From a very young age, my mother discovered that I had perfect pitch: the ability to recall the names of notes without being given a reference point. It is quite uncommon as only 1 in 10,000 people possess this trait. My family broke the scale with that one as both me and my mother had it. This ability may not seem like much, but it could be useful. Whenever the repairman came over to check out our furnace, my mother would always entertain him by playing different notes on the piano and having me name them for his amusement. Hell, whenever I hear a random noise emitted, whether it’s the hum of the refrigerator or the buzzer on a gameshow, I could definitely shoot up and tell you hey that sounded like a B-flat!
Of course when I entered music school, I definitely had many eyes on me the minute I revealed to everyone that I had perfect pitch. My choir director basically made me the human tuning fork and had me give starting pitches for pieces during our concerts. The other students were so appreciative of this that they gave me a rose, a signed card, and a gift-card to Panera Bread. There were definitely moments in which having this talent made me feel good, but there were also times I wished that I did not have it.
Whenever I would be in any musical group and someone or some instrument was out of tune, it felt like torture to my ears. Now most people can tell whether or not someone is flat or sharp, but having perfect pitch makes it feel amplified as you can literally pinpoint the note name of any pitch that reaches your ears without needing a reference. Understandably so, and especially throughout college, there were people that were envious of me. I even met some people that had memorized certain notes. This begs the question:
How Do You Get Perfect Pitch?
I thought this was impossible for the longest time, but have recently been proven wrong. If you practice at memorizing different pitches daily, over time you will be able to recall them without reference. Some musicians argue that if you do not start learning early say around the age of 9, it is highly unlikely you will be able to teach yourself perfect pitch. The thing to remember is it takes an insane amount of work to memorize every single note that exists, but it most definitely can be accomplished. Mastering this is a rarity, but what is more common among musicians is:
This is where a note can be identified with a reference. If a person were given a C on the piano, they should be able to reach other notes in that scale easily. A great deal of required coursework in music school is spent perfecting this ability. For me, these courses were not very difficult as I was able to recall pitches without having any sort of guidance. I even tested out of Sightsinging III because of having perfect pitch.
But that wasn’t all...
Not only was there aural training, you also had to listen to rhythms and be able to write them down on staff paper. Unfortunately because I struggled with this, I was unable to test out of Sightsinging IV. However, I did manage to pull through that class with an A overall.
Just for Funsies
Some famous composers who have perfect pitch include: Mozart, Beethoven and Handel. In the pop world it isn’t so uncommon either. Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bing Crosby all had it too. Even my own piano instructor in college had it. I made that discovery one day during a lesson where we listened to a piece on the computer and I pointed out “Hey this is in E minor”.
Perfect pitch is a pretty rare gem in this world. It can be quite useful to any musician, but can also be used as a neat party trick. But most importantly, you don’t need to ask someone whether or not they have it. They will just tell you.