What is AP and how I think it might be developed...

Thoughts and responses regarding the research at acousticlearning.com.
cjhealey
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What is AP and how I think it might be developed...

Postby cjhealey » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:23 am

I sent the following as an email to Chris (aruffo) months ago, and he said to post it here, but I hadn't gotten around to it until just now.
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I have quite a few friends that have perfect pitch and I've seen how this ability appears to work when in use and I've occasionally pried them for information.

The first thing and most obvious thing is that I think perfect pitch is really a mode of listening rather than an ability. The friends I have hear most everything. Their ears pick up parts of the audio field that I'm not even aware of. Quite often this includes overtones and a remarkable ability to categorise things I can't even properly pitch. The sound of things like the rush of air as a car drives passed. If I'm lucky I would be able to reproduce the pitch-curve with my voice but more often than not, I struggle tremendously because the fundamental is unclear. Another example is that I sit on a bus and hear some sort of discordant rattling noise. To me it sounds like a rattling sound. To them, they can decipher this noise into its constituent pitches as they best fit the western pitch-system.

All that said, I believe that most of this is primarily a completely passive process. The interesting thing is that their experience with the audio-spectrum seems to me to be very similar to that of someone with Autism etc. (which results in an extreme sensitivity to noisy environments) in that their audio perception is not filtered, At least not in the same way as most people.

I think a large part of perfect pitch is in fact simply this detailed awareness of all the audio events occurring, which I think is probably very similar to our pre-language awareness of sound.

If you consider it from the pre-language perspective, perfect pitch makes sense as the most natural way of listening, in that it is an awareness of where things lie within a vertical spectrum of sound. It is also an instant, sound-by-sound awareness, as opposed to relative pitch where one must *wait* for the second pitch to create a categorical judgement. I think what happens is that there are two paths that one can take:

1. Perfect Pitch: The awareness of the audio field is at some pre-language age combined with some form of categorisation (aka a piano and its tuning system) and those categories (this key, that key, those keys on the piano) become their way of categorising what they hear. Then they learn language and all the terms are applied *on top* of this pre-existing set of categories.

2. Relative Pitch: The awareness of the audio field isn't combined with a way of categorising, so with language learning, the focus of perception falls away from the actual audio spectrum in its moment by moment form, and shifts towards time-centric, language-centric form. That is to say, as with language you must first hear the whole of the word to know what word was said, and you must hear the whole of a sentence to know what meaning it had. So the perception shifts from momentary occurrences on a vertical audio field to a focus on the change of a sound or sounds, as the form words, sentences and melodies.

As a result of this shift it is hard to develop absolute pitch because you are trying to develop it while operating in a different auditory mode. So I suspect that if you ever really wanted to master perfect pitch, you would have to first find a way to allow yourself to slip into the other mode of perception where you are hearing things as they occur moment-by-moment in the sonic spectrum, and then after getting into this mode, you would then have to reapproach the division of the audio spectrum into the chosen categories...

This is why I say that perfect pitch is another mode of listening, and also why I think that it is in fact a completely passive mode of listening. I have personally experienced this to a limited degree when listening to music. The only way I can explain it is that you remain completely passive, not attempting to analyse or categorise. And then suddenly you stop listening to the relationships... you still hear them, but you don't follow or anticipate them... and you start hearing the music as a wash of sounds. And in this mode of hearing, what you start to notice is the repetition of specific pitches.

As in, you may have heard a Bb in this mode of listening (although you may not be able to recognise/label it) but then without any effort, you suddenly begin to hear the pitch every time it is played. It is like the music is flicking a light switch every time that pitch is played. While it's being played, that switch is in the on position, and when it's not being played, the switch is in the off position.

There is no real effort, and you aren't at all trying to recall the pitch, something in your head just seems to click each time that note is played and you go "oh, there it is again! and again!"

I suspect that this experience is probably much more akin to the absolute pitch mode of auditory perception.

