What is absolute pitch?Absolute pitch is a skill that allows a person to name a pitch without any external reference. It is simple, short and maybe the most common definition, but it also includes fake absolute pitch. Some people can simulate absolute pitch with vocal cord memory, but this has nothing to do with the real absolute pitch. The real absolute pitch is that you "feel" the tones - not physically, but mentally. If you don't already have absolute pitch, feeling tones mentally may seem very abstract for you, but there is nothing mythic or supernatural.
How can I feel these tones?I think it is best to start from the beginning. People without absolute pitch are so used to listen intervals between tones that they don't focus on individual tones. Stop for a few seconds and answer to this next question. Have you ever slowed down, listened one individual tone, played it repeatedly and just listened it without thinking any other tone? Most of us have never done that, so it is no wonder that absolute pitch is so rare.
Maybe you should do it now? Go to your own instrument and choose two tones. Play them separately and listen how do they sound like. What is the difference between these tones? If you can hear any difference, except that one is higher than the other, you are hearing the right thing. Don't think tones sound different because of some loose screws. To make sure you know what to listen, here is some verbal descriptions. F# should sound like sharp or twangy, Eb should sound like more mellow, A like more bright and so on. We will call these as sound colors and those have nothing to do with visual colors. At first you can hear these colors the best on your own instrument, because you are used to its sound. If you can't hear difference between tones in a few minutes, try again later. You don't want to tire your ear.
These colors will become more clear with simple listening exercises. As we get to know them, they will become as a second nature and we don't have to think about them - they will become as feelings!
Why should I learn absolute pitch?When people ask this kind of question, they usually get answers like below.
- Name the key the song is in.
- Name any tone or chord you hear.
- Tune your instrument without a tuning fork.
- Sing any tone you want without a reference.
Well, quite nice party tricks! But as you can see, none of them are critical for a musician. Of course it may sometimes become handy to be able to name pitches or chords, but that is not why musician should train absolute pitch.
It is the overall effect that matters. When you know what tones and chords are played without having to think at all, it produces such confidence and freedom that you can't get with relative pitch. There are also some specific areas where absolute pitch is a great advantage for a musician.
- Playing by ear and improvising will be far easier with absolute pitch than only with relative pitch. You will automatically know what chord comes next because of the absolute feeling you get.
- Transcribing will be far easier because you can hear absolute tones.
How long will it take to learn absolute pitch?Usually it will take from six to twelve months, but you will get results from the beginning. It is like weightlifting - you will get results gradually. Although there is one big difference between weightlifting and ear training. Once you have reached certain level of absolute pitch, you can't lose it like muscles if you stop practicing. Sometimes people say, that you can learn to name pitches, but you will lose that skill if you stop practicing. This will only happen if absolute pitch has not been stabilized.
Will there be any disadvantages if I learn absolute pitch?No, there will not be any disadvantages with absolute pitch. Sometimes you hear that person with absolute pitch can't play or sing along if standard tuning is not used. Well, this sometimes happens, but it is definitely not because of their absolute pitch, but because of their lack or weakness in relative pitch. This applies to all other problems that people with absolute pitch may have. You can calculate math with pen and paper, but using calculator usually makes it faster and produces more reliable answers.
I have a question that this page doesn't answerPlease make sure that you have read also DiamondEar II preview page. There is info about the method that DiamondEar II uses. If you can't find answer from there, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also download demo and give it a try. You should start to become able to hear tone colors on some level during the demo lessons.