Absolute pitch

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Absolute pitch (AP), widely referred to as perfect pitch, is the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of an external reference.

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Definition

Absolute pitch (AP), or perfect pitch, is the ability to name or reproduce a tone without reference to an external standard.[1]

The naming/labeling of notes need not be verbal. AP can also be demonstrated by other codes such as auditory imagery or sensorimotor responses, for example, reproducing a tone on an instrument. Therefore a musician from an aural tradition, with no musical notation, can still exhibit AP when asked to reproduce a sounded note.[2][3]

Possessors of absolute pitch exhibit the ability in varying degrees. Generally, absolute pitch implies some or all of the following abilities when done without reference to an external standard:[4]

  • Identify by name individual pitches (e.g. A, B, C♯) played on various instruments
  • Name the key of a given piece of tonal music just by listening (without reference to an external tone)
  • Identify and name all the tones of a given chord or other tonal mass
  • Accurately sing a given pitch without an external reference
  • Name the pitches of common everyday noises such as car horns
  • Identify the numerical value in hertz of a given note.

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