Absolute pitch and timbre

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Space
Posts: 178
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 5:54 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Absolute pitch and timbre

Postby Space » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:50 pm

This subject has come up before but I thought I'd revisit it.

I really feel like, as far as the basic concept goes, Bryce Alexander was onto something (though I never got his full course).

The more I streamline my AP eartraining, and the more I focus on this 'pitch chroma' thing, the more I feel that 'pitch chroma', or at least a considerable portion of the basic perception of pitches sounding different from one another is a function of timbre. Or, more specifically, the way each pitch as a fundamental with a specific 'locked in' set of overtones occupies not just one location, but a group of locations along the basilar membrane.

I hypothesize this based on my own personal experience of each pitch's 'chroma' being a kind of physical shape that mimics a pattern in my vocal mechanism. The sensation of pitch chroma (for me) is VERY similar to the perception of timbre, so much so, that I feel it is a direct extension of it.

This may also explain the hypothesis that natural AP development in children is related to speech development.

Just thought I'd revisit that notion. It just becomes more and more evident to me as a personal experience the more I focus solely on 'chroma' and less on various RP cues to ID pitches.

Rob

Nikolayman
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:57 am

Postby Nikolayman » Tue Jan 07, 2014 2:17 pm

Are you saying that different timbres occupy different locations on the basilar membrane even when the chroma is the same? I have to review the biology on this, but to me it would seem that each of the chroma creates a pattern on the membrane, and the timbre creates another effect. the pattern of the chroma (chromus/um singular?) of one pitch should directly relate to the chroma pattern of the pitch any number of octaves above or below it.
By the way, what instrument are you using for your training? - if you are using multiple instruments, how does the timbre affect your perception of chroma?
Also I think I saw that you had used the Burge course at one point. How do you feel about that course?

Space
Posts: 178
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 5:54 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Postby Space » Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:14 pm

Not that different timbres occupy different locations. Any pitch tends to be a fundamental frequency accompanied by an overtone sequence pattern that is common to all types of vibrating structures. The pitch of the overtones can be slightly off due to physical considerations but in general, this pattern is practically a mathematical constant of the universe.

So, all manner of pitches of all manner of timbres will produce the same overtone sequence. My point being that there is more than just the memorization of the fundamental frequency of a pitch at hand.

Not to mention AP'ers routinely score worse on tests where the pitches are pure sine waves. Clearly, the overtones add something to the picture.

As far as my own training, I started with Burge back in 1998 but moved on to other things. I've experience pretty much everything he discusses in his accompanying booklet firsthand so I feel that he is spot on in terms of his philosophy concerning AP. His method, however, is pretty weak, IMO. Having to get a partner is near impossible for most people. I would just read his booklet and listen to the lecture CDs to get his idea of it and move on to using various apps and programs like APA and such.

I have a program called "Absolute Pitch Dictator" where you can select each note to be a different timbre for single notes and for chords, each note in the chord is a different timbre. I also do this with APA as a rule now. So every single example I hear while playing APA is in a different timbre.

The "chroma" of a pitch isn't really affected by timbre, other than the fact that some timbres obscure the chroma more than others. For example, "G" is a very rough, twisted sound to me that tends to stand out above all other pitches, but if a timbre is particularly smooth and rounded, it can obscure that quality pretty well and I might mistake it. But it doesn't mean that the timbre has changed the chroma. It has placed a kind of 'mask' over top of it. Over time, it becomes less and less of an issue.

Nikolayman
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:57 am

Postby Nikolayman » Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:22 am

Ok I believe I understand what you are saying now. I'd like to look into those apps and APA. The one thing that I imagine they would be missing is the meditative facet of Burge's regimen. I've tended to use that method a lot, however at this point I am trying to incorporate a routine that includes more pitches in shorter periods - it sounds like those apps would be valuable in that regard. So apparently chroma is the singular and chromata the plural!

Space
Posts: 178
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 5:54 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Postby Space » Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:35 am

Chroma/Chromata. Ha, that works I guess :p

I honestly don't like the terms "Chroma" or "Color" in reference to whatever it is that makes the pitches sound different. Unfortunately, there isn't much else.

Nikolayman
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:57 am

Postby Nikolayman » Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:57 am

Yea I agree they're not the best terms.. I like the term "pitch qualities" but of course that could refer to different things.


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