There’s a perpetually propagated myth that if you have absolute pitch, then if you listen to music that is out of tune, you have a bad experience. If there is any truth to this myth, it’s definitely not an absolute. Some people may be disturbed by music that is out of tune. I believe this has more to do with personality type than anything else. But we have to deal with the definition of “out of tune.”
Most musicians with good relative pitch will notice immediately if a note is out of tune relative to its surroundings. If it bugs you, then there’s a lot of music you probably can’t listen to. If it doesn’t bother you, then you know how someone with absolute pitch is affected by sound. Sounds sound good or bad or somewhere in between based on your personal preference, whether you have absolute pitch or not.
Part of the problem with this myth comes from the sloppy use of language to describe an experience. A single note can be out of tune relative to the surrounding tones. That’s one example of being out of tune. A single instrument can be out of tune relative to the other instruments in an ensemble. That’s another example. But if all the tones or instruments are tuned differently than A440 kHz, it’s not out of tune. It’s just a different tuning.
History tells us that we haven’t always listened to music with the A440 kHz standard. In Mozart’s time, stringed-keyboard music music was meant to be played at a range of around A420 to A430. There are also different tuning systems and temperaments.
If this myth were true, then there would be quite a few people with absolute pitch who couldn’t listen to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which on record was globally tuned a little sharp. And if you don’t like Kind of Blue, it’s got nothing to do with absolute pitch. It just means that you’re crazy! 😉
Nice work mate. I love reading your blogs. 🙂
Graham English says
I have been perpetuating this myth as well.
Where is the link to your perfect pitch program?
Graham English says
Thanks for the comment, shaggy. I don’t offer it anymore.
Thanks for saying it, Graham.
I memorized pitches w/o knowing it when really young. It helped me play music I hear in any key (unless it’s too complex) and it’s just a function of matching what I hear to where that osund would be on the keyboard.
After singing for 8 yrs in a sym;phony chorus where A=444 or so (orchestras tend to tune sharp), I then got really interested in early music and did a lot of playing for fun, with harpsichords and recorders (winds) at A=415 or A=392 as well as the usual A=440.
As with you it didn’t bother me. Some people have a really precise need for a sound to be exactly a given frequency or they feel it sounds “wrong” — and for them it has to be pretty painful. Like you, I’m bothered only by relative off-key stuff … relative to another note.
I’ve often wondered if it, in some cases, involves personality and willingness or ability to adjust…