frequency. So, my son announces that BTW he has perfect pitch. The teacher intrigued dug out a tuning fork from one of the drawers, struck it, and asked "OK, what is the note?"

    "It's a B flat," said my son.

    "Close but it's a B."

    "No, it's actually a B flat," insisted my son. And then in his head, he uses A=440 to calculate the frequency of the B flat note that he heard. "And the frequency is Xxx."

    His teacher sees that the frequency on the tuning fork is exactly what my son just told him, so he gets on his computer to look this up and finds out that, yes, the frequency on the tuning fork correlates to a B flat. So, my son was right that the tuning fork was mislabeled.

    So, he then tests his frequency estimation with a strobe light. And asks him what is the frequency of the flashes. It is set in the range of what could be in the upcoming competition. In this case, it is not a test of perfect pitch but one of counting and timing. Being a musician, my son has very good timing, so he answers, "almost 7 beats a minute." Glancing down, his teacher, sees that it was set at 6.8.

    "Amazing! OK wise guy, what is it now!" He cranks the strobe way up so it is impossible to count but now the "clicks" are fast enough to generate a tone, one that he identified as being about halfway between two notes. So, he calculates the frequencies and splits the difference and says something like "301.5"

    His teacher looks down at the screen and sees that it is strobing at 301.25. "ARE YOU SH**ING ME??!!!!!"

    Needless to say, the physics team crushed that part of the competition because they had a ringer. And it was noted that estimation never returned in future competitions, most likely because the organizers realized afterwards that some people may have an inherent edge in this.

    -floobydust

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by floobydust View Post
    Ok, here's an amusing story of perfect pitch, math, and frequencies. My perfect pitch trumpet playing son is very good in math (and is now studying engineering in college). When he was in high school, he was a member of the school's physics olympics team. They would compete against other high schools in regional physics olympics competitions. One of the school's physics teachers was the team "coach" who is in charge of preparing the teams for competition and for recruitment of members.

    One day while he was in his physics class, the teacher mentions towards the end of class that in the upcoming physics Olympiad competition, there will be a new event on estimation, which included estimation of physical dimensions, weight, and frequency. So, my son announces that BTW he has perfect pitch. The teacher intrigued dug out a tuning fork from one of the drawers, struck it, and asked "OK, what is the note?"

    "It's a B flat," said my son.

    "Close but it's a B."

    "No, it's actually a B flat," insisted my son. And then in his head, he uses A=440 to calculate the frequency of the B flat note that he heard. "And the frequency is Xxx."

    His teacher sees that the frequency on the tuning fork is exactly what my son just told him, so he gets on his computer to look this up and finds out that, yes, the frequency on the tuning fork correlates to a B flat. So, my son was right that the tuning fork was mislabeled.

    So, he then tests his frequency estimation with a strobe light. And asks him what is the frequency of the flashes. It is set in the range of what could be in the upcoming competition. In this case, it is not a test of perfect pitch but one of counting and timing. Being a musician, my son has very good timing, so he answers, "almost 7 beats a minute." Glancing down, his teacher, sees that it was set at 6.8.

    "Amazing! OK wise guy, what is it now!" He cranks the strobe way up so it is impossible to count but now the "clicks" are fast enough to generate a tone, one that he identified as being about halfway between two notes. So, he calculates the frequencies and splits the difference and says something like "301.5"

    His teacher looks down at the screen and sees that it is strobing at 301.25. "ARE YOU SH**ING ME??!!!!!"

    Needless to say, the physics team crushed that part of the competition because they had a ringer. And it was noted that estimation never returned in future competitions, most likely because the organizers realized afterwards that some people may have an inherent edge in this.

    -floobydust
    Your son was too honest. But a great story.
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  19. #38

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by click View Post
    That 880 will not be quite right if it is not an octave, which is what I intended to convey with the next sentence "The same must be true for every note, which is not possible when you change keys while playing on a limited set of strings."

    That same 880 must serve on a piano for every position in every scale, depending upon the tonic, and the math don't add up.
    No, in equal temperament the octave is a perfect octave (doubling the frequency). In this case, the math add up. It is with thirds that equal temperament is less satisfying.

    Also (and it is alluded to in Pete's post) a piano is not exactly tuned along equal temperament because the highest notes are sharper than what they should be (stretched tuning). I must confess that I don't know exactly why.

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alain Gen View Post
    No, in equal temperament the octave is a perfect octave (doubling the frequency). In this case, the math add up. It is with thirds that equal temperament is less satisfying.

    Also (and it is alluded to in Pete's post) a piano is not exactly tuned along equal temperament because the highest notes are sharper than what they should be (stretched tuning). I must confess that I don't know exactly why.
    I tune pianos by ear as my profession (also a musician who plays sax).
    The reason for the stretching up and down has to do with the tension/thickness/inflexibility of the strings.
    The harmonics go sharper to the fundamental the higher they are so an overall compromise has to be reached.
    I smooth out the inharmonicity over the whole keyboard..

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    Default Re: Is Perfect Pitch a Hindrance to Learning and Playing Saxophone?

    Quote Originally Posted by adamk View Post
    I tune pianos by ear as my profession (also a musician who plays sax).
    The reason for the stretching up and down has to do with the tension/thickness/inflexibility of the strings.
    The harmonics go sharper to the fundamental the higher they are so an overall compromise has to be reached.
    I smooth out the inharmonicity over the whole keyboard..
    Thank you!

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