Toneme System & Pitch training

Thoughts and responses regarding the research at
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Joined: Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:18 am

Toneme System & Pitch training

Postby SunFishSeven » Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:04 am

It is a little over a year since I last visited the site.

I believe the tail end of the conversation was TS stating that positive pitch cannot be acquired by an adult

And the only way to reply to this would be for me to teach myself positive pitch first.

Otherwise it is only empty words

Firstly, I still haven't learned positive pitch. so I won't claim anything. but I would like to throw into the pot everything I have uncovered over the last year.

maybe it can offer some insight to someone, maybe someone can offer some insight back. maybe something can be catalysed.

Most of this year I have spent wrestling with the computer, learning how to code iPads. I am making a series of iPad games that train basic musical skills. This has worn me out, and been a completely unmusical (and un-UNmusical) period of my life. I have had to learn the physics of acoustics, the harmonic structure of a tone, learn about tuning systems, learn about other musical instruments. I have built my own pitch detector so that the iPad can recognise the tone sung into it. Even after a maths degree that was still really tough work. It is only in this last two months that I finally have all of the code components I need, and have mastered the various frameworks, and started to even toy with these games ( which are all far from production grade ). and the last six weeks has been nightmare due to severe illness.

I have also been wrestling with musical theory, finally understanding the whole problem of representation, the fact that a D in the key of G sounds different from the D in the key of C. Even before I set out, I realised that I was not happy to use the existing conceptual framework for music. it has rankled me since I first saw it as a child. so I have created my own system:

It seems that musical ideas can be communicated well through a modern 12-TET piano, so I have based my system on these 12 12-TET pitch classes. I will let that website speak for itself, and welcome any constructive criticism. Also I and hunting for colours and symbols for 12 categories. I'm not entirely happy with my colouring system, and the symbols have yet to be collapsed from a wave to a particle.

I discovered Shepard tones, which neatly embody the concept of ' pitch class '. A shepard tone has no fundamental, no root. It is a mathematical and aural oddity, completely synthetic. I am for the time being going to drop them in favour of harmonic tones, but if I reach the point where I can identify individual notes, I will return to them and see if my brain can acquire a further mechanism of pitch-class

as I see it, perfect pitch is an anti-musical skill
and this is why it is so difficult for musicians to acquire it
because the brain must move in a diametrically opposite direction
music is entirely about the relationship. There is nothing special about 440Hz.

so it is very difficult to even learn 2 notes without the musical mind spotting a connection and deducing the second one from the first.

I'm quite surprised at Burge stating ' perfect pitch practice should not be separated from musical context '.

I have started to experiment with the opposite of this.
ie first I have to UNMUSICALLY build a center for every note, so each has its own identity
and then a ton of MUSICAL exercises to establish a set of connections between these entities. the 12 point Mystic Rose springs to mind.

to make the sounds as unmusical is possible, random notes firing, and you have to identify them. Or random colours appearing and you have to sing them to explode them. my guess is that once the game speeds up enough, the brain's path of least resistance will be to actually remember the pitch of the note rather than to try to figure it out from the last one.

I think it has been a mistake to use Shepard Tones, and to try to teach the brain to associate pitch-class before actually learning the individual notes.

this is something I will work on as soon as my health returns. I think it is a mistake to learn both C4 and C5 as 'C' and then work from there. better appreciate than the separate notes first and then once each has an identity, a connection can be made between the identities.

one unmusical exercise for example would be to look at the octave as 12 tones and step through it in steps of 1,2,3,4 and 6 (6 would be eg C F# C F#) -- 12 is a very nice number in this way. anyway, this is a reasonably UN musical exercise.

another thought is to use the bottom note you can comfortably sing, and the top note, and the note of your natural voice as three reference points, and then learn to place any pitch within this range with increasing accuracy. Pitches could ( and probably should ) be absolutely random, and not limited to notes, one might be 441.37809Hz

this would at least force the brain to completely drop any attempt to use musicality to help

furthermore if each note is given a colour then a two octave range would be seen as a double rainbow ( obviously if I'm using 12 colours it would have some different colours in there, finding 12 appropriate colours is actually difficult ) and I may be able to connect pitch with colour in this way. my feeling is that I could train myself to get quite accurate at this skill, this is going to be one of my next experiments

another approach I am considering is first to learn the wheel from my system, and get into the habit of being able to sing any melody in any key. this would mean tuning up my relative pitch considerably. and then maybe combined with the above exercise bring these skills together.

another thing I tried is learning to sing the strings on my guitar, I can just reach all of the open strings, so I figured it would be quite a good basis for starting. I practised by choosing a random string, singing it, and reinforcing it on the guitar. I tried lots of things like playing it first to start with, imagining the sound before I played it, starting with three strings and working outwards. I nearly smashed my guitar after a few days, it was so frustrating to drill for an hour and then get one wrong, mistake G for B. but I got it down to a point where I could wake up and after a few moments of warming up my voice get it down pretty accurately.

this made me think about the idea of getting a good relative pitch working (ie I can navigate from any point in the wheel to any other point) and then using the natural limitations of my voice, which are not going to change much from one day to the next, to anchor this wheel into position. may be even the single peg of the tone of my natural speaking voice would be enough. and once in place, surely it will reinforce itself with use.