The good thing is that if this is correct, then I think APA should work fine provided you are able to find a way into this mode of listening.
The only thing I can suggest is to try playing the game of listening to a piece of music with total attention but absolutely no effort. And after a while, your brain might begin to use a different mode of perception and instead listen for reoccurrence rather than patterns.

Also...
I think once you are in this mode of listening where you start to notice how certain pitches repeat, if that is the point at which a category or note-name is introduced success would be much more forethcoming.

For example there is a piece for piano, Brahms intermezzo in Eb, where I had this experience, and the note in question was a Bb that kept popping out. I listened to the piece once without trying to identify the note, and then afterwards worked out which note it was on piano before listening to it again.

Now Bb is one pitch that I find particularly easy to recognise on Piano. It often seems to stand out a little bit more than other notes.

Perhaps this could be a method of teaching it: Here is an un-named pitch x, and here is lots of music that contains that pitch (in different octaves and timbres?) simply sit there and let the notes from this music hit your ear, and if any of them happen to sound the same as pitch X just acknowledge their similarities.

Repeat this a lot of times with a lot of different music.

Now tell them, okay, that note that you were noticing was what we call "___" (insert note name). Listen again to all these pieces acknowledge each time you hear it with the actual note name this time.

Repeat process for other 11 pitches, each with different music.

And then once that is done, start working through ALL the music used for all 12 pitches, adding one note at a time and asking them to acknowledge it when they hear it, until every piece has had all the pitches filled in this manner.

If my theory is correct this would possibly work as a way of creating the same auditory buckets/categories that people with perfect pitch have while also giving them practice listening in what I think is this absolute mode of listening.

The trick is to set up an expectation of repetition of the focus pitch. If you expect to hear it, it begins to become a discreet auditory object. It can be a bit difficult getting the ear to jump to that mode of hearing. Sometimes it happens quite easily, other times not so much. The timing of the repeated 'reminder tone' can have a big impact. If it repeats too often it doesn't work, but if it repeats too seldom it wont work either.

I think you could develop AP by using about 120 pieces of music (say about 3 minutes each).

STAGE ONE

    For each pitch you would have say 10 pieces of music which are quite heavily ladened with that particular note.

    You would be given for example a middle C and then have some C-Laden music played while also repeating that reference/reminder C periodically.

    After a short while, your brain automatically begins to notice Cs in the music, thinking that is the reference tone being played when, in fact, the note is in the music itself.

    This repeats for all 10 pieces.

    You then repeat the exercise with sheet music, and observe all the C's in the music and while listening for that single pitch in the music and observe the ones that you found less obvious etc. (perhaps in different octaves, timbres, whatever).

    Now repeat for the other 11 pitches / 110 pieces of music

STAGE TWO:

Once you have gotten used to identify each of the 12 pitches in music, you return to the start and repeat adding extra notes:
    Listen to the pitch C in music as listed above.

    Now listen to the second pitch... lets say F... as you did using the steps above.

    Now listen to the music for the pitch C and listen for both C's and F's. You can either alternate or do both at once.

    Now listen to the music for pitch F and listen for Fs and Cs.

When you get comfortable hearing them both in both contexts... move to the next pitch (Let's say an A):

    Listen to the music for A as in Stage One.

    Now listen again to the music for the C Pitch listening for As as well as Cs

    Listen to the music for A listening for Cs as well as As

    Repeat through all 12 pitches.

    Then repeat the process with F as the central note. Then A. Then whatever the next one is.

    Or if you think you can handle it, try listening for 3 pitches at once.

    Then work up to 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


The point is that you should hopefully get to a point where you begin to be able to recognise several notes simultaneously in music, and eventually all 12.

I've even made demo to mp3 to try and give you an idea of how it might work, this one using the pitch "C" as the reminder tone and Brahm's First Piano Sonata, Mvt 1 as the music.
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B8aVSL ... E5oSzFXR2s

The fact is, and I think you will notice it at least a few times, that the C will pop out as being a discreet auditory object. If this is the case, then the only problem one would have is transferring the C from short to long-term memory.

