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Pranaman

relative and perfect pitch.

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I recently started training my ear to open up, and be capable of perfect pitch. The home course is just a lecture given by David Burge, with minimal instruction.

 

To attain perfect pitch, you must expand your awareness in the sense of hearing. This way, you start to hear the overall color of the tone. You will shortly recognize each note, regardless of octave, retains it's color. This is like seeing in black and white your whole life then finally seeing the whole spectrum of visual color. The key is expanding your awareness in the sense of hearing, opening yourself up.

 

To attain relative pitch, you must focus your attention. To hear the relationship between notes requires a quality of focus.

 

This might sound like a subset of samadhi to you.

 

David Burge has a home course for each of these skills. It is an interesting way to practice a different type of meditation.

 

www.perfectpitch.com

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A subject I'm keenly interested in. I was born with perfect pitch and it has always seemed perfectly natural to me just like recognizing colors. There is more to the quality of a tone than simply pitch, though. Back in the turntable days, I used to have trouble with my turntable belt and sometimes the key of the music would lower a step or half step. It would drive me crazy, because although the absolute pitch was now different, the quality of the tone was the same.

 

The goal of guessing the correct note can sometimes become a false goal, and when I taught piano, I didn't emphasize pitch recognition so much as a feel for quality. What fascinates me is the science of harmony, which is essentially about who we are, and how we resonate musically within ourselves and with the environment. In my music education I never read anything about tone and harmony that was really soul satisfying until more recently I came across books on harmony based on Rudolf Steiner's work.

 

I dont know about the course you posted, but it seems to me that people can play with pitch awareness on their own just by using an acoustic instrument, or even any kind of tone generator.. also play the same note on different instruments, digital and acoustic, and simply notice. I've taught ear training to people who thought they were tone deaf. It can open people up in amazing ways, lots of fun especiallly when it includes singing and movement.

 

-Karen

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Define "perfect pitch". Because, it doesn't actually... exist....

 

Tends to be used in a musical context. It describes why people like Karen go insane trying to play harmonicas in different keys :D Same number hole, different notes hahahaha.

 

I would not wish perfect pitch on anyone, those that "have it" seem to find lots of music "tricky/annoying". Being tone deaf must be really weird too (although I guess it's like being colour blind)

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"Perfect pitch" in common usage doesn't refer to any kind of mathematical perfection! My ear is attuned to equal temperament, which doesn't reflect the whole spectrum of possible tones within an octave by any means. Perfect pitch really just means the ability to recognize pitch without any reference point, as compared with relative pitch where you can hear relationships between notes. I'm better with instruments whose timbre I'm more familiar with.

 

Tends to be used in a musical context. It describes why people like Karen go insane trying to play harmonicas in different keys :D Same number hole, different notes hahahaha.

 

You knew. That, and playing guitar in alternate tunings. :blink:

 

I would not wish perfect pitch on anyone, those that "have it" seem to find lots of music "tricky/annoying". Being tone deaf must be really weird too (although I guess it's like being colour blind)

 

I don't think anyone's really tone deaf, just that the capacity hasn't been exercised.

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Karen, the way you speak of perfect pitch is alsmost like this program was made by you.

 

It's not an intense training at all. It is the opposite of that. It is a way to relax and open your ear. A way to hear the quality of a pitch. He likens it to a child that can already see the colors, but he's just learning how to identify them, so sometimes he'll say that the color orange is red. Everyone already hears it. He talks about how you see and can name all of the colors(frequencies) on the visual spectrum, perfect pitch is the exact same only on the sound spectrum, there is no difference. Just as the farther you go up in the range of red, you get closer to orange, the farther you go up in E you get closer to F. Basic notes are ranges of pitch, just as basic colors are ranges of light frequency. It is a natural ability given to everyone at birth, but just not exercise.

