Recent findings with the infamous Burge course

Thoughts and responses regarding the research at acousticlearning.com.
Space
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Functional AP

Post by Space » Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:59 am

I have to be honest guys. Even though my AP isn't 'complete', what I do have is quite functional. It aides me ALL the time in learning music, jamming with people, listening to music and writing down melodies I hear in my head. If I'm in a situation where someone is trying to teach me a song, I always say, "just play it and I'll catch on."

I've built up a kind of absolute key palette for the region of chords on the guitar people typically call the 'cowboy chords' - E, G, C, A, B, D, F (and with RP I can ID maybe 30 or so different chord qualities). I'm also beginning to recognize Bb more. Since most rock songs are in these keys and the chords relate to eachother, when someone is playing a song where most of the chords fall into this 'lattice', my ear seems to fall right in line and I hear the root movements of the chords absolutely and the chord qualities with RP.

The weirdest thing about this is that I didn't put any effort into developing it specifically. I had been training for AP using Burge's course and simple programs like Pitch Player and Eartest. I guess eventually it crossed over into my musicianship because I was practicing so much and playing keyboards in a band. If you notice, my AP ended up functioning within the range of music that I was most often involved with learning and performing - aka: even though I listen to a lot of classical music and experience AP while listening to it, it's not as simple as the rock stuff and doesn't function quite as clearly. I'm not as involved in LEARNING and PERFORMING classical music I used to be. I figure this coincides with Chris's talk about chroma having to have 'meaning'.

I think AP eartraining really shows it's true fruits when you are actively involved in learning and performing music.

Rob

PS: This month marks 12 years since I first bought Burge's AP course. Oh how I thought I'd be SO much farther along by now! I guess life got in the way - not to mention RP. Still, with development of contextual RP (moveable Do scale degrees), I've really started to make progress in the AP realm again.

Kayd
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Post by Kayd » Thu May 07, 2009 7:29 pm

aruffo wrote:And don't get me wrong-- it'd be great if there were someone, anyone, who had actually learned absolute pitch. So far, though, all anyone's been able to demonstrate is consistent note-naming with severely limited musical effectiveness.
I've been wondering about this. Maybe I've missed it and you mentioned it in your research, but what specifically makes you think you aren't learning perfect pitch. Was it brain scans showing people with perfect pitch use a different part of their brain from those who acquired it as adults?

I'm struggling for how this is different from any skill you learn outside of it's application. It takes time and practice to get good at applying that skill to a real life situation.

Sleeper
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Post by Sleeper » Thu May 07, 2009 9:54 pm

Kayd wrote:
Was it brain scans showing people with perfect pitch use a different part of their brain from those who acquired it as adults?
By the way, I read a study (or at least an abstract) that said that blind musicians with perfect pitch may use a different part of their brain for it than those who have perfect pitch and are not blind.

It can make you wonder how uniform different people's perfect pitch perception is.

aruffo
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Post by aruffo » Fri May 08, 2009 10:31 pm

what specifically makes you think you aren't learning perfect pitch
I know all the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I know what they sound like. If you spoke one of them to me, I could tell you what it was; I can speak any one of them on command.

I don't know a word of Greek. If someone tries to say anything to me in Greek, it's gobbledygook. I might be able to recognize some of the component sounds-- maybe even most of them-- but I still wouldn't know what had been said, nor would I be able to say anything intelligbly in return.

Learning to categorize sound sensations gains you nothing in itself. Learning their linguistic function-- understanding the concepts they represent-- is where their real value lies.

Axeman
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Post by Axeman » Sat May 09, 2009 8:01 pm

Becoming able to isolate and recognize tone chroma-- separating the sensation from other factors including timbre, key, intensity, scale degree and so forth-- directly, objectively, without having to rely on "feeling", adjectives, or otherwise having to puzzle out intuitively what the *$&% chroma is supposed to be. This has never been done before (thus the patent application).
I have been playing the ETC programs since 2005 and I don't know whether it really does teach the chroma of notes. It seems to me that if it did then the ability to distinguish between chromas would be almost automatic. When I am playing the APA game I am able to hear the target tone in the test samples easily and across all octaves and timbres. I at first thought that because I could hear C notes in music all around me that it was doing the job of teaching me PP but it turns out that being able to hear the notes was only present when I had recently played the game. If given enough time I couldn't tell what a note was in every day listening.
This makes me think that the APA game is more analogous to hearing the occurance of the key note in a piece of music if already given the root note. This anyone can do.

aruffo
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Post by aruffo » Sat May 09, 2009 10:09 pm

It seems to me that if it did then the ability to distinguish between chromas would be almost automatic.
That's the assumption everyone has made before now. It's certainly in all the advertisements you'll see-- "you don't have perfect pitch because you can't hear chroma!", implying that if you could learn to hear chroma, you would learn perfect pitch. It was a total downer when I discovered via APB/ABA that it wasn't so. The result will be exactly what Axeman describes: you will learn to hear chroma, in different contexts, across different octaves, and so forth, but your ability to use it musically will be directly dependent on your existing musical knowledge. The "sticking power" requires a concept for each tone to stick to.

