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Old 10-17-2012, 05:08 PM   #1
macashmack
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Do you think one can gain tonal memory over all 12 pitches?

Tonal memory is common in all people, as shown by the Levitin effect and varies other studies. Now, seeing as people can remember the keys that songs are in, I believe that one can remember the tonic of said key, and be able to label and recognize it as the pitch that it is.

Music conservatories sometimes teach tonal memory over a note - usually middle C or concert A. What if we could go for more than just one or two notes? Could we perhaps, with a lot of practice, learn to remember accurately all 12 notes in the chromatic scale? We all know that we can train our relative pitch to near perfection with enough work, so why would something like this be impossible? All it is is relative pitch on steroids.

I am going to start this venture, and see how it goes, and i want to hear your guys' input on this as well
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:19 PM   #2
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It's not outside the realm of possibility I suppose. My guitar teacher can tell certain notes and chords without any external reference just by relating them back to a particular song, but that's because he's in a covers band that gigs quite a bit and so he has to keep their repertoire burned into his mind. He said that anytime he takes a couple of weeks off it starts to fade as well. It seems like to attain the skill in the first place you'd have to do some pretty intensive practice and listening, and keep it up, all for a skill with doubtful merit in the first place (What, really, do you get from absolute pitch that you don't get from a good sense of relative pitch and something to find the tonic with, apart from bragging rights obviously?).

But if you feel like this would benefit you as a musician, by all means don't let me stop you. I'd be interested, if you follow through with this, to see your results and how much benefit you think you've gained at the end.
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:23 PM   #3
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:26 PM   #4
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my guitar teacher at college could do this as well. but surely if you know a chord sequence and know your theory then this becomes rather irrelevant. it cant hurt to try and learn it but it kind of seems a little pointless.... unless im missing something
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:30 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jazz_rock_feel


I thought that people would say that this is pointless. And truthfully, it is.
I don't really have a point to do this. It just seems like an interesting thing that i want to research. I'm the type of person who likes to learn things and figure things out, even if they are pointless. It's fun for me to do
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Old 10-17-2012, 07:33 PM   #6
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i'd say it's much easier if you're playing a trombone/fretless instrument and actually have to listen to the timbre of each note and intonate things properly.

as said, it's not outside the realm of possibilities, but the skill doesn't really mean anything on its own. same as perfect pitch - it's a party trick. a good chef can flip food in a pan with his eyes shut and a hand behind his back, but that doesn't mean learning to flip food will make you a good chef.
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Old 10-18-2012, 09:42 AM   #7
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Yes it is possible... but the problem with tonal memory is that your memory will decay after a few days. I've found that everything in my head is flatter by a few cents no. If you choose to reinforce your tonal memory, use something that will be the same each time like a microwave beep. I use it for sketching ideas on the train, it also helps for transcription exams but I've found it doesn't really help for difficult chord progressions, however transcribing atonal melodies is a breeze if you combine tonal memory with relative pitch.
At the end of the day tonal memory over one pitch is enough, you can get by with using relative pitch after that. If you get tonal memory over even a few pitches, you can tell how fast your car is going just by listening to the pitch of your engine, which to me is a pretty cool party trick.
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Old 10-20-2012, 07:24 AM   #8
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That is how I learnt it. Programs like Auralia teach it pretty well in addition to your own routine transcribing etc.
It is pretty handy when transcribing, and orchestration on the go. If you suddenly have to fix something, it's nice to know exactly what it will sound like.
A vital part of improvisation/composition is being able to play/write what you hear. This is a pretty handy skill.
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Old 10-20-2012, 05:24 PM   #9
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Wouldn't tonal memory like this be useless if you're listening to music that's not tuned to A440?
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Old 10-20-2012, 05:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by TheHydra
Wouldn't tonal memory like this be useless if you're listening to music that's not tuned to A440?

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Old 10-20-2012, 06:13 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jazz_rock_feel


But, a large portion of relevant music is tuned to A440.

I can usually remember middle C and recognize it, and from there I find the interval to the tonic of the song. Minor third higher than C? D#/Eb is the tonic.
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Old 10-20-2012, 06:41 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Life Is Brutal
But, a large portion of relevant music is tuned to A440.

I can usually remember middle C and recognize it, and from there I find the interval to the tonic of the song. Minor third higher than C? D#/Eb is the tonic.


I also have tonal memory over middle C, but i think it would be cooler to know "hey, its the same key as song X, so it's in the key of X". Eventually, you might not even have to do this. It could be more like "oh, it's in the key of Eb" and you would know because you have heard the Eb and songs in Eb so much that you just know. And having this in all the keys? To me, at least, it seems very useful.
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Old 10-20-2012, 06:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Life Is Brutal
But, a large portion of relevant music is tuned to A440.

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Old 10-20-2012, 07:56 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
I also have tonal memory over middle C, but i think it would be cooler to know "hey, its the same key as song X, so it's in the key of X".


I can do something like this in some keys when I hear a fifth upwards. When I hear a fifth from Eb I think of Beethoven's Eroica Variations so I know it's Eb. When I hear a fifth from D my brain is reminded of the Art of Fugue theme so I know it's D and so on. It's useless though and it only works with like 3 keys for me.
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Old 10-21-2012, 03:51 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
Music conservatories sometimes teach tonal memory over a note - usually middle C or concert A. What if we could go for more than just one or two notes? Could we perhaps, with a lot of practice, learn to remember accurately all 12 notes in the chromatic scale? We all know that we can train our relative pitch to near perfection with enough work, so why would something like this be impossible? All it is is relative pitch on steroids.
I'm not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that there are, "12 pitches". There are more than 88.

I'd argue that it's one thing to be able to recognize AN "A", say "A" 440Hz, and quite another to recognize any "A"over 8 octaves.

The only phenomenon that mitigates the difficulty, is the fact we seem to be able to develop octave harmony easier than other intervals.

Last edited by Captaincranky : 10-21-2012 at 04:00 AM.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:35 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Captaincranky
I'm not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that there are, "12 pitches". There are more than 88.

I'd argue that it's one thing to be able to recognize AN "A", say "A" 440Hz, and quite another to recognize any "A"over 8 octaves.

The only phenomenon that mitigates the difficulty, is the fact we seem to be able to develop octave harmony easier than other intervals.


Octaves are the easiest to recognize as an octave above X note is just twice the frequency of X note. An octave up from A440Hz is 880Hz.

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Old 10-22-2012, 02:38 PM   #17
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What would be the point? Wouldn't it be much more fruitful to simply work on your ability to hear relationships between notes...since that's what really matters in most musical contexts?
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:12 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by AWACS
Octaves are the easiest to recognize as an octave above X note is just twice the frequency of X note. An octave up from A440Hz is 880Hz.
About this. An octave is either 1/2 or 2X any given frequency. And while octaves are fairly easy to recognize when one is playing, (IE: singing along with a female vocalist, one octave down), I doubt it would be anywhere near so easy to invent the fundamental in your head, and then double or halve it, to come up with the note name.
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