Also, I find that once you start noticing the target pitch jump out at you, you can start backing off the amount of repeats of the reminder tone.
I was playing with this last night for about 15 minutes. I stopped and then went back to listening to music about 20 minutes later and the C was still jumping out!

Does anyone want to try this approach with me and see how far we can get?

Chris

cjhealey
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Postby cjhealey » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:30 am

Also, I notice that when I'm listening the way I suggest, It's what you hear after the attack of the note / the note's tail that seems to be the important part.

And the less you follow the music and more you allow the music to wash over you the more obviously notes stand out.

confidence
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Re: What is AP and how I think it might be developed...

Postby confidence » Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:25 pm

cjhealey wrote:I have quite a few friends that have perfect pitch and I've seen how this ability appears to work when in use and I've occasionally pried them for information.

The first thing and most obvious thing is that I think perfect pitch is really a mode of listening rather than an ability. The friends I have hear most everything. Their ears pick up parts of the audio field that I'm not even aware of. Quite often this includes overtones and a remarkable ability to categorise things I can't even properly pitch.


Do you have as high a level of musical training and experience as your friends, outside of the specific issue of absolute pitch?

And do you have other friends who are similarly able musicians, but without absolute pitch, who don't seem to exhibit this type of listening.

Just trying to clarify whether we can confidently say that their detailed listening is specifically to do with AP, and not just to do with them being highly trained or advanced musicians.

cjhealey
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Postby cjhealey » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:34 pm

Do you have as high a level of musical training and experience as your friends, outside of the specific issue of absolute pitch?


I have a high level of music training, yes. My ears aren't amazing, but I blame that partly on the awful Aural Skills course at my university which seemed designed for people with perfect pitch to cruise through and everybody else to be forgotten about. It didn't teach me anything useful at all. I didn't come out of that course any more capable which was infuriating.

And do you have other friends who are similarly able musicians, but without absolute pitch, who don't seem to exhibit this type of listening.


Maybe, not that I'm aware of. Most musicians I know don't listen for or actively hear overtones. For a lot of musicians, they only really hear an overtone if you first show the ear "where to listen" by playing the same note as the overtone first.
For example, the overtones of middle C are C (8va), G, C, E, G, Bb, C etc.

I think most musicians can probably tune into the fundamental C, C, G & C if asked to, and they make a real conscious effort to look for them in the sound... but not necessarily. I know a lot of people don't hear them immediately until some plays the note they're supposed to be listening for (For example, plays the G an octave and a half over the fundamental C) then goes back and plays the fundamental.

Just trying to clarify whether we can confidently say that their detailed listening is specifically to do with AP, and not just to do with them being highly trained or advanced musicians.

I was sitting at a pub once with about 10 musicians, all of them very good musicians, and there were a couple of people there with perfect pitch, one was a percussionist and the other was a violinist. The percussionist made a comment about there "Being no such thing as 'untuned' percussion" and the violinist adamantly agreed with him.
"EXACTLY! EVERYTHING has pitch."

And then proceeded to label random noises etc around the bar: glasses, chair squeaks etc.

The violinist flicked a plate and named not just the fundamental but also two overtones. I had to really stop and concentrate to even notice them.

Everyone else in the group were just ogling in wonder.

[Interestingly, the percussionist's AP only surfaced about half way through his first year at his conservatorium and has gradually improved in ability over the last few years]

Another example, I was sitting on a bus with a friend with AP and there was a rattling air vent. And he noticed it was (eg.) C# and an F or something. Try as I might, I couldn't hear it as Pitch only as noise.

These stories are highly anecdotal. I haven't had the opportunity to conduct official blind studies etc so it's the best I can do at present haha :wink:

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That said, I'm not sure whether the awareness of harmonics are a symptom of absolute hearing or a precondition for it...

