A Musical Discovery
How I discovered I have perfect pitch
It's my freshman year of high school. I'm performing in my small, acapella choir, and the teacher is not there. She's on a trip, so as a choir, we have to teach ourselves and make sure we stay productive in our rehearsal. We practice a couple of songs, and eventually, we move on to a song called "Landed." Around the final chorus of the song, we change keys. This isn't the first time the choir changed keys mid-song when they weren't supposed to. However, it's the first time I make a big deal about it. I want to try and prevent the change in keys from happening again so that it doesn't occur during our evening concert.
"Hey, guys, I think we switched keys."
"In the middle of 'Landed.' We switched keys in the middle of the song."
"No, it sounded right." Everyone in the choir agreed with this person. They could have sworn they sang it right, but I could have sworn we switched keys. They didn't take this suggestion to heart. We even switched keys on an official recording of the piece. Clearly, no one else noticed.
During sporting events, this choir would perform a special acapella arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner. During one of our rehearsals in the hall right before an event, we switch keys again. Even though this, again, isn't the first time this has happened, it's the first time it's happened during this song. I talk to the choir teacher afterward.
"Hey... um, I think we switched keys during the anthem."
"Well, I wanted to point it out because I don't want it to happen during the actual performance."
"If it does, we just have to keep going. No one will notice anyway."
I noticed. My suggestion wasn't meant to rag anybody on their abilities, it was simply to point out something that shouldn't happen during a performance. It seemed like no one heard the same thing I did.
One afternoon, as my mom drives me home from school, I talk to her about something, most likely about Charlie Puth. Somehow, perfect pitch comes up in conversation.
"What is perfect pitch anyway?" I ask, never having been quite clear about what that term meant.
"I think it's when you can sing a note perfectly without hearing a starting tone first."
I pause for a second. "I thought everyone could do that."
Apparently, I had a musical ability I didn't even know I had. Four peers throughout my life had told either myself or my mother that they believed I had perfect pitch. A counselor I had in elementary school would sing with me, and she was consistently impressed that I could keep up with her. When I took singing lessons, my first teacher told my mom that she believed I had it, and the other tested me on whether or not I had it when I gave her the correct key of a piece we were practicing -- "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," in fact. Apparently, even a student-teacher of my choir teacher told my mom she thought I had it. Of course, this was before I even knew what D#, F, G flat, etc., meant when it came to music. I had wondered for years why my teachers had to play the first chord to each song before I or my fellow choir members sang. I never once thought that some musicians couldn't just sing the tune. I thought either you could sing on the right key on command or you weren't a singer. That conversation in the car made me realize there were so many singers with differing levels of ability. I just happened to be one with perfect pitch.
Now, to clarify, I am not a child prodigy by any means. I'm currently working on improving my skills in harmonizing. As demonstrated by my struggles with the choir switching keys, I have trouble changing to a key I haven't been practicing in. I've even struggled picking out individual notes from chords. However, I can sing a song from memory after years of not having heard it, and I can learn songs very quickly. It's an ability that I'm personally very proud of. That being said, there's one thing it can't change: people still don't care when you say they've changed keys.