A New Approach

Thoughts and responses regarding the research at acousticlearning.com.
zacxpacx
Posts: 157
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Location: United States

A New Approach

Postby zacxpacx » Mon Oct 29, 2012 10:10 pm

Hey All,

I'm relatively new to Chris's website and his research, but not to the pursuit of perfect pitch. It's an ability I've wished I had since I was very young learning to play the violin. To anyone else who plays a stringed instrument, it's impossible to deny how useful perfect pitch would be. I've been training for several months on David Lucas Burge's course. Recently, after tons of emailing and searching for confirmation that the course did in fact work, I came to the realization it doesn't.

That's when I began looking for another method, and it is how I stumbled upon this site. I'm still working my way through Chris's big body of research but have already had time to conceive and write down my own ideas on the topic. There certainly is a TON of research, and I truly appreciate Chris for having given so much effort in the pursuit of how perfect pitch can be learned.

I sent Chris an email the other day with a write-up I made on a perfect pitch learning idea with some ramblings thrown in. He suggested I post it here. At first, I didn't want to, but I decided I'd give it a shot.

At the risk of sounding pretentious: The biggest realization I've had looking through this forum is that we really don't know what the next step in the pursuit of perfect pitch is. And some people don't even think we have the first step right (that of perceptual differentiation via Absolute Pitch Avenue). Hoping that perfect pitch can be solved in our lifetime, I yearn for a more structured approach than simply speculating and critiquing. There are plenty of members that are great individual thinkers, all with unique approaches to the challenge that is perfect pitch.

For Example:
Gavriel (if you happen to see this, please come back! your posts were great and it seems like you've left the forum)
Cjhealey
Lyle
Lorelei
Koenig
Axeman

It is more or less a general consensus that perfect pitch consists of 1.) perceptual differentiation and 2.) categorical perception. (If you have your own reasons for not believing this, great!) At this point, I feel the more angles of attack we have on the problem, the quicker it can be solved. Furthermore, I feel that experimentation and implementation should become an emphasis, taking precedence over speculation and critique. Any idea supported with legitimate argument deserves to be tested and, if it fails, analyzed. That isn't to say speculation should stop, but I do believe more could be accomplished if it isn't a mainstay of the forum.

It is common to refute concepts and ideas with experiments that have been carried out in the past. Often, however, the methods used in said experiments do not explicitly disprove someone's stand. Most of the experiments are very old and use out-dated technology. With powerful, unprecedented technology now available to us, it would often be much simpler to create our own small-scale experiment/test.

As of now, I do not have the computer know-how to design ear training games and create frequencies of sound, manipulating and tinkering with them. I will definitely set my mind to learning soon. To all those who do in fact know how to design ear training games and manipulate sound on a computer, I strongly urge you to experiment with as many ideas as you can.

Ultimately, perfect pitch should be solved by us. I see no other so concentrated attempt taking place anywhere else, online or offline. It's up to this community.

-Zachary

zacxpacx
Posts: 157
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Location: United States

My Message to Chris

Postby zacxpacx » Mon Oct 29, 2012 10:13 pm

Here I submit to you my email to Chris Aruffo. If anyone has the necessary skills to create such a game as the one I suggest, please let me know.

The Next Step in Learning Perfect Pitch

Dr. Aruffo, I've been thinking about the second step in the process of learning absolute pitch. I have an idea for what would be the learning process that creates the 12 pitch categories absolute listeners use to navigate the world of sound.

Thoughts on What an Exercise Must Be

Admittedly, I have not read through all of your research. There is tons of it and I’m slowly making my way through it whenever I have time. So if there are any misconceptions or ideas I have that you address in your research, I apologize in advance.

I hesitate to call perfect pitch a level of perception. Though the point can easily be made that it is in fact a refined perception of pitch, I think the word perception can introduce misconceptions. Everyone has the ability to “perceive” pitch – Absolute Pitch Avenue trains the ear to pick out the characteristic that is “pitch”. The difference for people with perfect pitch is that they extract extra meaning from the pitch. Their brain is able to recognize pitches they’ve heard before and sort them into learned musical pitch categories. So though we pitch perception/chroma perception is necessary to develop perfect pitch, perfect pitch is only truly obtained when one extracts absolute meaning from the pitch, not relative.

