What does it feel like to be a relative pitcher

Thoughts and responses regarding the research at acousticlearning.com.
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What does it feel like to be a relative pitcher

Postby kuroe » Thu Jan 01, 2015 10:19 am

I am from Hong Kong and I speak Cantonese. If anyone is into both linguistics and music, then people should know the interesting linkage between Cantonese speaker and the better ability to acquire absolute pitch in childhood.

I, however, am not an absolute pitcher since I started my very lousy musical training as a choir member since age 6 and nothing else. Anyone who has ever stayed in a choir would have an idea of how much stuff a choir indeed teach musically, and especially anything pitch related and music theory.

I started my study of basic music theory at the age of 24 (now 25) and with my already proficient mathematics I can do all the musical theory exercises up to grade 5 with 100% accuracy, which is not a feat at all given the mathematical nature of the tasks. I start to appreciate later on that ability to recognise intervals by ears and not by counting is crucial in understanding a piece of music (particularly transcribing) and to higher level music theory.

I downloaded ETC a few years ago just for fun. I started to seriously use the interval loader in these few months though. I started to have pretty good accuracy (around 95%) up till level 27 when I have problem identifying the major second and tritone as the base note moves around. The ability to recognise intervals independent of the identity of bass note is NOT the relative pitch ability I have.

(I can elaborate on the reason here though. The tonic established in one note interval is carried over to the next note so precisely as the second interval is played, I am comparing the two new notes to the previous tonic in an subconscious level. Since this is something happening that I cannot control, I need considerable effort to tune in to the quality produced by each interval. Yet, I am very stuck in differentiating a major second and tritone. I sometimes hear the major second as dissonance, and sometimes consonance. Same with tritone although it is supposed to be dissonant. My ears are just weird perhaps.)

What I can do with my "relative pitch", or what I understand as "relative pitch", is that I can immediate sing a song in the moveable-do system without very conscious thinking. My ability is not complete as I have considerably worse accuracy in identifying di/re, ri/me, si/le or li/te (all are minor), but the major comes effortlessly. Say when I hear the theme of Beethoven Symphony 9, I immediate have "mi-mi-fa-so-so-fa-mi-re" in my mind.

Any songs that go through heavy modulation, my system will move accordingly, but only after the new key is established. While in the pivotal chords, things go messy and I will only remember the pitch as its own. Which means I can sing it and it is correct, but I cannot name it in both a fixed-do system and a moveable-do system.

I am not sure whether this ability is unique to me or universal too all non absolute pitchers. One time as I sing the so-fa names immediately following what a pianist is playing, she noted that I was very quick in doing so and she was not as quick. One sample size is, however, not enough to generalise the speculation that people find this ability rare.

Hope for your thoughts and input. Thanks for making the software Chris!


Added thoughts in edit:
BTW, I have some kind of weird ability to judge the speed of the underground railway train by the pitch it gives off when it is running on the rail. When it's quicker the pitch is higher and vice versa. I have a sense that it is running quicker on some days and slower on the others just by the pitch alone. I cannot name the pitch though. So I do not exactly have the kind of absolute pitch that is especially defined in this site. But I think this may be interesting to some of you.

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