 

 

Mal, i must disagree. The way i've heard it is that perfect pitch is a deepened awareness of sound that catapults your appreciation for all music infinitum. It is only listening to the complete(non-superficial) sound of a note. It doesn't mean that you compute or label or analyze anything, which could make music tricky or annoying, you simply hear the sound in whole. With perfect pitch, you would only have to play each note on the harmonica once, to know what you are playing(considering memory). Or just have knowledge of the harmonica itself. Same number hole, different notes.

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Pranaman,

 

That program sounds great. It's so interesting to think about how we take for granted that we can identify colors, but we did have to learn to associate the color with a particular name. Then after that, every time we see yellow, we don't need to compare it to another color in order to know it's yellow. Just like we can learn to associate the name "C" with a particular pitch and recognize that pitch again in another context.

 

I think what Mal was saying is that when you expect a C note for example, and what comes out is D, it can be startling and even confusing, if you're playing by ear.

 

For example, on a digital piano if you shifted the whole tuning up a step, so now the C key really sounds like D, that can be confusing when you know what the C sounds like. If you're using relative pitch, you can find your way around anyway.

 

-Karen

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in the program you will be be able to name notes without reference, but that's more of a side effect.

 

I love the harp, you heard of Brendan Power?

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in the program you will be be able to name notes without reference, but that's more of a side effect.

 

I love the harp, you heard of Brendan Power?

 

Awesome, he has some good instrustion stuff on U tube too

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"Perfect pitch really just means the ability to recognize pitch without any reference point..."

 

Not possible. This only indicates that you can do so based on your upbringing and the culture in which you were raised (and also the fact that there is a 60 cycle hum everywhere most of the time, in North America - note that this changes based on where you live on the planet).

 

Note names and such aren't actually real.. they are only conventions... the reality is that there is no reference, only a primary arbitrary frequency (n Hz) and from there the first simplest construction is an interval.

 

However, if someone is referring to, say, picking up any given instrument (which, I will remind people is likely "set up" for A-440, unless maybe it's a stretch-tuned piano) and playing a note on it. This 'perfect pitch' misnomer may actually be your brain detecting the fundamental and the partials, and, in the blink of an eye, registering whether or not the instrument is true to the note being sounded. But even in this process the reference remains (the voicing of said instrument). So really, I've just come back to the start of my statement.

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"Perfect pitch really just means the ability to recognize pitch without any reference point..."

 

Not possible. This only indicates that you can do so based on your upbringing and the culture in which you were raised (and also the fact that there is a 60 cycle hum everywhere most of the time, in North America - note that this changes based on where you live on the planet).

 

Note names and such aren't actually real.. they are only conventions... the reality is that there is no reference, only a primary arbitrary frequency (n Hz) and from there the first simplest construction is an interval.

 

However, if someone is referring to, say, picking up any given instrument (which, I will remind people is likely "set up" for A-440, unless maybe it's a stretch-tuned piano) and playing a note on it. This 'perfect pitch' misnomer may actually be your brain detecting the fundamental and the partials, and, in the blink of an eye, registering whether or not the instrument is true to the note being sounded. But even in this process the reference remains (the voicing of said instrument). So really, I've just come back to the start of my statement.

 

This too, is clarified in the program. He talks of how the tuning of Bach's time was a really loose standard, so his A would be different than ours. Although this is the case, his ear and his perfect pitch would still be relevant today, he would just have to adjust to our labeling. This does not at all effect the ear's capabality of recognizing the pitch without a reference point. Note names are just labels for the pitch that the (perfect pitch trained) ear recognizes as being itself..... without any reference point.

 

Your example only proves that if you were trained in perfect pitch, and you went to a different location, you'd have to say where I come from that is an A. You call it something else, but it IS somewhere around 440hz.

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I don't think anyone who uses the common expression "perfect pitch" is talking about any mathematical perfection, as I said before. And it doesn't really matter what we're taught to call the note name. I could call 440Hz C if I wanted to. But when I heard something around that pitch, I would recognize it as the same, and always call it C.

 

For most people, if they heard that note and was told it was C, later they wouldn't retain the recognition of it. Like if you were told the name of a color, next time you saw it, you recognize it is the same color, regardless of what you happen to name it.

