Is Absolute Pitch Enough?

People with absolute pitch (also called perfect pitch) will not be able to understand how others without it 'hear' sounds but cannot identify the pitch. Likewise, the latter also cannot comprehend how those with perfect pitch can identify any pitch without the need of a reference note.

Right now we need to assume that you have either one or the other, but not yet both. If you have relative pitch, you will automatically recognize the chord progressions and hence be able to decude the relationship between the different chords in a song, but you cannot identify the song key and chord names. On the other hand, if you have absolute pitch you will be able to identify the song key and chord names, but in order to figure out the chord progressions, you will have to do so mathematically and not by ear.

It is extremely difficult to acquire absolute pitch if one does not already have it. Relative pitch on the other hand can be acquired easily. But this does not mean that absolute pitch is always superior to relative pitch. To those who are already blessed with absolute pitch, the challenge is to acquire relative pitch on top of your absolute pitch.

Getting both of them to work together is the most difficult bit, but when you have mastered both, you will no longer screw-up you perfect pitch when trying to transpose a harmony by any interval (or by deciding to start on another specific key). Moreover, just by listening to any song, not only will be able to figure out the exact chords, you can even do an impromptu transposition since you also know the harmonic pattern - all without having to obtain the score!

Remember, absolute pitch alone is not enough. If you don't already have relative pitch too, start training for it today and you'll realize how good it feels to be able to 'visualize' both the exact harmony of a song and its harmonic pattern, thus having a more profound appreciation of the music.

Here are some related pages about absolute pitch:

Absolute Pitch Distinctions
Absolute Pitch Test
Born With Perfect Pitch?


An Eye-Opener To Harmony (Pop Music)

You'll need a guitar or piano for this activity. However, I would strongly encourage picking up the guitar because it is very easy to learn and more suited to pop music than the piano. To prove my first point, I could already play bar chords after only 3 months of practice, and also I did not need to attend a single guitar lesson or course.

Below are two parts of a complete phrase. Try singing each part with either of the suggested chord combinations. Feel free to experiment with other chords if you wish.

1. Introduction

a) C, F
b) A min, F
c) A min, G
d) C, D min
e) A min, D min

2. End-of-phrase

a) G, F
b) A min, F
c) F, C
d) F, A min
e) G, A min

You'll realize that all suggested chord combinations go well, not to mention that there are still other possibilities. Now, try singing the entire phrase with chordal accompaniment.

Indeed, this shows how easy it is to harmonize a tune. For a start, all you need to do is to come out with a simple phrase and find the right harmony for it!


The Trouble With Musicians

Please do not be offended by the content of this post. They are completely fictional and are merely for the sake of entertainment and stress relief. Do have a good laugh after reading this post though.

"The conductor asked our section to sight-read this passage, but he didn't give me any fingerings - and besides, I've forgotten how to read treble clef... Later I asked for permission to be excused from rehearsal for a couple of hours. He seemed very frustrated at me and was about to burst, so I immediately explained that I had to buy a new viola because one of the strings broke."

-- former viola player, on why he was fired from his job in an orchestra

"He ticked me off for swearing over a wrong note played, so I told him he should be grateful I didn't swear not to practise... He also stutters so badly that I can't even figure out whether he wants me to play fortissimo, forti-ssi-ssi-mo or forti-ssi-ssi-ssi-mo..."

-- piano student, complaining about his teacher

"We needed to light a fire in order to cook our catch. At the mention of having to first gather firewood, everyone's face turned towards me... I quickly pointed at Phillip, my flautist friend. I explained that without my double bass, we would not be able to make music together... Someone then interrupted my speech, arguing that Phillip was better off playing the flute by himself; with me around playing the double bass it would chase away all the wild birds instead."

-- double bassist, on how he lost his instrument while stranded on an island

"He asked me if I was learning the Haydn concerto. I insisted it was not composed by Haydn. He was not convinced, so I pointed to the words 'Hob. VIIa' located above the end of the first stave and said that the composer was in fact, Hob Vila."

-- violin student, on a misunderstanding with his teacher



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