This brings me to a conclusion and a question. The conclusion: because perfect pitch relies on perception and recognition/meaning extraction, perfect pitch has to be developed through listening activities, not naming activities. I view naming as a necessary evil. It is the only way to convey that someone has listened and recognized in the correct fashion. So while naming must be part of a perfect pitch development, it should not be the central focus, as it has been with past attempts. The focus of exercises should be listening – comparing, contrasting, repeating, memorizing, etc. The question: how do the people with natural perfect pitch without any musical training perceive pitch? Your research shows that such individuals say “I always could hear/recognize tones” and that music “just let me know the names”. I can’t seem to work this observation and the understanding of perfect pitch as a categorical perception together. Before musical training does someone with perfect pitch merely remember “oh I’ve heard that pitch before, my dad’s sneeze is the same pitch as our car horn”? How could perfect pitch possibly be a categorical perception at this stage – unless it is based on random collections of pitches the person has heard and remembered? And they later assign note names to? But what if the categories they form at a young age don’t line up with the 12 musical pitches? On the other hand, I can imagine a young child being pitch aware and developing a categorical perception of pitch after musical training. But a categorical perception before musical training? How does that work?

A second generalization on perfect pitch exercises I hold at this point is that ear training must take place on a computer. Perfect pitch has existed forever, and I assume ever since classical music developed many centuries ago, there have been countless jealous musicians (such as myself) who have tried to develop perfect pitch. So far, everyone has failed. I’m not saying that perfect pitch cannot be developed in the real-world with only real-world sounds, but using a computer program or a video game would probably prove to be much more efficient. Absolute Pitch Avenue is a great example. It is an exercise that can be replicated in the real-world, but would prove to be impractical and too time consuming (which is why an exercise like it hasn’t existed before). And because musicians over countless centuries have tested many different methods of listening and memorization on instruments, with melodies, etc. I assume that the secret to developing perfect pitch lies in a computer training exercise that will train the ear in a way practically impossible with simply instruments and natural sounds. This generalization isn’t very groundbreaking. At the most simplistic level it is: we must try methods never tried before because nothing before has worked. And those methods will probably use a computer.

My Assumptions

There are three basic assumptions that I’ve made if what I have in mind is to work.

The first assumption I make is that “chroma” exist. I define chroma as the tangible quality of sound that remains constant across all C’s of all octaves of all timbres, and holds the same properties for all other notes. If sound chroma as per my definition do in fact exist, then they must operate in a cyclical fashion. Instead of being a single, infinite spectrum, they are a spectrum that repeats itself. To visualize this, I imagine a line that extends infinitely versus a circle. The line represents the perception of sound to a listener is not aware of chroma. A middle E sounded on a piano will simply be perceived as a “lower” tone than an E sounded two octaves above on a different instrument. On the infinite line of frequency, the middle E exists at one point and the higher E exists at a point above it. Physically, the person perceives the higher frequency. To an absolute listener, there are plenty of differences between the two sounds, but both have something in common – their E-ness. On the circle that represents chroma, both tones exist at the same point. Physically, the absolute listener perceives the striking of the same point on a strip within his cochlea. The importance of this assumption lies in the fact that there is no “height” in chroma, only adjacency – a C is adjacent to B and C# -- C is closer to B and C# than B is to C# -- but C# isn’t higher than B or C, just further away from B than C.