 

And when I play a song on an instrument by ear, I find the notes based on that recognition of pitch, not on intervals - the next note should be a G, for example, not that it sounds like it's a 5th up from the previous note.

 

When someone sings a note, a person with "perfect pitch" can tell what it is - maybe not to the accuracy of 1 Hz but "somewhere in the vicinity of a C." Most people can't, even if they're music students and know theory. At that level, it doesn't have much to do with the complexities of acoustics. But there's a real phenomenon there.

 

-Karen

 

 

Note names are just labels for the pitch that the (perfect pitch trained) ear recognizes as being itself..... without any reference point.

 

I didn't see that you had already said this, good point.

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Well that's cool... But what is seemingly being overlooked here is that when you play any single note on an instrument, it's not the "note" that you are hearing. You are hearing a chord. It is impossible to speak of timbre (and of a note produced in that timbre) and not be speaking of chords.

 

The only way you can hear a note (say, A=440) is to head to set up a signwave generator and have it play that frequency to you (even then you risk a crappy speaker affecting the sound). The moment you introduce an instrument into the equation, you have moved into the realm of chords. Each note is really a chord because timbre and tone are created by partials and overtone interference.

 

Talking of single notes in music is like trying to be the neutral observer in a physics experiment.

 

It's just not a reality.

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And when I play a song on an instrument by ear, I find the notes based on that recognition of pitch, not on intervals - the next note should be a G, for example, not that it sounds like it's a 5th up from the previous note.

Wow, that is so weird :) I look for intervals i.e 5th up from previous note :D

Most people can't, even if they're music students and know theory.

yep, I have no idea. But give me 2 notes and I'll tell you the interval (although I could do with some more practice)

 

Well that's cool... But what is seemingly being overlooked here is that when you play any single note on an instrument, it's not the "note" that you are hearing. You are hearing a chord.

 

Not wanting to devolve into a terminology debate :) but isn't that just harmonics, rather than a "cord" as such

eg. if I want to play overtones on a sax (notes higher than the instrument is designed to play) I focus on different overtones and bring them out rather than the fundamental tone, which contains all of the overtones in its fundamental frequence, like you said

partials and overtone interference

 

Just like guitar people do when they lightly touch the string to get the higher frequency vibrations rather than the fundamental.

 

Cool discussion :) you are obviously into music, what do you play?

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Well that's cool... But what is seemingly being overlooked here is that when you play any single note on an instrument, it's not the "note" that you are hearing. You are hearing a chord. It is impossible to speak of timbre (and of a note produced in that timbre) and not be speaking of chords.

 

You hold a good point. When I got the course I never questioned the idea of perfect pitch like I maybe should have. David Burge must be pretty thorough though, because he has also taken the time to speak about the reality of timbre and overtones. Expanded awareness of sound and the relaxed ease of ear sensitivity is the key here. He teaches sitting back and allowing yourself to hear beyond timbre. The color of the pitch being played is not faded or manipulated by overtones to this kind of ear. It's a deeper awareness as opposed to a concrete skill. You start around middle C, later you can hear through the muddy overtone of the lower piano and the quick but soft 'attack' of the higher end. Overtones and timber are where some people have trouble while learning absolute pitch.

 

note that he also teaches relative pitch, and believes that relative and absolute pitch learned together, is having an ear that can hear the deeper and whole picture of musical sound.

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Yes, there is the reality that what we call a note is made up of overtones, and also undertones.. but there is also the experience of the oneness of it. When you hear a C note, you are hearing a unique entity, maybe you could say a singularity as well as a totality.

Edited by karen

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Wow, that is so weird :) I look for intervals i.e 5th up from previous note :D

 

Well, it's really good to hear those relationships. When I play by ear, I'm not consciously thinking at all, like the way you sing a song you know, you're not thinking of intervals. And I could never figure out how most people can sing songs they know so that the relative pitch is pretty accurate - how do we know how to adjust our vocal chords to do that, without trial and error?