Here is someone who thinks that the harmonics are what people use to identify pitch:

www.brycealexandermusic.com

http://www.brycealexandermusic.com/news ... eflat.html

http://www.brycealexandermusic.com/news ... gtone.html

http://www.brycealexandermusic.com/news ... rcise.html

I did notice that becoming aware of harmonics completely changes how you perceive a pitch. If you've ever heard a church bell toll a note and noticed the multiple pitches involved, then if you listen closely to any note (Piano is fairly easy to hear it on) you will start to notice that all the notes have a bell-like quality.

When I play a C (and listen for it) I hear the fundamental, but also the Major 3rd above the fundamental. While it is actually two octaves higher, it is very curious that sometimes it doesn't sound that way. You hear an over all sonority with a certain amount of "dissonance" - It's a natural major 3rd, not an equal temperament 3rd and it's not what you are used to hearing.

I think the confusing thing here is that some objects create very complicated overtone patterns...

When someone hears a church bell, they hear quite clearly 3 or 4 tones. Are these overtones or are they all sympathetic fundamentals? As in, are they actually fundamentals that are sympathetically caused to vibrate, each throwing of their own set of overtones?

Or are they the overtones and are simply being amplified by the resonance created in the bell?

Depending on the answer it could disprove Bryce Alexander's hypothesis.
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If people have questions or experiments etc that they would like me to use my friends as guinea pigs for, let me know. My partner has AP so I have a perfect test rat haha

cjhealey
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Postby cjhealey » Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:08 am

Anyone able to comment on the Bryce Alexander line of thinking?

Also, I have a random question...

Is it easier to learn to identify isolated chords or single pitches?

That is to say, with three notes or four notes there is more information to differentiate between examples with.

It raises the question of is it better to attempt to learn perfect pitch in a generalised or more global sense (Which might be an aptitude for identifying Scales or chords) and refine it to specific pitches...

or start with pitches and expand it to encompass combinations of pitches??

Chris Aruffo - if you're out there, any data on this?

Cheers!

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Postby aruffo » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:23 pm

Because no adult has ever actually learned perfect pitch, it's not possible to say whether a system is "right" or "wrong", or to recommend whether one strategy is superior to another, because none of them will produce a listening skill akin to a "real" perfect pitch listener.

The reason I haven't much interest in Bryce Alexander's work is this paper:

Korpell, H.S. (1965). On the mechanism of tonal chroma in absolute pitch. American Journal of Psychology, 78, 298-300.

because this is what happened in it (summary from my own bibliography page):

Korpell asked absolute listeners to identify tones which had fundamental frequencies that did not match their overtone structure. The subjects made judgments based on the spectral frequency rather than the tonal structure.


So maybe it's possible to recognize tones based on overtonal characteristics, but that doesn't seem to be how perfect pitch works. Even so, it's not the last word, so perhaps Bryce will come up with some results-- and if he does, then I'll be interested. But not until.

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Postby TS » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:36 am

aruffo wrote:because this is what happened in it (summary from my own bibliography page):

Korpell asked absolute listeners to identify tones which had fundamental frequencies that did not match their overtone structure. The subjects made judgments based on the spectral frequency rather than the tonal structure.


That summary is bit difficult to understand, by the way, because there is no such thing as a fundamental frequency that does not match its overtone structure. When I first read about that study I thought that they actually shifted the frequencies of the overtones while keeping the fundamental constant (or the other way around), but later when I read the whole paper I realised that they only changed the amplitudes of the overtones, which basically means that they changed the timbres of the tones and the test subjects were still able to identify the pitches.

The point still remains, however, that the study speaks against Bryce Alexander's method.

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Postby aruffo » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:42 pm

Good point.. since it was 1965, the mismatch was achieved by changing the speed of the tones, so that (for example) an A would become an G. They show spectrographs which demonstrate that the overtones of a natural G are substantially different from an A that has been re-sped to make it a G.

The authors suggest that if a pitch were recognized by a pattern of overtones, then an absolute listener would recognize the original pattern, ignore the fundamental frequency, and identify the re-sped G as "A".

