The Road to Perfect Pitch Part 1 - Opening up the Ear


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max97230
06-16-2007, 03:52 AM
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Introduction to Perfect Pitch (PP)
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Hopefully by the time you finish practicing the drills in this lesson, you will have advanced considerably towards your goal of obtaining Perfect Pitch (PP) by opening up your ear.

Dictionary: Perfect Pitch (PP)
synonyms - Absolute Pitch (AP), Colored Hearing
noun
1. The precise pitch of an isolated tone, as established by its rate of vibration measured on a standard scale.
2. Music The ability to identify any pitch heard or produce any pitch referred to by name.

Perfect Pitch, or Absolute Pitch, for those of you who do not know, is the ability to know a tone without reference. For instance, someone with perfect pitch could wake up in the morning, hear a song on the radio, and know what key it is in.

Perfect pitch has generally been deemed as an unobtainable, born-with skill. I, like many others, have proved to myself that this assertion is false. IT IS VERY EASY TO DEVELOP PERFECT PITCH.

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Mini Exercise:
Play an F# and then an Eb (on same string). They are two distinctly different notes that will always contain their own sound. Listen very deeply. Hear the F# fade out. Play the F# again. Listen. Now play the Eb and listen. Listen for anything that sets the two sounds apart. Anything at all. Is the F# more brilliant than the Eb or the other way around? Does the Eb seem sound buzzier than the F# or the other way around? Take no more than 2 minutes to compare these two notes with each other. Write down your findings on a piece of paper. Did you write down that the F# sounded bolder than the Eb? If you did, then you are correct. Almost everyone reports that the F# sounds bolder than the Eb. The Eb is more mellow. The F# has more of a buzzy texture or quality to it than the Eb.

Hopefully you could experience the difference for yourself. After all, your mind has been hearing in strict Relative Pitch (RP) for some time. Listening with Perfect Pitch (PP) may not be easy at first.
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Keep in mind that Relative Pitch (RP) is a skill used to tell the relationships between tones whereas Perfect Pitch or Absolute Pitch (PP/AP) is used to tell what the tone is. For example, RP will tell you that the piano is playing a 7b5 chord. PP will tell you that the piano is playing a G7b5.

I would like to say that RP is more powerful than PP, but when RP and PP are joined together, the ear is incredibly powerful. Many will disagree, but I would also like to say that a rhythmic ear is the next most important tool. I have no intentions of covering rhythms in these PP lessons, but I might consider doing a rhythm lesson if it is wanted.

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Opening up the Ear
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With the introduction to perfect pitch out of the way, here begins the actual lesson. This lesson is intended for guitar players, but feel free to make up drills for your own instrument. It will pretty easy to see the intention of each drill so do not get scared off if you do not play guitar.

Forewarning: These drills are technically unchallenging (at least they should be). Do not skip them. Speed identification (ID) will come later, but for now, play slowly and listen deeply.

For the majority of these drills, a "20 correct answers in a row" system will be used. I myself recommend a two paper plates with 20 pennies to count my correct answers. Whatever works for you works for you.

It is far better to do one drill every day than to do 8 drills in one day and never do it again.

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Drill 1 - Exploration
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Get a package of colors: crayons, pencils, ect. Even paint.exe on the computer will work. Get out your guitar and play an A. Play it for a while until you have a good feel for it (vague at best if you are a beginner, but still try your best). Now pull out a crayon that you think represents that A. On your piece of paper write the letter A and draw a color underneath it. Do this with all of the 12 chromatic notes. If you want, you could make yourself a circle of 5ths chart and make colors on it. For those of you who do not know what a circle of 5ths is, it is a clock-like circle and the ajacent note is a 5th above the previous note. So at 12 o clock, it has a C, 1 o clock a G, 2 - D, 3 - A, 4 - E, ect. The traditional tuning circle of 5ths does not repeat, but the western 12 tone tuning does. This does not really make a difference, it is just a fun fact. Reason being is that 2 raised to the (7/12) power = 1.498 and as such repeats. The traditional 5th is tuned to 1.5 and does not repeat.