My second assumption is that adults can learn to recognize a characteristic they didn’t before, and that they can learn to memorize a sensation of this characteristic. Obviously, people do this with colors. People learn to abstract and conceptualize colors removed from the objects in the real world that embody them. I assume that they can do this with chroma “color” and sound “objects”. With color, this is demonstrated by the fact that when you close your eyes, you can visualize blue, red, green. Also, you can take an object commonly defined by its color (a fire truck), and project a color such as blue on to it. Your mind has learned abstractions for certain sensations of a characteristic and turned them into concepts that exist on their own, though in nature they are always found embodied by something. I assume a person’s mind can abstract characteristics/qualities from any group of objects once they are aware of the characteristic/quality, committing a specific sensation of the characteristic to their long-term memory. (It may take repetition and lots of exposure to embodying objects, but it simply needs to be possible for what I propose to work, no matter the time it takes.)

The third assumption I make relates to perfect pitch, building on my first and second assumptions, and you might not like this one. Because chroma operate in a cyclic fashion, judging distances between chroma becomes much easier than judging distances between frequencies. Instead of a theoretically limitless spectrum in which to judge the distance between notes, the furthest you can get from a C chroma color would be an F# color. There are two possible ways chroma recognition can play out at this point. Either a person can develop anchor points on the loop of chroma color and recognize pitches by judging proximity/distance from the anchor points, or they can develop categorical perception, in which the circle of pitch chroma is “cut up” into 12 sections and notes within a section are perceived as being more similar than notes between sections. The exercise I suggest may not develop categorical perception, which I believe is what people with true perfect pitch possess. Instead, it may just help familiarize someone with the spectrum of chroma by exposing them to different anchor points, from which they’d have to judge distance and proximity. I think this is potentially the biggest downfall of the exercise. In any case, however, developing good relative chroma judgment should come in handy when the time comes to develop categorical chroma perception.

Statement of Intent; My Criteria for “Perfect Pitch”

I want to be clear now that my goal is to develop true perfect pitch, the exact same ability as those who naturally have “perfect pitch” are born with or develop at a young age.

When a sound is heard, there should be an immediate and reflexive perception and recognition of pitch. Though it should be obvious to a learner or me once an ability such as this is developed, there are two “tests” I would like to use.

I should be able to recognize and name all the notes in a piece of music. All my friends with perfect pitch, who were all born or developed at a young age, can do this. This is something I’ve never seen someone who claimed they “learned” perfect pitch can do. It is real-time naming. They can name the notes as the piece is playing or write them all down for me.

Brain scans should show use of the same parts of the brain that people with natural perfect pitch use when listening to music and/or recognizing tones. I feel like this would simply be a definitive test. It could be entirely possible that perfect pitch the ability can be developed without the same areas of the brain being implemented, though it makes sense that they would be.

My Suggested Exercise

This exercise is meant as a follow-up to Absolute Pitch Avenue. The trainee should already be aware of pitch chroma and know to listen for them. It is designed as a kind of video game.

It begins with 12 chroma “buckets” that players will use to sort pitch balls into. The chroma buckets can each be identified in two ways. Each will have the name of the pitch they represent on them (C, E, F#). Also, when the player clicks any of the buckets, the pitch will play, in a random timbre and in a random octave. The idea is that with repeated clicks on a bucket only the chroma of the sound will remain constant, frequency and timbre will change from click to click. If a player needs to, they can repeatedly click on a bucket to get the chroma in their ear.

The objects the player will be sorting into the buckets are pitch balls. At first, the player will be presented with one ball at a time. When a ball is presented, a tone is played. It is the job the player to drag the ball to the correct chroma bucket. If they need extra listens, clicking the tone ball will replay the tone. As the player progresses through more and more tone balls, the challenge becomes more difficult. Tone balls begin playing in different timbres and in different octaves each time they’re pressed. After progressing through enough single ball levels, the game moves on to multiple tone balls. Multiple tone balls are presented in two ways, as either stacks or strings. A stack of tone balls plays a chord when it is first introduced. The first stacks would be simple two-ball stacks that play the same timbre and octave when clicked. However, the player can only re-listen to the entire chord, there is no single ball repeating. As ball stacks progress, more balls are added to the chords and timbre and octaves begin to change. The second way multiple balls are presented, in strings, play in melodies. Again, if a player wants a second or third listen, they are only allowed to listen to the entire melody, not individual balls. And again, as melodies progress they become longer, timbre and octaves change, and speed increases.