But that didn't happen.

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Postby Lyle » Thu Aug 23, 2012 2:09 pm

I don’t have much time to give the lengthy response I think this topic deserves. But I feel compelled to respond.

cjhealey: I do believe the overtones are a critical ingredient to the formation of perfect pitch. See my comments in the topic in this forum Frequency Response Theory.

Chris/TS: I don’t see how you guys are concluding that Korpel concludes something other than what Bryce is conjecturing. Bryce says the ear is nonlinear and the signal can’t be the source of chroma; Korpel says the listeners are identifying pitch by something in the ear and not something in the signal. I agree with TS, I think it is impossible to produce a wrong "structure" of overtones to a given fundamental because it is a fixed relationship of frequencies and the amplitudes do not matter.

Several months after I posted to the Frequency Response thread, I changed my mind on the nature of overtones and perfect pitch. I have personally come to the conclusion that the fundamental is not involved in perfect pitch recognition.

I am going to repeat that because it could be a crazy idea: the fundamental frequency is not a factor in the process of perfect pitch identification.

Instead, it is pre-sensory detection of phase-locked pairs of frequencies, which can occur ONLY in the overtone spectrum of a fundamental. The amplitudes of the overtones are irrelevant. There are multiple activated pairs that can be detected for any given instruments for any given pitch; all I’m saying is you need at least one pair detected, though the more you have the stronger the signal; the stronger your perfect pitch, the more you detect no matter the timbre of the pitch.

This is a simple idea that may sound complicated in verbal description. Take each pitch within a pitch class (that is, every C within all octaves) and write down all the frequencies of the overtones. These numbers will overlap. Now consider all possible pairs of these numbers. We are looking for the instant when one of these pairs is phase-locked – one way to look at it, when zero-crossings are simultaneous in simple ratios of 2:1 or 3:2 etc.

Overtones pairs also overlap between octaves. So when looking at the set of pairs for the pitch class of ‘E’, any pair zero-crosses simultaneously, it doesn’t matter what the amplitudes of the overtones are, or which pairs of all possible pairs are excited, the ear can know it’s an ‘E’ without knowing or caring what octave it is in, and know without a doubt it can be nothing but an ‘E’. This hypothesis can “explain” why octaves sound the same, why you know it’s an ‘E’ without know which octave it is, why one instrument can be easier than all others, why a sine wave is difficult...

Realize that you don’t have to actually “hear” the overtones or consciously perceive them, just the mechanism of your ear has to process them – in fact I think true perfect-pitchers DON’T distinguish pitches by the overtone-aura of pitches, even if they are capable of doing that. I believe that for those of us who weren’t “born” with perfect pitch, training to consciously hear overtones is the route to learning perfect pitch. But awareness of chroma and hearing chroma is NOT the mechanism by which you can identify pitches in realtime. Once you’re distinguishing the pitches by their overtone aura, the question remains whether by repeated practice – by brute force, rote repetition – will your brain reorganize itself to the degree that a “born-with” deals with the lowest-level pitch signals, so that you can ultimately recognizes these pitches in realtime without having to think about it. I don’t know, but like many of us, I hope so and I believe so but I’ve been disappointed. I’ve seen a dramatic change in my hearing in the last 2-3 years, and I do recognize the pitches on my piano instinctively, but it’s not quite a musical skill and I don’t know if it ever will be. On the other hand, I’m now 41 years old and when I was 20 I couldn’t distinguish a 5th from a 4th or match a tone with my voice, so don’t let my experience discourage anyone. I do know that the combination of solfege training and perfect pitch training IS completely worthwhile because 99% of the time I now know either the degree OR the pitch of the piano, if not both at the same time, so it is becoming increasingly useful.

In line with what cjhealey has stated, all of this to be “true” perfect pitch has to happen involuntarily, without effort, it must be awareness without attention.

As Chris has pointed out many times, this is not a musical ability. It occurs outside musical-temporal perception. It is a parallel process – most likely, literally a different brain region, probably exactly as they’ve seen on MRIs.