Another fun fact: tones that make up whole number ratios are pleasing to the ear. 3:2 = 1.5 for example. A major third is 2^(4/12) = 1.259 which is close to 1.25 = 5:4. As you already know, the western scale notes are a little bit off what they should be, but the side effect is that every key signature is a little bit off instead of having one key signature perfect and the other keys way off.

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Drill 2 - Open Strings
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Tune you guitar to standard tuning like so and without looking at the guitar, play any open string at random. Now name that open string. You must get 20 correct answers in a row to pass this drill. Do not be concerned with blocking out RP or letting your hand tell you what note you are playing. Just take your time and try to focus on hearing the note for what it is. Do not use voice to guess pitch

E-------------0----0------------0--------
B---------0-----------0----0-------0-----
G---------------0----------------------0-
D-------0--------0-------0----0----------
A--------------------0----0--------------
E--0-------0---0---0-----------------0---

An example of random open strings. If this is hard for you, do not fret (hehe). Just try again tomorrow. The most important thing is to get in a least a few minutes of ear training each day. If you make the slightest progress every day, you will reach the end. If you make no progress, you will never reach the end.

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Drill 3 - Opening Ear to Harmonic 3rds
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Play harmonic (together) 3rds (major and minor) on the guitar. Hear and then sing the individual notes from bottom to top. You do not have to sing the note names. Just sing to match the pitch of the ntoes you are hearing. Yes this is RP, but it is opening up your ear for PP. See tab for example. Pass a verification round of 20 to proceed to next drill. 10 of major and 10 of minor would be a good choice.

M = Major m = minor
E-------------1--------------------------
B---1---3-----3--------------------------
G---1---4--------------------------------
D----------------0-----------------------
A----------------------------------------
E----------------6-----------------------
M m m M

max97230
06-16-2007, 03:54 AM
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Drill 4 - Opening Ear to Harmonic 2nds
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Play harmonic (together) 2nds (major and minor) on the guitar. Hear and then sing the individual notes from bottom to top. You do not have to sing the note names. Just sing to match the pitch of the notes you are hearing. Yes this is RP, but it is opening up your ear for PP. See tab for example. Pass a verification round of 20 to proceed to next drill. 10 of major and 10 of minor would be a good choice.

M = Major m = minor
E----------------------------------------
B---0---2--------------------------------
G---2---5--------------------------------
D-------------------2---3----------------
A---------------0---6---6----------------
E---------------4------------------------
M m m m M

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Drill 5 - Opening Ear to Two Harmonious Intervals
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Play any two notes. Hear both. Sing from bottom to top. Just the same as the previous drills. They can be wide intervals and close intervals. Verification round of 20 to proceed to next drill.

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Drill 6 - Opening Ear to Three Harmonious Intervals
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Play any three notes. Hear all. Sing from bottom to top. Just the same as the previous drills. They can be wide intervals and close intervals. Verification round of 20 to proceed to next drill.

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Drill 7 - Opening Ear to A and B
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Without playing a note, sing an A. Check yourself on the guitar by playing an A. It is unlikely that you will be able to sing the A, because you do not have PP yet, but try anyways. Listen to the real A and then think of what the A feels like in your mind. Mute the guitar and think of an A for a few seconds. Now sing the A and check yourself. Now repeat the same process with B. Spend five or so minutes with this drill. Yes, once again you are getting the notes via RP, but keep your ears open. By now, you have probably come quite a way in opening up your ear.

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Drill 8 - Two Open Strings
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Go back to Drill 2 called "Open Strings". Repeat that drill but use Identify (ID) two strings at once. Verification round of 20.

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Drill 9 - First Fret
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Go back to Drill 2 called "Open Strings". Repeat that drill but this time place a finger or a capo on the first fret. ID one note at a time. Verification round of 20. See tab. Notes in first fret are written out to the side.

E F-----------1----------------------------E#
B C--------------1-------------------------B#
G Ab-----1---------------------------------G#
D Eb-------1-------------------------------D#
A Bb----------1----------------------------A#
E F----1-----------------------------------E#

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Drill 10 - Two First Frets
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Go back to Drill 9 called "First Fret". Repeat that drill but this time play two notes at once. ID from top to bottom. One verification round of 20.