One of my two hopes for this game is to teach the player to listen for pitch chroma whenever they hear a sound. It is the training of expectation, a new way of listening. Absolute Pitch Avenue makes a listener aware of pitch chroma, but after taking a break from playing, people generally stop listening to chroma and revert back to their old habits of hearing timbre, distances, and everything not pitch. By not only reinforcing the awareness of chroma (by repeated clicks on the chroma buckets), but also giving them the task of matching chroma to their respective buckets, I hope that the matching would become a natural enough process that the ear begins to sort out pitch from the sounds heard outside of the game. This also brings me to my second hope for the game. After enough playing, I’d like to think that the player would no longer need to continually click the chroma buckets to reinforce the sensation of the different chroma. Instead, with enough exposure and repetition, they would memorize the chroma sound of each bucket and not have to match bucket-chroma to ball-chroma, but simply drag the ball to the correct bucket without checking the bucket. If the player can begin applying these skills to real world sounds, is that perfect pitch? I don’t know.

I may be totally wrong about all of this, but I would nonetheless like to try developing and using a game like this. With the capabilities of Absolute Pitch Avenue to play pitches with random timbres and within chords and strings of tones, I think an exercise like this should be pretty easy to create. It may prove to be too difficult a task in the beginning, in which case the player could start with maybe a whole note scale (6 pitches evenly spaced) or a diminished scale (4 tones evenly spaced).

You Research

Finally, I wanted to thank you for all the research you’ve done on perfect pitch. It’s really gotten me to think, as you’ve probably noticed. Perfect pitch is an ability I would kill to have, and I appreciate all the effort you’ve put into pursuing how it can be taught to anyone, not just children. I don’t know many other researchers (none in fact) doing the same thing as you. Have you come across anyone else interested in researching how to teach adults perfect pitch? I’m sure there are plenty of people, and in my mind, the more intellects working on the problem from different angles with different ideas – the sooner we will reach a solution, or discover it is impossible. The sooner the better.

My one critique of your research is how much speculation and inference you use to guide your thinking. I know you always try to find supporting experiments and studies and don’t bias yourself for the most part, but there have definitely been a few times when you’ve made a statement based on a tangential observation that have been the exact opposite of my experience as a musician. For the most part, these statements you make do not define the direction you take in the pursuit of how to teach perfect pitch. I think that overall, your research is great and has moved in the right direction. I’d like to help in any way I can.

Axeman
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Postby Axeman » Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:54 am

, I feel that experimentation and implementation should become an emphasis, taking precedence over speculation and critique.

Hey Zacxpacx. I like your thoughts about solving this problem but I don't know if I or anyone else knows how to proceed except for speculation.
I think that your game suggestion is somewhat burge - esk to me since the player is presented with the single pitch sound only and then progressively asked to do more challenges involving more pitches (melodies and chords). APA zeroed in on the chroma by surrounding it with other sounds i.e. implanting it within a chord or melody and also playing sounds that didn't contain the target pitch at all. Athough you did preface your idea as being a follow-up to APA I suppose.
The problem with an experimental approach is that a lot of time can be spent on developing the experiment i.e. the games (computer) or exercises i.e. hardware/real life means which without the right idea may be a waste of time that is, working in the wrong direction.

I have had a quick think about how we learn colours as an example of categorical perception and when I think about it the sense of / perception of visual colour can only be innate since the language used to represent it is not the concept itself but only a label of the concept a metaphor if you like. The word blue has no meaning in and of itself but as we are learning to name the colours through repetition we learn to associate the sound of the word to the concept of the colour. Like wise the things that are blue are also only a coincidental phenomenon too. E.g. there are blue books, red books and yellow books and any number of other things that can embody the concept of blue. what doesn't change is the single linguistic sound (collection of phonemes) for the concept. This is obviously true for learning any new word related to any king of conept.