The silver lining, as I've said before, is that I've at least disproved that assumption, making it possible to stop chasing the dead-end of chroma training and start focusing on concept learning.

Kayd
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Post by Kayd » Mon May 11, 2009 7:38 pm

aruffo wrote:
what specifically makes you think you aren't learning perfect pitch
Learning to categorize sound sensations gains you nothing in itself. Learning their linguistic function-- understanding the concepts they represent-- is where their real value lies.
The thing is I have a pretty clear concept of what a note is already. I can read them, write them, and relate to their use in music theory. I've been using them to write songs for most of my life. The problem is I don't have very good relative or absolute pitch ability. A while back I recognized that that my lack or relative ability was my Achilles heel (you can only go so far in expressing musical ideas if you arrive at them and refine them by fiddling around). So, my concept of a note does not totally extend to recognizing the structures that use them, nor to recognizing them outside of the framework I already understand.

In my case then, if I understand you correctly, what would be missing is the link between hearing chroma, and relating it to various musical constructs I already know. What I'm puzzling over is how I would go about integrating chroma into my existing musical framework. Apparently you have some ideas because your last post eluded to that fact. Maybe I'll just have to wait for the next version of ETC.

Axeman, I've already recognized, even with as crude as my ability is so far, that absolute listening is a "mode." Most of the time when I'm just listening, I'm conditioned to hear the sound of the relative structures. Even in APA I can shift back and forth and I even have to focus intently on listening in absolute mode to stay in that frame of mind (I'm only at level 73). So how is what you experience trying to use AP ability in "real life" different from being in or out of absolute listening mode.

Sorry, for being a pest, I'm just trying to arrive at an understanding because this puzzles me (how can you hear something, but not hear it).

aruffo
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Post by aruffo » Mon May 11, 2009 9:38 pm

what would be missing is the link between hearing chroma, and relating it to various musical constructs I already know
That's it exactly. If I'm remembering correctly, when listening to a speech stream, people who are asked to listen for syllables will use different parts of their brain than those who are asked to listen for phonemes.

I've gone on about this at some length elsewhere on the site-- the process of "spelling" words you hear is not, emphatically NOT, a direct transcription of the sounds you have perceived. It is a process of transcoding one concept (a word) into a sequence of separate concepts (letters). When you spell, you don't report what you actually heard; you decode a mental memory-representation of the word you recognized.

You can learn spelling by rote, of course-- "DOG is spelled D O G"-- but unless you understand the letter-concepts, all you've done is memorized a fact. Without DOG, there is no understanding of D O and G, and there is consequently no understanding of D O and G as related to anything else.

But if you can learn and recognize D O and G, it won't help you when you hear DOG.. because you'll just say "hey, that's D and O and G" and that's the end of it.

That's why I figure the next step-- which I'll have to tackle once I get my current school-stuff taken care of-- is to find a way to solidify a unique pitch-concept. I'd like to think it's as easy as solidifying a letter-concept (a process exemplified by Sesame Street and Electric Company) but the immediate problem is that, as adults, we have been too thoroughly entrained to think of pitch as differing levels of the same experience rather than qualitatively different experiences.

Axeman
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Post by Axeman » Thu May 14, 2009 7:37 am

I've gone on about this at some length elsewhere on the site-- the process of "spelling" words you hear is not, emphatically NOT, a direct transcription of the sounds you have perceived. It is a process of transcoding one concept (a word) into a sequence of separate concepts (letters). When you spell, you don't report what you actually heard; you decode a mental memory-representation of the word you recognized.
Thinking about the tone languages and how they have different pitches that when used differently with the same word change the word's meaning..
Also thinking about the way that letters are a transcode for words - couldn't this be used to help our case?
What if using the letters of the notes and adding a few of the unused vowels of the normal alphabet were used to make words for various chords or intervals (with their accompanying sounds of course). Then it would be like spelling. You would hear the word then spell the notes.
E.g. C major chord is CEG (keg) and would be said with the accompanying melismatic pronounciation to the corresponding frequencies.
For a chord like GBD you could add in the unused vowels O and I to get a strange word like GoBiD said as for the above C chord with no need for melisma this time.
Kinda like inventing a new tone language. but with more tones than usual.[/quote]

aruffo
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Post by aruffo » Fri May 15, 2009 10:20 am

I think I see what you're getting at theoretically, and there's probably something in that, but first it has to be distinguished from what's been done practically.

What you're describing is superficially the same as Levitin tested-- you're suggesting matching words to tones, which is essentially the same as singing a well-known tune from memory at the correct pitch. While this is highly accurate (I think Levitin tested Hotel California), it's not completely reliable, because it has the same problem as every other arbitrary association I've thought of so far-- if the pitch level changes, there's no change in meaning.

A red stoplight is conceptually different from a green stoplight. White snow is conceptually different from yellow snow. A melody in C-major is perceptually different from the same melody transposed to E-major.