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Drill 11 - Fifth Fret and Two Fifth Frets
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Go back to Drill 2 called "Open Strings". Repeat that drill but this time place a finger or a capo on the fifth fret. ID one note at a time. Verification round of 20. After that, play two notes at a time for another round of 20. See tab.

E A-----------5----------------------------
B E-----------5----------------------------
G C-----------5----------------------------
D G-----------5----------------------------
A D-----------5----------------------------
E A-----------5----------------------------

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Conclusion
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This is the first part of a series in developing PP or AP. These are the very same drills that I once used to gain PP. By the time you finish with these drills, I will have finished the next set. Thankyou for reading and have fun in your music and ear training.

PP is not something that happens overnight. If you make a little progress each day, you will reach the end eventually.

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FAQ
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Q: I have found that the lowest note I can sing is an Ab. Using RP, I can get the rest of the notes. Who needs PP?
A: Vocal tension changes constantly throughout the day. This is not a reliable method. True PP involves hearing the note for what it is. A proper analogy would be it is like discerning green from red instead of seeing shades of gray.

Q: I don't want PP. Anything that is not in tune will sound bad.
A: Not true at all. Most of the time when people with PP say they can't stand music out of tune, they are just showboating the fact that they have PP in the first place. Back when Beethoven was alive, a concert A was not 440, but it did not bother him any. His A just had a slightly different texture than today's A. Sort of like red compared to dark orange.

Q: Don't you have to be born with absolute pitch?
A: Absolutely not! The real proof will come when you can do it yourself.


Q: PP sounds like a lot of work for nothing. Is it?
A: If you are at all interested in becoming better at music, it is not a waste of time.

Q: Why was the concert A not 440 in Beethoven's time?
A: It was lower. Whenever music is played in a sharper pitch than that normally perceived, it sounds more energetic. Slowly through the years, concert orchestras have pushed the notes higher and higher seeking that new edge. For this very same reason, the guitar should always be tuned on standard pitch or slightly above. Of course never rule out experimental things such as tuning slightly flat.

Q: Why do Oriental people seem to always have PP?
A: Languages such as Chinese and Viatnamese depend heavily on pitch for meaning and context. They are called tonal languages and speakers of those languages are forced to rely on their ears more than speakers of non-tonal languages.

Q: Who are some people with PP?
A: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, John Philip Sousa, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, and many more.

Q: Hey I know Steve Vai! He wasn't born with PP was he?
A: No he wasn't. He developed the ability transcribing many years for Frank Zappa. "After a while, I didn't need to use the guitar anymore to figure out the songs." - Vai

Q: Is there a place to be tested for PP?
A: You can be tested here http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/

Q: When will the next section come out?
A: Soon.

Edwardthegreat5
06-16-2007, 04:05 AM
Did you write this? I'd take those code tags out, they're annoying.


And I can't help it, sorry.
http://a475.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/26/l_a73829d154fcec4f93fd4a3585be34f2.jpg

max97230
06-16-2007, 04:12 AM
EDIT : k they are taken out

lol at picture. But in all seriousness, the lucas burge course was really good I thought.

Your41Plague12
07-13-2007, 08:12 PM
Great lesson. As for another question, would this benefit me while trying to learn to play bass (or guitar) and sing at the same time? If so, how? Thanks! :cheers:

virtualetters
07-23-2007, 09:54 PM
I really like the drills you've included, but I'm a little unsure as to how "random" someone can actually play one open string. I tend to know which one I hit by feel and if I wildly throw my pick at the guitar I rarely hit only a single string.

Additionally, can you clarify what you mean when you say "do not use voice to guess pitch"? I would think that part of having perfect pitch would be that it allows someone to sing notes perfectly the first time, and I do not know anyone without perfect pitch that will accurately be able to sing a random note.

I'm not sure where you're headed with this, so perhaps the lack of randomness in the second drill is entirely acceptable. I am very eager to see the next lessons, as this is something I've tried to develop in the past with little success. I have come across many of these drills before, but I'm intrigued by the first one, which is completely new to me.