Maybe the problem for pitch perception is that we don't really have a proper linguistic sound for the pitch concepts. Instead we are using sounds / words that are already in use by us in our language for other things which may be a source of confusion for the adult mind. The exception I suppose could be the solfege sounds although theses have primarily been used in a relative way by music teachers. This would suggest utilizing the fixed doh system.

Reflecting on Fletchers methods, she used a many to one method (multi stimulae to one concept) to solidify the concept of pitch working both with external tools and internal representations. She used the common note names but with children the concepts attached to the Letters of the musical alphabet from the common language are still in quasi permanent state so may be used to represent other perceptions as well.

zacxpacx
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Color Categories

Postby zacxpacx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:41 am

Just making a quick reply, as I'm pressed on time right now.

The game I suggest is Burge-esque in that it increases difficulty by starting with one tone then adding more in the form of melodies and chords. But then again, any game will have a progression of difficulty. What I think significantly separates my game from Burge's exercises are the randomized timbre and octaves of the "chroma buckets". The only constant sound characteristic a player hears when he clicks a bucket is chroma.

As to your theory about naming colors. Color, as you mentioned, is one of many categorical perceptions. However, words are not necessary to abstract concepts of color. Our categorical perception of color is inborn, which makes it hard to compare to pitch chroma, a categorical perception that can be learned (as it has been taught to young children). How do we know it is inborn and not dependent on color names? People perceive rainbows in "stripes". Technically, a rainbow is a continuous spectrum of color. Our mind automatically clumps the spectrum into categories of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This leaves a striped patter with small bleed-over areas.

EDIT: I misread your comment, sorry. I'll leave my original post as it was because I think it demonstrates a good point though.

To address what you're saying Axeman: You're saying we need a new language, new terminology, to express what we conceptualize and abstract as pitch chroma. What's more important, and what Chris Aruffo is working on, is first developing a categorical perception of chroma. Then we can give names to each categorical "bucket" if you will.

I think that the game could possible accomplish this. If a player, through enough repetition, learns and internalizes the chroma of the game's buckets, then when he is presented tone balls he will realize, without testing and matching, "this ball belongs in the D bucket".

lorelei
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Postby lorelei » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:30 pm

To address what you're saying Axeman: You're saying we need a new language, new terminology, to express what we conceptualize and abstract as pitch chroma. What's more important, and what Chris Aruffo is working on, is first developing a categorical perception of chroma. Then we can give names to each categorical "bucket" if you will.


I think such a thing could certainly help, for pitch chroma is certainly a very abstract thing, like color is. The problem is trying to describe it with words... it's extraordinarily hard to describe. Perhaps if we modified our language...? How to go about doing that though, is not easy.

As to your theory about naming colors. Color, as you mentioned, is one of many categorical perceptions. However, words are not necessary to abstract concepts of color. Our categorical perception of color is inborn, which makes it hard to compare to pitch chroma, a categorical perception that can be learned (as it has been taught to young children). How do we know it is inborn and not dependent on color names? People perceive rainbows in "stripes". Technically, a rainbow is a continuous spectrum of color. Our mind automatically clumps the spectrum into categories of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This leaves a striped pattern with small bleed-over areas.


Well, as our minds clump colors into stripes, so APers clump something like shepard tones into pitches (or groups of pitches, chords if you will). A glissando that goes from, say, A, to B flat, will clearly be a range of As at one end, a range of Bs at the other end, and somewhere in the middle there will be a small, annoying, fuzzy area that is in between, and a bit of both. But at some point, the A will switch over to become a B flat. What does this mean? I'm not sure.
Also, what came first, labeling colors or perceiving them as stripes? And why do some people hear analogous "stripes" or "bands" of pitch, while others just hear a continuous spectrum?

zacxpacx
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Stripes in a Spectrum

Postby zacxpacx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:31 pm

Lorelei, the categorical perception of color is inborn, so even if someone does not learn the names of colors, they will perceive a rainbow as being striped. Having names for the stripes is first dependent on perceiving the rainbow as striped.