 

 

Not wanting to devolve into a terminology debate :) but isn't that just harmonics, rather than a "cord" as such eg. if I want to play overtones on a sax (notes higher than the instrument is designed to play) I focus on different overtones and bring them out rather than the fundamental tone, which contains all of the overtones in its fundamental frequence, like you said

 

I would say yes. Although there are not only overtones, but undertones which are more subtle. Another side of the polarity.

 

Just like guitar people do when they lightly touch the string to get the higher frequency vibrations rather than the fundamental.

 

I play a lot of Michael Hedges stuff that uses a lot of harmonics. And each song in a different alternate tuning. Let's just say I like a challenge. :)

 

Cool discussion :) you are obviously into music, what do you play?

 

Not sure who you were asking, but I play piano and guitar.. trained as a classical pianist the first part of my life, and am being more of a philosophical musician than performer in my old age :D

 

And you?

 

-Karen

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Ha! Yeah, and guitar is more portable than piano. Interesting, you have the skill I wish I had - the ability to read music! Even with my formal training as a music major, sight reading was always my weak spot, because my ear just wanted to do everything. I would memorize a new piece and never want to look at the music after that. Then of course playing ensemble music was a bitch without being able to sightread the parts!

 

I had an experience I'll never forget, taking a theory exam, which required writing some 4-part harmony, and I always relied on my ear for that instead of thinking things through theoretically. So during the exam, there was music coming from the next room and I couldn't hear the score I was supposed to be writing - uh-oh! Everyone else was breezing through, and I was sweating.

 

I always admired the people who could sightread anything, how much fun that must be. And they wished they could play more by ear. The grass is always greener!

 

I'm sure you can develop the ear through practice. I'm hitting a blockage that isn't just a matter of pushing through but finding a way to unlock it. Would be nice someday to be able to read!

 

-Karen

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Not wanting to devolve into a terminology debate :) but isn't that just harmonics, rather than a "cord" as such

eg. if I want to play overtones on a sax (notes higher than the instrument is designed to play) I focus on different overtones and bring them out rather than the fundamental tone, which contains all of the overtones in its fundamental frequence, like you said

 

Just like guitar people do when they lightly touch the string to get the higher frequency vibrations rather than the fundamental.

 

also agreed on the harmonics.

 

:lol: I had to think about the 'lightly touch the string' thing for a second! natural harmonics! put your finger at a given harmonic node and the fundamental is suppressed and the lowest harmonic will be the dominant tone (i.e. octave @ 12, 2nd octave @ 5 & 24...) I had artificial harmonics in my head when reading that. it gets pretty tough to do any natural harmonics when you've fretted a note, so the 'artificial' does the same node-based dominance but will usually have a higher overtone compliment due to the method (picking or pinching angle of incidence will have an effect on amount of overtone.)

 

when not playing a harmonic though, where the note is played from also has an effect on harmonic content - middle of the string will have the most fundamental, closer to the bridge will have more overtones (although the root will still be by far the most dominant frequency.) I use a lot of these ideas when writing bass lines - one simple thing people tend to miss is the huge effect the bass has on the dynamics of the song, how 'big' the songs is at a given point. even something as simple as transposing to a lower string will have a significant impact...which is why I love 5/6 string basses. playing an [email protected] on a .130 is hugely different than playing an [email protected] on a .100....conversely if you still need the low note but not the huge impact on the very low range, playing an inch off the bridge will sounds vastly different than up by the fretboard :)

 

I started playing piano recently....fun stuff! knowing guitar made it a hell of a lot easier...but sight reading :lol: ack! it feels like I dont really have the time to put into learning it, because unless I'm learning a piece (I usually have my head so far buried in my own music...) then I just really dont have much need for it. I love just sitting down and jamming whatever comes to mind and I can totally see learning piano helping me learn more scales and stuff on guitar.

 

if it has strings or can be hit with something, I'm there :lol: never learned any wind instruments...

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The Human As astringed instrument.

The Human As rhythm instrument.

The Human As brass instrument.

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