Before I sign off for who knows how long, don’t forget – learn to recognize your scale degrees. All twelve of your solfege syllables in all twelve keys – in isolation at first, then in real time with real music. If you can’t do that first, you are going to be very disappointed, because spending years learning perfect pitch is not going to help you hear live music.

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Postby aruffo » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:50 pm

Fair points all. Indeed, overtones could be that important; me, I doubt it, but that just means I'm not going to be the one exploring in that direction.

Unless... hm. I wonder what would happen if, now that overtones can be directly manipulated, an absolute listener actually did hear a tone that had the fundamental pitch of a G and the overtone structure of an A. Considering the "missing fundamental" effect, they might hear two pitches.. and so might we, f'r that matter.

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Postby aruffo » Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:27 am

Out of curiosity, I constructed some tones with Adobe Audition-- a G sine-tone plus the first nine partials of an A (absent the fundamental)-- and it sounded to me like a major second. So the 1965 study may or may not be decisive; they didn't say precisely how they changed the speed of the tones, so it's difficult to replicate just what they did.

I'm still keen on suspecting the fundamental to be the chroma and the timbre (overtones) to be the height, but that doesn't mean the overtones couldn't be involved in pitch judgment as well.

Hm.. if Korpel's approach was questionable and outdated, and mismatching overtones to fundamentals causes the perception of a dissonant chord, I wonder how one might test absolute listeners to determine whether they base their judgment on fundamental or overtone?

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Postby aruffo » Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:42 am

Here's what Sergeant (1969) had to say about it.

Here's the short version (my summary) of Sergeant's words:
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Notes from certain instruments are easier to identify than others. Therefore, if harmonics are being used to make an absolute judgment, then we should see a pitch-specific harmonic pattern that is prominent for "easy" instruments and subtle for "difficult" instruments. HOWEVER-- not only is there no correspondence between overtone patterns and ease of judgment, but overtone patterns for the same pitch vary considerably within an instrument's range or even during a note's "steady state".
---

Quote follows below (I'll refrain from the "quote" tag for easier reading). Note that he uses the term "chroma" to refer to the quality of the overtone series-- NOT the fundamental pitch.

The "chroma" theory... attributes the ability to the superior discrimination of the varying qualities possessed by musical sounds... caused by the permutations of the harmonics present. The widely-reported fact that notes from some musical instruments are more readily denominated than others is called to support this idea. Such a hypothesis could only be viable if it could be shown that the chromas of the harmonics generated by various instruments formed a progressive pattern that corresponded closely with the accuracy with which the notes from these same instruments could be denominated.

A pitch denomination test was devised which contained notes from 10 different instruments: piano, clarinet, violin, glockenspiel, monochord, guitar, organ, flute, cello, and oboe, giving a total of 50 stimulus notes. The notes were then subjected to analysis through oscillograph wave forms and the use of an audio frequency analyzer. Results showed that:

1. No correspondence existed between the ease of accurate denomination by absolute pitch subjects and the quality of the tone.

2. There was clear evidence confirming the findings of Lehman (7) and others that the harmonic quality of an instrument is not constant throughout its range. Considerable variations occur in all instruments even within the interval of a major third, owing to roll-off effects, formants, and register characteristics.

3. A single note will also show variation, even during its so-called steady state. This is particularly marked in percussion instruments and piano, in which the tone is evanescent.

Further experiments were carried out to test the effectiveness of harmonic quality as a cue for pitch denomination. A series of notes from various instruments was played to groups of musicians who possessed absolute pitch. On a second test, the same notes were used, but the initiation transients were removed by splicing the tape, thus causing thesubjects to rely on the steady state for their judgment. Subjects were markedly less successful in denominating the abbreviated notes. It is therefore clear that although the chroma of the note may play a part in its recognition, it is not a decisive cue in the making of an absolute judgment of pitch.