As a person with perfect pitch, how do you perceive a larger glissando? I play violin and I've always wondered what it must be like to hear with perfect pitch. When you hear a glissando that is an octave or greater, do you experience it as one note moving up, leading all the way to another? Or do you feel transitions into all the notes along the way, with relatively small bleed-over periods between pitches? (so. C D E F G A B C with small in-betweens)

lorelei
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Postby lorelei » Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:58 am

I think it depends on the speed of the glissando. If it's a relatively slow one, such as the shepard tone, or an airplane going by, it feels like there is a transition to all the notes, although you hear the note becoming sharper/flatter while in its own little category. If someone asked me to name that note, I would say something like "Oh now it's a G- wait now it's an F#- down to F... etc." Of course, if it is very fast, it becomes harder to hear all the in-between notes, e.g. a fast glissando on a violin or something. Then I'll hear some of the notes, at least the ones at the ends. But if it is perceivable, while I am aware of there being a constant glissando, there is the feeling of going from note to note.

TS
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Re: Stripes in a Spectrum

Postby TS » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:08 am

zacxpacx wrote:Lorelei, the categorical perception of color is inborn, so even if someone does not learn the names of colors, they will perceive a rainbow as being striped. Having names for the stripes is first dependent on perceiving the rainbow as striped.


It may be a matter of learning whether people perceive a rainbow as being striped. Here's a clip from a documentary where they interview members of some african tribe who perceive colours very differently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b71rT9fU-I

In that clip it appears that they can't distinguish between blue and yellow, but they can make some other distinctions.

zacxpacx
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Rainbow Stripes

Postby zacxpacx » Wed Oct 31, 2012 4:38 pm

That is an interesting case, but I don't think it is the norm. There have been studies done across multiple cultures and geographical locations to see if different names for colors change peoples categorical perception of colors. For the most part, everyone sees rainbows the same way.

It seems the discussion has drifted over to whether or not the perception of a striped rainbow is inborn or learned. I only introduced a striped rainbow as an example of categorical perception. I'd like the discussion to stay centered on my ideas/game for perfect pitch. Still wondering if anyone knows how to make such a game.

I had a thought last night after playing with APA for awhile -- I'll make another post for it.

zacxpacx
Posts: 157
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The Issue of Memory

Postby zacxpacx » Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:00 pm

The Issue of Memory and its Relationship with Categorical Perception

I purchased the full version of APA last night, after a night of testing out the demo version. Playing with the game was an interesting experience. Identifying the target note when it was the top note in a two note series or the bottom note seemed the most difficult. I definitely perceived the ascending sound to be higher than the target and lower sound to be lower than the target, when the pitch was in fact the target. I started getting better near the end, listening to the constant quality of the ascending and descending tones.

At the end of my ear training (about 15-20 minutes), I had a pretty clear idea of how the red egg chroma felt (for lack of a better word). Then, this morning I still the chroma sound in my ear, but as I've gone through my day I've slowly lost the feeling of that particular chroma. My question is for Chris or anyone who has extensive experience playing APA.

If I can't abstract a single chroma color and keep it in my long-term memory, how am I ever to learn categorical perception? How can I compress a range of similar chroma and maintain that category in my long-term memory?

Then agin, if I could keep a single chroma color in my long term memory, I could simply memorize 12 points along the cyclical spectrum of chroma and begin comparing all pitches I hear to those 12, judging by proximity what the name of any pitch I hear is. Is there something about categorical perception that embeds an internal reference in long-term memory?

Thinking in terms of a brightness analogy, I can see how memorizing 12 different levels of brightness would be very difficult, if not impossible. But brightness is a linear spectrum, not cyclical.

Another Catch-22: Without the ability to memorize specific chroma, how can I develop categorical chroma perception? With the ability to memorize chroma, I could learn 12 pitch categories, leading to perfect pitch.

TS
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Re: Rainbow Stripes

Postby TS » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:44 pm

zacxpacx wrote:It seems the discussion has drifted over to whether or not the perception of a striped rainbow is inborn or learned.


