Now you don’t have to wonder if you really have perfect pitch
- Perfect pitch is incredibly rare, estimates suggest 1 in every 10,000 people have it
- There’s a simple online test that can tell you if you have it
- Some experts think it can be learned, others aren’t so sure
A lot of people are proud of how they sing and think that they have perfect pitch. They’ve worked hard to improve their vocal technique and are sure that after all their work, they can hit each note spot on. But what if they’re wrong?
The truth is, there’s “perfect pitch” and then there’s the rest of the spectrum, some of which are notes that are close to perfect but not quite there. Now, a new perfect pitch test is available online that can help people tell the difference.
What does it mean to have perfect pitch?
Perfect pitch (also referred to as “absolute pitch”) is formally defined as the ability to name the pitch of a tone just by hearing it, or being able to sing a requested note exactly, without hearing the tone beforehand. It isn’t a skill that everyone has. In fact, it is estimated that just 1 in every 10,000 people can have this skill. Though low, there is evidence that the prevalence of perfect pitch is at least 4% among music students.
As it turns out, many others who think they have the skill of perfect pitch actually have relative pitch. They’re replicating notes that are close to, but not exactly at, the source tone. Relative pitch is nothing to be ashamed of and can still sound quite good, however, it isn’t the precisely right tone that most singers covet and work towards.
Free online test
Anyone who is wondering if they have achieved perfect pitch can find out for sure without going to too much trouble. Multiple types of tests for perfect pitch are available on YouTube. Take a look at one of them here:
These pitch tests are widely popular. The one above has more than 430,000 views. The way it works is pretty simple: it first plays a series of tones that act almost like a “tone palette cleanser” to remove any sounds out of your memory. Then it plays a single note and pauses while you try to identify and replicate the note. Then, after a moment, it provides the correct answer.
Is perfect pitch genetic, or can it be learned?
On the same YouTube pages as many of the perfect pitch tests, viewers will find links to follow up videos for music instruction to help you develop towards having perfect pitch. Ideally, if you don’t have perfect pitch at first, it is a skill that can be learned. But is it really that easy? With enough work, can perfect pitch be achieved by anyone?
Some experts believe that perfect pitch is something that only people with the right genes can obtain. They point to the fact that lots of people study music for years, working in vain to hone their skills at replicating pitch. Others can achieve a high mark more quickly without undue effort. Most likely, the reality is that most of those who can replicate perfect pitch reach their goal through a combination of hard work and natural ability.
Experts are researching the genetic characteristics of perfect pitch
A recent group of experts set out to identify the gene responsible for the ability to have perfect pitch. They believe that just as the study of genes can identify the causes of certain biological traits or of illnesses, it can also define the trait of being able to obtain perfect pitch. Ultimately, the study was successful in starting to name the traits in the gene connected to perfect pitch. Perhaps, with enough effort, researchers will be able to identify the genes for perfect pitch with the same level of precision that some vocalists use to achieve the skill itself.
A deeper dive — more from the 101:
25 Myths about the human body debunked | Science 101
If you think these myths are true, think again.
Beyond a glass of water, medical solutions for hiccups | Science 101
Got the hiccups? Here’s something that might work.