The endless debate!

General topics and issues.
Post Reply
Posts: 179
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 5:54 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

The endless debate!

Post by Space » Thu May 02, 2013 6:53 pm

Man, I am SO sick of arguing with these youtube people about the nature/nurture debate. This one dude is so vehemently against the notion that one can 'learn' any degree of AP whatsoever. He claims that it is not only purely genetic but that the UCSF study 'proves' this beyond a shadow of a doubt and that it is a perfectly settled done deal for all time.

Something has to be done about this. MORE research has to be done. Solid, unbiased, sound research.

I know within myself, without a shadow of a doubt, that prior to eartraining with Burge's course at the age of 18 (yes, I realize his methods are sub par compared to today's technology), I never ONCE magically recognized any pitch at all without a reference. In fact, I never really recognized a pitch WITH a reference because I didn't have much RP yet either.

I was exposed to music via the radio and MTV as a child but no musical training. I was exposed to the piano and had a knack for picking out simple melodies (like Camptown Races, Silent Night, etc.) but the method I used was to hear and sing the melody and then pick through notes until I found the right ones. I was good at doing this even though I had no idea what the notes are called but I definitely didn't have an 'absolute' pitch sense. I just picked whatever random starting pitch I had in my head and went from there.

At the age of 11, I joined band and played clarinet. I did well even though I didn't have a teacher and just taught myself out of a book, but again, never once did I recognize a pitch absolutely by ear. If I 'had' AP, it seems like just learning what the notes were called and hearing, playing, and practicing with them would be enough for me to start internalizing them. But I didn't.

At the age of 12, I started guitar. Same experience. I learned what notes to tune the strings to, so I knew what their names were. This did not result in me learning to IDENTIFY those notes without a reference.

At the age of 13 I started bass. Same thing.

At the age of 14, I started classical piano. Same thing, in spite of finally learning to read music, studying with a teacher, and taking music theory and eartraining courses at CCM's preparatory dept.

It wasn't until I bought David Lucas Burge's perfect pitch course and listened to his seminar tapes and read his book that I got the 'concept' of AP. Then I applied that to both meditatively listening to pitches and actively identify random pitches until, over time, I began to hear these things that Burge seemed to be talking about (AKA: "pitch color" which I think is a crap term and is misleading no matter how many times you try to explain to people that it does NOT mean that you are relating visual colors to tones).

Within a couple of years I began occasionally spontaneously IDing pitches without a reference while listening to music. After a few more years, this experience evolved to the point of IDing a handful of common keys effortlessly and on a daily basis. Over the years, I have continued eartraining and the ability has improved and evolved further.

That's fine if anybody wants to say that what I have is not 'real' AP but if it isn't, it's definitely SOMETHING worth researching. Basically that would mean I've developed some skill that is not AP, but nor is it RP OR synesthesia. So it is some wholly new and heretofore undiscovered neural mechanism. Obviously I say that with a bit of humor because I highly doubt that is the case.

Though I do use RP in all of my musical endeavors, when I ID a pitch in an absolute sense the difference in sensation is VERY clear and is independent of tonal reference or timbre. A C just SOUNDS like C, no matter what tonal context or timbre.

I'm just so aggravated by all of this. I want to get to the bottom of it to the degree that it may become a good portion of my life's work.

Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:57 am

Same boat

Post by Nikolayman » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:05 am

Hi Space,
Your story sounds a lot like mine. Keep training, you will get closer and closer to AP. I have been doing Burge-style training for quite a while and my ear continues to develop, so I believe it is possible. Check out my blog on the subject -

This might be particularly helpful if you're still playing guitar.

Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:57 am

Post by Nikolayman » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:08 am

Oh by the way I put a link to your post on the blog, hope that's okay, let me know if not.

Post Reply