I think the relevant question is what lorelei posed: "what came first, labeling colors or perceiving them as stripes?"

I watched the documentary clip again, and in the beginning they say that children perceive colours with the right side of the brain before they have words for the colours, but after they learn words the activity switches to the left side of the brain. It is known that people with absolute pitch perceive pitch with the left side of the brain, with the language areas, while people without absolute pitch use the right side of the brain.

So maybe you need to get the words first, and the categories will follow naturally, instead of the other way around?

zacxpacx
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Redundancies

Postby zacxpacx » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:10 pm

You should go take a look at Mr. Aruffo's research. He covers the topics of naming and categorization pretty early on in his entries. People with natural absolute pitch say they have always had the ability as far back as they can remember and that music just gave them the names for what they already perceived.

And note names don't necessarily lead to perfect pitch like you suggest. Otherwise, any competent musician would have perfect pitch! Though naming may possibly be an important factor in developing absolute pitch (I personally don't think so), perfect pitch is fundamentally a perceptual experience not a naming one. Naming may be a more important factor in children developing perfect pitch because they learn incidentally, but not so much in adults I don't think.

Anyways, any thoughts on what I originally posted? No one has seemed to comment thoughtfully on my original post yet.

TS
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Re: Redundancies

Postby TS » Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:40 pm

zacxpacx wrote:You should go take a look at Mr. Aruffo's research. He covers the topics of naming and categorization pretty early on in his entries. People with natural absolute pitch say they have always had the ability as far back as they can remember and that music just gave them the names for what they already perceived.

And note names don't necessarily lead to perfect pitch like you suggest. Otherwise, any competent musician would have perfect pitch! Though naming may possibly be an important factor in developing absolute pitch (I personally don't think so), perfect pitch is fundamentally a perceptual experience not a naming one. Naming may be a more important factor in children developing perfect pitch because they learn incidentally, but not so much in adults I don't think.


I think the latest conclusion is that absolute pitch is a language skill, or 'hyper-linguistic' skill.

It's also not completely clear what "naming notes" means. When a competent musician has learned to name notes, did they learn to name black dots on paper, or keys on a piano keyboard, or finger positions on a violin neck, or a subset of the alphabet in a sequence? None of those are naming pitches.

zacxpacx wrote:Anyways, any thoughts on what I originally posted? No one has seemed to comment thoughtfully on my original post yet.


The proposed excercise sounds pretty much like many of the excercises that already exist and have been tried. Interval Loader in ETC already does different timbres (and maybe different octaves, I don't remember right now), and Absolute Pitch Avenue definitely does both. Functional ear trainer from http://www.miles.be does many octaves (at least the old version did). Prolobe does many octaves, too.

You have to also take into account that the excercise could be solved by using some other means than absolute listening. If the player just clicks the bucket and the ball and compares the tones, then what makes them learn absolute pitch if they can get by with just listening for whether the tones are the same? And if they already heard one tone, what prevents them from remembering that and figuring out the next tone by comparing it to the previous one using relative pitch? Or if they can perceive the tones as being in a key, then they can just progress through the excercises with relative pitch.

There was a chord game in earlier version of ETC that seemed like you would need absolute pitch to be able to play the higher levels, but still it seemed like you could get by without developing absolute pitch. Chris wrote about it here: http://www.aruffo.com/eartraining/resea ... m#chording

zacxpacx
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Naming Pitches

Postby zacxpacx » Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:11 pm

To clarify: I meant naming tones versus naming notes, sorry.

As I progress in my reading of Chris's research, I realize that the model I proposed for tone chroma (a cyclical model) has already been suggested and, for the most part, confirmed by the work of Sheppard and Korpell.

I am going to expand on my understanding of the helical and cyclic models of tone chroma and then write on my game. The way I envision tones are as a spiral staircase. This staircase is colored with a spectrum of tone chroma, which we can imagine to be visual colors in the analogy. So we are presented with a spiral staircase that continually shifts color as we walk up. Arbitrarily, we will begin our walk up the staircase on red. As we ascend the staircase, the color red becomes lighter and lighter. After completing 5 spirals on the staircase, we notice that the colors have now become very faint and harder to see. This is our experience of "height". If we were to walk downwards from our starting point, red, we'd have notice the colors becoming darker.