That's the main thing. If you mistake red for green, or white for yellow, reality will tell you that you got it wrong. It's a natural learning mechanism. An arbitrary association won't work unless there's some element of reality that'll check you... but it's not enough to know you're wrong. There has to be some replacement concept, some alternate idea that is meaningfully assigned to that incorrect answer... because if you have concept X, and choices 1 and 2, X could always be either 1 or 2. You might learn and remember that X is supposed to be 1, but it always could be 2. Only when Y = 2 can you say oh, right, X can't be 2, because Y is 2. And even then, it really has to BE that; otherwise you'd just as easily guess that X = 2 and then wrongly assign Y = 1.

Away from the algebra... color-associations are meaningful in these examples because they signify some unique additional property that can be empirically observed. I suspect that unless and until a pitch-association signifies a unique additional property of... something, the association will not be adequate.

Wade
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Post by Wade » Fri May 15, 2009 3:39 pm

Seems like identifying colors is a very different skill in that it doesn't require having in mind the whole range of colors; the visible spectrum, as a means of organizing color, doesn't really factor into our experience of it. Whereas perceiving musical tones, at whatever level of ability, does require grasping the whole of the octave and the way it's divided.

A lot of other differences would follow from this. The modular behavior of tones, for example---the way they seem to "wrap around" the octave, going through the same 12 tones as you move up or down in pitch---there isn't anything like that with colors.

That said, I don't know of anything that does have those properties and that you could use instead to represent different tones. Certainly nothing as immediate and as intuitive as color.

aruffo
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Post by aruffo » Fri May 15, 2009 4:00 pm

The modular behavior of tones, for example---the way they seem to "wrap around" the octave, going through the same 12 tones as you move up or down in pitch---there isn't anything like that with colors.
But there is. As the infinite-octave experiments show, tone "height" is just different bunchings of overtones. In that respect, tone octaves are directly analogous to color saturation. The only difference is that we don't ordinarily make a categorical distinction between "vivid" red and "dull" red.

Similarly, absolute listeners don't make a distinction between "vivid" C and "dull" C. That's (probably) why they make so many octave errors.
it doesn't require having in mind the whole range of colors
I wonder if maybe it does. Our minds don't form a color category unless our language has a word for that color. If there is no word, the color gets lumped into the same category as its neighbor, which suggests that the reason we recognize a color as its distinct category is through implicit comparison to the other color categories it's not. I'd speculate that in adulthood, even though an individual color identification may not require immediate conscious comparison to other colors, it does require a firm long-standing recognition of all the colors that this one is not.

As we're discussing this I'm realizing that what we're talking about is indeed what's done in the Taneda method-- the tones are presented all at once for learning, and there is learning-feedback when a child makes an incorrect association... but the process relies on a child's neural naivete.

The idea I'm shooting for is not to have things representing tones, but to have tones representing things. That's why a name becomes necessary-- as a label for a new concept. I've got to figure out what kind of concept can be meaningfully represented by a certain tone and only that certain tone.

Wade
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Post by Wade » Fri May 15, 2009 4:59 pm

I hadn't considered periodicity in saturation. That's interesting. I still wonder if tones don't have some important discrete, specifically combinatorial, properties that color doesn't capture.

This article http://pages.slc.edu/~ebj/IM_97/Lecture14/L14.html is interesting, and criticizes the idea that color concepts are linguistically determined.

I've seen modulus-12 illustrated with diagrams of clocks. I don't know how useful that would be, though

Kayd
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Post by Kayd » Fri May 15, 2009 6:59 pm

Color and sound do behave in different ways in the physical world. In most of the world light sources tend to produce white light consisting of a broad spectrum of frequencies. What we see as color are the frequencies not absorbed by an object. Sound doesn't behave that way, sound sources don't tend to produce white noise, they tend to produce discrete frequencies. As such, while sound can be absorbed by objects and the sound reflected vs absorbed can color the sound, we don't generally perceive sound as the part of the audio spectrum not absorbed by an object. At least not in the same way we do light.

An eye has 120 million rods and 6-7 million cones, each a receptor for light. Each receptor can receive a different stream of light. These are combined into a single perception which gives us a two dimensional view of the world. Each ear only has one receptor which perceives a single continuous stream of air pressure changes, and the resulting perception is not two dimensional.

I don't know if most of these are superficial, because what matters is what happens when the brain tries to process the information.

Sound has one other important difference you've alluded to. Overtones, for whatever reason are not perceived as discrete sounds. What we hear as a violin note is not a single frequency but many. However, because all those frequencies are exact multiples of the fundamental we don't hear them as separate tones. Somehow, our mind integrates them into a single perception. De-tune any of those overtones slightly and the violin note is no longer perceived as a single sound, but as two sounds. What's fascinating about this is that if I were to play C and the G an octave and a half above it on a piano, you'd clearly hear the two notes. You could separate them, and sing them. If you had perfect pitch you could hear their chroma as distinct. But, shift the G just a little so it's exactly 3x the frequency and you'd hear only one note.

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