I started to wonder that maybe my musical brain is learning the intervals. now I have tuned my guitar to 12-TET, which is completely against my musical instinct. I challenge anyone to sing in 12-TET. (and then I challenge anyone to enjoy listening to it). so there was some chance that the brain actually isn't learning the intervals. one way to find out, put the capo on the third fret and try and learn six more. I was really pleased to find that it was just as much hard work as the first six had been. if it had been easy then that would mean I have just learned a musical ie relative pitch skill.

so I am tempted as an exercise:
- first learn three notes within an octave that have minimal musical connection in 12-TET eg C G# F, first learn to pitch it, then learn to recognise it
- now learn four notes within a 16-semitone span that are different
- now learn five within a 20-semitone span
- now learn six within a 2 octave span

each time the notes should be as musically obnoxious as possible, and everything learned in 12-TET
that gives 3+4+5+6 = 18 notes

so maybe a marker should be placed 9 semitones either side of the middle point of one's vocal ranege, and this 18-note contiguous cluster witha could be learned in this way

then what I would do next is split it a different way -- keep doing the same thing but choose different combinations

in fact maybe do 4+5+6+7 = 22

then 5+6+7+8

I'm going to have a try at this at some point in the next few weeks

So, at the moment I'm having to take a break, I have run into serious health problems for six weeks now and though I think am over the worst of it, I don't have the eyesight or energy to hack code. so I have been turning the fonts up really big and using speech recognition software to tidying up my website a bit.

as I will try and squeeze as much as possible into this communication, so one last note (n.p.i):

Chris, looking at your example of the child learning 'M' through ' meatball monster suMMer ' through categories, don't forget that much earlier in the child's life they learn ' baby talk ', mothers talk ' baby talk ' to their babies, nonsense 'mamama bababa booboo dada'. in fact 'baba mama dada nana kaka poopoo peepee' are some of the first words that pop out, mama is the easiest, because the child can see just from the lips what is going on. interesting huh?

so the baby gets a basic concept for each of these sounds. all Sesame Street is doing is building using these existing concepts. it builds a secondary conceptual framework, language that juxtaposes the existing phonetic base with meaningful contexts.

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Joined: Sun May 07, 2006 4:58 am

Re: Toneme System & Pitch training

Postby TS » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:06 pm

SunFishSeven wrote:It is a little over a year since I last visited the site.

I believe the tail end of the conversation was TS stating that positive pitch cannot be acquired by an adult

I don't mean to claim that adults cannot learn absolute pitch. I'm just trying to point out that a lot of the directions of exploration that might make you enthusiastic at first have already been explored and found to lead to a dead end.

By analogy you could wonder if humans can ever explore the bottom of the ocean, and you could conclude that the bottom of the ocean can be explored if you learn to hold your breath under water. You could think that your practice is giving results when you notice that last week you could hold your breath for 30 seconds, and this week you can already hold your breath for 40 seconds, and it seems that in time you will be able to hold your breath for an hour or two. Still the truth is that you will never be able to reach the bottom of the ocean just by practicing really hard to hold your breath. The bottom of the ocean was not explored by practicing really hard, it was explored by practicing really smart, by using diving bells, scuba equipment, submarines.

Similarly it seems evident that you can't learn absolute pitch just by listening to pitches really hard. It's been tried, and it doesn't work. People use constant names for absolute pitches all over the world, and they don't develop perfect pitch. People practice guessing pitches, and they don't develop perfect pitch. People associate colors with pitches, and they don't develop perfect pitch. So on and so forth.

SunFishSeven wrote: now I have tuned my guitar to 12-TET, which is completely against my musical instinct.

I actually don't believe you ever had it in any other tuning.The guitar has very limited possibilities for accomodating different tuning systems.
You may believe that your guitar is or has been in whatever tuning, but most likely it is or has been in just some random tuning, out of tune in some places, and more in tune in other places.

SunFishSeven wrote: so I am tempted as an exercise:
- first learn three notes within an octave that have minimal musical connection in 12-TET eg C G# F, first learn to pitch it, then learn to recognise it
- now learn four notes within a 16-semitone span that are different
- now learn five within a 20-semitone span
- now learn six within a 2 octave span

I think you should first think about and decide what it means to "learn three notes". Can you make mistakes and still consider yourself having learned the notes? How many mistakes are acceptable? And why? And in what conditions must you recognise the notes? When a note is played on its own? When random notes are played, followed by the note? When a piece of music is played, followed by the note?

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