Now, 5 spirals up from our starting point, we decide to look over the edge of the staircase. Directly below us, we see the red starting point of our journey. As our eyes trace the line of stairs below, we notice that every point directly above and directly below our starting point, including where we are currently standing, is colored in the same red. This is our experience of "chroma".

Making use of this analogy, I will try to explain APA and my game in context.

One of the problems a relative listener faces in the development of perfect pitch is their perspective of the staircase. A purely relative listener views the staircase from the side. All they can see is the ascension of the stairs, not the repetition of colors. To them, the staircase is a vertical line. It is a vertical cross section from top to bottom of the staircase. To begin developing absolute pitch, the relative listener must change their perspective. Luckily, APA already accomplishes this.

By comparing points in the staircase directly above and below one another, the relative listener shifts their sideways perspective to an above, birds-eye-view perspective. They begin to realize that at any given point on the staircase, all the points above and below have the same color. Their new perspective is a horizontal cross section of the staircase, and they are looking down on it. From above, the staircase seems cyclical, which is the model I suggest in my original post. Now comes the next step in developing perfect pitch.

Viewing the horizontal cross section of the staircase, the relative listener sees a continuous spectrum of color. Every color transitions smoothly into each adjacent color, and at every point there is constant bleed, like the areas between the stripes of the rainbow. What Chris believes, as do I (though I've only read his research =P), is the next step in perfect pitch development is teach categorical perception. Instead of looking down at a continuous bleeding spectrum, we should see a striped circle of chroma, like how we naturally perceive a colored rainbow. In my original post, I question whether or not we should actually perceive "stripes" or whether we should simply have 12 fixed points that we know on the spectrum and can make proximity judgments from.

My game uses the 12 chroma buckets to establish these 12 points on the cyclical spectrum. TS, the POINT of the game is to compare the balls to the chroma buckets by clicking between the two. The hope is that eventually we will memorize the chroma of each bucket with enough repetition and practice. By constantly changing timbre and octaves, the chroma buckets maintain the birds-eye-view on the staircase, keeping only chroma constant. The difference between this game and APA is that this game is a "sorting" game. APA teaches you a perceptual differentiation, this teaches you to implement and match with your new perception (hopefully).

As for relative pitch -- it should not be a problem. Those with relative pitch don't automatically know the name notes in a piece after given the starting pitch. Using relative pitch to name notes requires focus. Even then, this only applies to dictation. The aim of the game is to match a pitch to a bucket, not a position of a musical staff. Though relative pitch can be utilized to play the game, it would require effort on the player's part. As long as the player doesn't actively try to use relative pitch to label tones, it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

I maintain this is a method that simply has to be tested, and if it fails, we can conclude that the memorization/learning process doesn't work this way.

P.S. I did like your point on once the player has matched the first tone in a melody, they can estimate using height for the following tones. I think this could be circumvented by having the game tell you the order of the balls you must match. Ex. having the first ball be in the middle, the second ball be in the beginning, the third ball be near the end, etc.

zacxpacx
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The Issue of Memory, Again

Postby zacxpacx » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:47 pm

This brings me back to the issue of memory, again. APA reveals to the listener all the different chroma color. It reveals the C chroma, the C# chroma, the D chroma, etc. If after playing the game a lot, the player isn't able to memorize the feeling of the C chroma or the D chroma or any other chroma, then I don't see how anyone could possibly learn perfect pitch. Chris asserts the next step is categorical perception. I see memorization as a prerequisite for categorical perception.

How can you learn a category without being able to memorize (subconsciously) the boundaries or any given point in the category? If memory is an issue, which I think it very well may be, I can't see my game working or any other game which relies on repetition and matching to establish specific chroma in the memory.


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