Sergeant, D. (1969). Experimental investigation of absolute pitch. Journal of Research in Music Education, 17(1), 135-143.

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Postby TS » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:18 am

aruffo wrote:Out of curiosity, I constructed some tones with Adobe Audition-- a G sine-tone plus the first nine partials of an A (absent the fundamental)-- and it sounded to me like a major second. So the 1965 study may or may not be decisive; they didn't say precisely how they changed the speed of the tones, so it's difficult to replicate just what they did.


I looked at the paper that was linked in this earlier discussion (I assume this is the 1965 study that we are talking about): viewtopic.php?t=973 , and they describe how they changed the speed like this:
Apparatus:
Notes played by competent musicians were recorded with a sound-system consisting of a Shure 55S dynamic microphone, an Ampex 354 take-deck, and an Altec 1568A amplifier, and with a Wollensak T1500 tape-recorder.

Transposition was accomplished by taping directly from the Wollensak into an International Radio and Electronics 'Crown' recorder, the speed of the Wollensak governed by feeding the powering alternating current through a Hewlett Packard oscillator 207A and two 'McIntosh 60' amplifiers.

The Os were tested with the Wollensak. Scotch '120' and Kodak '31A' 1 1/2-mm triacetate tape was run at 7 1/2 in./sec.


So they simply changed the speed of the tape to change the pitch. The same thing had been done at least as early as 1958 with the Alvin and the Chipmunks recordings. You can clearly hear that the overtone structure of the chipmunk voice is different than a normal human voice would be if it was singing at the same pitch.

aruffo wrote:Hm.. if Korpel's approach was questionable and outdated, and mismatching overtones to fundamentals causes the perception of a dissonant chord, I wonder how one might test absolute listeners to determine whether they base their judgment on fundamental or overtone?


One problem here is that the non-linearities in the ear create the missing fundamental from the overtones. I wonder if something could be done by using noise to mask quieter tones? Maybe you could add white/brown/pink noise in the background that would mask any ghost fundamental created by the overtones and then add another fundamental at the wrong frequeny?

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Postby cjhealey » Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:44 pm

For the record I still think my suggestion is still pertinent and my observation about a separate mode of listening is apt.

It explains a lot about the trouble with developing perfect pitch...
How do you develop a *completely alien* mode of listening by using your normal mode of listening?

The answer is that you can't.

What I think needs to occur is that one must first and foremost find a way to activate the same cognitive process fundamental to the AP listening experience... Then proceed to build upon it until it is sustainable long enough to provide a framework for AP to develop.

But how? How do you kick start this different approach to listening?

Well you must create a situation where the ear grasps onto individual pitches rather than their functional purpose.
That is to say that the ear notices a C, then it notices another C, then another... Hearing independent of context.

Did anyone give the mp3 I made a go? It was probably not hugely effective on it's own and I think I overloaded it with the reminder pitch (Middle C)...

But for me, Middle C still suddenly and clearly jumps out (albeit sporadically) from Piano music, even weeks later.

And looking at situations where it is less likely to jump out or where I wonder "Why didn't I notice it?" the answer is that the tuning is more that 8+ cents sharp or flat relative to the 'reminder tone' I was using.

Small discrepencies in tuning do seem to alter the name-a-bility of the tone.

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Postby Nikolaus » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:47 am

IF you can get this process going with two pitches (at the same time more or less), then you'll really be onto somethin' here. then (to test) take super easy melodies and practice hearing the structure, and how those two pitches play a role in forming that structure. but if you can't achieve a practical result with the simplest stuff (going from the fancy recordings to super easy melodies), then why would one expect any better results with the more difficult material? so far just having one pitch jump out at you could just be the result of perceptual differentiation, and years of work with APA. BUT if this transfer from easy to difficult fails, it could also be because in applying it to the easy the task at hand all of a sudden no longer requires (or engages) a whole brain approach, whereas when you're listening to the Brahms you're engaging your musical memory in a very intuitive way (both in terms of recalling the C and the recording itself).


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