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On Perfect Pitch

Pick a note, any note. Are you sitting near your favorite instrument? Good. Now, before you play that note, see if you can hum or sing it. If you're like most of the population (musicians included) you hummed the wrong note, for the pleasures of perfect pitch are possessed by only a petite percentage of the population.

Now pick another note, and try again. With enough practice, you can obtain perfect pitch (aka absolute pitch) or so says a popular training course for perfect pitch I once attempted. But, as I quickly learned, perfect pitch is not an easy skill to master (though I admittedly gave up rather quickly) and now some researchers are suggesting that genetics may be one reason why.

According to the researchers, "perfect pitch is associated with an unusually large memory span for speech sounds". Previous research has shown that early musical training increases the likelihood of developing perfect pitch. This is even more true for speakers of tonal languages, like Mandarin Chinese. Speakers of English and other non-tonal languages are far less likely to develop perfect pitch, even if they were exposed to early and extensive musical training.

It's an interesting hypothesis, and while I lack personal evidence to refute the researchers' assertion that nature is greater than nurture (curse you, my fickle attention span) when it comes to auditory memory, I'd like to believe that if I really tried hard enough, I too could acquire the elusive skill of perfect pitchyness.

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