Good Relative Pitch can get you through APA

Comments and questions about AP Avenue.
pooispoois
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:20 am

Good Relative Pitch can get you through APA

Postby pooispoois » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:47 am

Hello everyone, I have an interest in AP research (I am convinced that it can be taught, we just do not have effective methods yet). Out of this interest I downloaded the demo and started playing APA. I am an active musician (mostly on the violin, although started on the piano). I definitely do not have perfect pitch (I do not even have a good pitch memory, I always have to tune my violin's A by the tuner even though I hear it all the time).

Yet I breezed through the first 37 levels of APA, even with the "random instrument" option (selected about 80 of the available MIDI instruments). It wasn't even a challenge, and it was boring that I had to hear the melody again in each level, since it was unnecessary, I still had the "target pitch" in memory from the previous level. I stopped at that point since clearly I wasn't learning any new skill.

What this leads me to conclude is that you can probably go through APA without absolute pitch at all, even without needing to learn a new skill such as "hearing chroma". Good relative pitch is probably sufficient. I kept the target pitch in memory as the "tonic", if you are used to playing complex music that deviates from the tonic a few measures at a time you are used to this. I think the hard part that stumps some APA players (taking into account the discussions on the board) is not "hearing chroma" but a separate skill, being able to decode a chord into constituents. Which is not easy at all (requires practice), but is a skill which is taught in standard relative pitch training (ex. determine the inversion of a chord that's being played) and is not related to absolute pitch at all. With that skill, you can just keep the pitch in short term memory (ex as "tonic") and check if it is one of the notes in the chord being played. Even the "chord decoding" skill does not need to be at a very high level, because it's slightly easier to answer the question "Is this one of the tones in the chord" than to sing each individual tone in the chord.

aruffo
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Re: Good Relative Pitch can get you through APA

Postby aruffo » Sun Sep 03, 2017 1:19 pm

That's why there are more than 37 levels.

pooispoois
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:20 am

Re: Good Relative Pitch can get you through APA

Postby pooispoois » Sun Sep 03, 2017 5:08 pm

Are the levels beyond 37 qualitatively different or just harder versions of the first levels (progressing through denser and denser cluster chords structures)? I am a programmer in my day job and I drafted up a quick text based version of the game (based on the same principles of identifying what chords contain the target tone, with parameters controlling how "hard" the chords are, ex a 6 note chord containing the target tone in between two semitones is harder than a two note chord with notes in two different octaves). Increasing the difficulty to arbitrary levels made it progressively more difficult to identify where the target tone is contained, but not so much that relative pitch alone wasn't enough to solve it.

Most musicians with advanced relative pitch are able to 1) sing the constituent notes of a chord they hear and 2) identify whether the established tonic is or isn't in the chord. This seems enough to beat the game. Of course if you hear the target tone one day and then only hear the chords one week later we are talking about a different matter, but as far as I understand the game is built on hearing the target tone (with the meldoy segment) and then identifying where it is contained immediately after/a few minutes after (allowing the lingering of a "tonic" in short term aural memory).

aruffo
Site Admin
Posts: 1684
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2004 12:09 pm
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Re: Good Relative Pitch can get you through APA

Postby aruffo » Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:29 am

I think it's probably fair to say that you're right, in that the further levels are "just harder versions" of the earlier levels. The increasing levels see the target tone situated in increasingly complex chords and sequences.

But scientifically, psychologically, it doesn't matter whether you're "using relative pitch" or any other specific strategy to locate and identify the tone. Although it might not seem obvious, the game's goal isn't to help you learn to identify the tone. The process of identifying the tone in all these different contexts forces your brain to start using chroma to make each identification. By identifying the same tone in multiple contexts, your mind "peels away" all the timbral characteristics and tonal harmonies to get at the chroma. That is, your brain recognizes what part of the signal stays the same (the chroma) versus what changes (everything else). The more complex the situation, the more that gets "peeled away", but you have to work up to it step by step. A listener's specific strategy is, therefore, irrelevant; it doesn't matter whether you're listening for "the tonic" or "C" or "the melody tone" or whatever, because the process of making that decision makes your brain perform perceptual differentiation to isolate that tone's chroma.


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