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 Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: AET 
Date:   2004-06-03 02:34

Lately, I have been hearing alot about perfect pitch and relative pitch. But, I was just introduced to equal tempered, and just intonation. Wouldn't perfect pitch just be relative pitch to the highest power? Music is based on the tempered scale and we tune to A440. And some clarinet makers are furnishing clarinet to A444 (higher pitch), and supposedly pitch is "creeping up". If one had perfect pitch, it seems to me that whatever pitch was heard as "perfect", would make most of the other notes in the octave out of tune. Does that make sense? Maybe i'm just confused with this whole tempered and just intonation thing. Or maybe, they don't even have anything to do with each other. I'm just confused...


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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: William 
Date:   2004-06-03 14:55

"Perfect pitch" is simply accurate pitch memory, the minds ability to remember what any note sounds like. Very much like being able to remember a name no matter how long since you have seen that person.

"Relative pitch" is a persons ability to "hear" intervals--that is, one note relative to another--accurately. A person with this talent can look at a written chord or score and hear its sound, but not necessarily in the correct pitch (thus, not perfect pitch).

"Just tuning" is the note relationship that exists naturally in "nature". The harmonic series that always sounds above any fundamental resonates in set intervals that give the tone of any instrument its characteristic tambre. Since the harmonics which sound above the fundamental are not "in tune" with other notes in other keys, it is necessary to "temper" those notes in order to achieve a workable compromise when tuning a piano. And the result is called, "Tempered tuning".

"Tempered tuning". If you listen closely to the piano technician the next time your piano needs a tune up, you will notice that they never tune the fifth as a perfect--"just"--interval, with no "beats" sounding, but rather tempers the fifth so that there is a slight beat noticiable, about two beats per second. As an example in tuning the interval between C and G, if they did not temper the G and when on to tune the next fifth as a perfect interval D, that D would be out of tun with Ds in any other key, Bb for example. That is why even Bachs "Well Tempered Clavier" is hopelessly out of tune with the natural harmonic series in nature. A "Just Tempered Clavier" would sound terribly out of tune to our "tempered" ears.

And all of this is why one of my good clarinetist friends always says, "good tuning is really good cooperation between players". For harmony among all, when playing, it is best to maintain good (interpersonal) temperment.

(Isn't playing in tune with the brass fun--or what)

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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: clarinetwife 
Date:   2004-06-03 21:53

Wow, William, what a clear, concise description of these different aspects of pitch and tuning. My understanding is that Bach wrote the "Well-Tempered Clavier" precisely because he could write in all keys and they would sound well on an instrument with tempered tuning. As for harmony among all, what can we do with those who seem to think that their pitch is always the right pitch?

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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: Alphie 
Date:   2004-06-03 23:07

Congrats to William for a very fine lecture in pitch, tuning and intonation. I couldn't agree more to what you're saying.

About perfect pitch I think the fenomenon is very individual. I'm gifted with a perfect pitch in a sence that I can pick any note out of the blue. But if I sing a given note to a tuner without looking at it, it always land on pitch 438. So I'm a bit flat. Luckily this doesn't bother me when playing but I can easily adjust to both lower piches and higher.


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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: John O'Janpa 
Date:   2004-06-04 13:29

I have perfect hue when it comes to the light spectrum, but don't have perfect pitch when it comes to the sound spectrum.

I can recognize violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red.
I can't recognize the individual wavelengths (frequencies), but rather recognize a range of frequencies as a certain color.

Can anyone out there with perfect pitch tell me what happens when a pitch
changes frequency? When does an "A" turn into a "Bb"?

438 = A ?
440 = A ?
446 = A ?
460 = ?
470 = ?

Does every note have a letter name or do some fall between ?


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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2004-06-04 13:55

476 or so (if I figured it out correctly mathematically) would be a Bb.

I assume it gets pretty hairy as to the names of frequencies inbetween notes. Especially considering that the scales are different in different cultures (A = 440 would mean that 438 would be a flat A). Also, some people consider quarter-tones and so might designate some pitch as an A being "quarter" sharp or something like that. It'd be interesting to see what people say . . . .

US Army Japan Band

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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: clarinetwife 
Date:   2004-06-04 15:22

I would think that the expression of perfect pitch depends on the conventions of music of the culture in question. My understanding is that perfect pitch is a quirk of the brain that is developed through early musical training, so that musical training would probably form the framework for pitch recognition. So, pitches are defined by convention. Perhaps we will find out more when we get to know alien species and begin to jam with their musicians [rotate]

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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: Don Poulsen 
Date:   2004-06-04 15:47

John, I don't expect that there is any defined point where an A turns into a B flat, unless you are simply looking for the midpoint between the frequencies of a A and a B-flat, or the quarter tone. (It won't be exactly the average of the frequencies.)

If you are looking for a semantic answer, only the precise frequency is really an A and another precise frequency is really a B flat. Something slightly above A would be a "slightly sharp A," for example. Or, if you were actually trying to play a B flat, the same note could also be called "an extremely flat B flat".

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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: GBK 
Date:   2004-06-04 17:12

"...When does an "A" turn into a "Bb"?...

sfalexi said:

> 476 or so (if I figured it out correctly mathematically)
> would be a Bb.

Actually an A# is 466.1 ...GBK

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 Re: Perfect Pitch/Equal Temperament
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2004-06-04 18:46

hey! Not too shabby an estimation! Of course this is based on an A=440 scale. The different scale would obviously be a different Bb.


US Army Japan Band

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