With the ear training that I have been doing, I decided to take Toned Ear’s perfect pitch test to see how things were coming along. The results were about what I expected.
The test is fairly straight forward: the website will play a piano note, and you have to name it.
At first glance, my results don’t look so good. In school, 40% on a test is failing for sure. (My grades in school reflected that fact.) But if you look more closely at the second chart, things start to look a bit better.
Though most of my guesses were incorrect, most of my errors were only off by a half step. This means that, though I was not always right, I was close. I don’t have perfect pitch, but my ear is getting much better. This is encouraging to me, as I would not have been nearly this accurate when I returned to ear training earlier this year.
Try out the test yourself! I would like to know how you all do. I did a chromatic scale with 20 questions. Take the test and tell me about your results.
Perfect pitch, also known as absolute pitch, is the ability to identify or sing a given note without reference. In other words, if I were to play an E (and only an E) on the piano, someone with perfect pitch would be able to identify the note blind folded. A singer with perfect pitch could also accurately sing that E before I played it.
Perfect Pitch is not Relative Pitch
Relative pitch is the ability to identify or sing a given note by using a reference note. In other words, if I know what a C sounds like, I can identify an E because I know an E is a major third above a C (although, in reality, my relative pitch is quite poor).
It is not uncommon to get perfect pitch and relative pitch confused. They are, however, two very different things. Relative pitch is all about intervals. Relative pitch is about knowing what a perfect fifth sounds like, or a major third. It can also be used to identify different types of chords, such as major, minor or major seventh. This is was is usually taught in colleges, and what I was taught in my high school music theory class.
Perfect pitch depends on color hearing. I can sing an A not because I am comparing it to another note, but because I know what an A sounds like, as if it has its own personality or “color”. I don’t need to hear a C to know what an A is, for perfect pitch does not require comparison (though it is very helpful to compare when training). The only course that I know of is the one made by David Lucas Burge.
When I was growing up, I had a worship pastor who had this seemingly magical ability. He could name any note by ear without reference. He could tell you what key any song was in just by listening to it once. He could also, apparently, look at sheet music for the first time and hear it in his head. He had perfect pitch.
“You can’t develop perfect pitch, you have to be born with it.” That is what I was told. It is the general music consensus. You either have to be born with perfect pitch, or develop it as a child.
The thing is: I believe you can develop perfect pitch as an adult. I’ve been working though an ear training course by David Lucas Burge, and am currently about half way through. In the course, Burge explains that each note has something he calls “pitch color”.
A note’s color is almost like its own personality. Some notes stick out, as if they have some kind of edge. Others, feel rounder or more open. It is a kind of quality that is difficult to explain on a blog post.
The reason I am convinced of this isn’t because I am getting paid by Burge (because I am not). But I can hear it for myself. I can hear these differences, and am learning to identify them. Granted, I am a long way from naming any note on any instrument In fact, I’m not much good outside of my own keyboard (shown above). But I have noticed my ear opening up and getting better.
In the future, I plan on writing more on the topic. But for now, let me know what you think, and share your experiences if you have any.
There is no doubt that this is a well thought out video. The video is overall informative and far when talking about a musical genre he does not like (Contemporary Christian Music or Worship Music).
There are, however a few things that I feel should be responded to.
First, when he discusses the video by Don Moen, it is worth pointing out is each of the band members are very skilled musicians. The overplaying that the band members do still work relatively well within the musical context of the song. When they are playing “badly” the music still sounds good.
Most churches have a volunteer run band. And though there are many very talented volunteer musicians, other musicians struggle with things, such as basic musicianship.
This leads me to my second point: I don’t think that Don Moen intended his video to stifle creativity, but teach the basics of musicianship. A number of years ago, I had to work with a kid at my church who played the electric guitar. He was extremely talented, but he didn’t have a good grasp of overall musicianship. He had a habit of playing big guitar leads during a low part of the song.
The problem wasn’t that he couldn’t have fun while playing, it was that what he was doing didn’t fit in with the rest of the music. I think Don Moen’s video is trying to help musicians like that, rather than hold musicians back in their creativity.
In conclusion, though I appreciate most of what Adam had to say, I believe he have misunderstood what church bands are trying to teach. Licks and solos can be fun, but they need to work both musically and spiritually.