ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Know If You Have Perfect (Absolute) Pitch

Updated on May 30, 2013
Daniel Carter profile image

Daniel is an award-winning composer/author/publisher and public speaker. He speaks about life's difficulties in an inspiring way.

The Difference Between Perfect Pitch and Relative Pitch

Perfect Pitch is also known as Absolute Pitch. It means that if you ask a person to sing the note A for example, they can produce the pitch with perfect, absolute accuracy without the aid of an instrument. And they can produce any other pitch you may request of them with the same accuracy.

Relative Pitch is knowing where one pitch is, (for example C) and then as a result be able to find any other pitch (such as G flat) based on knowing the distance of the second pitch from C. The difference is that Perfect or Absolute pitch is the ability to produce any pitch name at will, while Relative Pitch is based on generally knowing where one pitch is, and then the ability to find other pitches as a result.

Relative pitch may not include the ability to recall a pitch accurately. It is usually based on having a single pitched played, then being able to find other pitches based on the distance of the first pitch to another. However, there are people who possess Relative Pitch who can recall a pitch (or perhaps some pitches, but not all) and then from there accurately produce other pitches.

Relative Pitch is Generally a Learned Ability

With training, very good Relative Pitch can be learned over time. For some, it may be developed a little easier than it is for others. Usually well developed Relative Pitch can be learned through music lessons and performance opportunities.

The Musicians by Caravaggio
The Musicians by Caravaggio

Can Perfect Pitch be Learned?

There is some debate as to whether or not learning Perfect or Absolute Pitch is possible. However, most authoritative sources agree that it is generally not a learned ability. It does seem that it can apparently be further refined as music experience and learning intensify. Some people with Perfect Pitch can identify how far sharp or flat any pitch may be, rather than only possessing the ability to identify it.

Recent research in Australia suggests that babies recognize their mother's voices as well as the pitch and timbre. This may mean that many, if not all, could be born with Perfect Pitch, but through disuse, lose it within a few years. This idea is consistent with the how children also learn their native language within the first few years of their lives, and children in multi lingual families seem to be able to switch back and forth between languages without difficulty. However, the ability to learn languages with relative ease seems to be greatly reduced over time.

There is a theory and speculation that Asian children who speak a tonal language, such as Chinese, have a greater propensity to develop Perfect Pitch because of the sensitivity to tone given to words (high, medium or low), which also relates to pitch. As a result, there are studies being conducted to determine if it is true that Perfect Pitch occurs more frequently among these groups than in western groups of children. More information on this subject can be found here.

There are courses which purport teaching Perfect or Absolute Pitch. While these courses can help develop pitch recognition, it does seem doubtful that they can actually teach Perfect Pitch. Beware of such advertisements. Such claims should be accompanied by a money back guarantee. These courses may, however, help to develop and refine other pitch recognition skills associated with Relative Pitch.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Having Perfect Pitch

While there are many items to list on both sides, here are a few of the more important issues in each category—


• help in memorizing music

• help in tuning instruments

• recognize pitches not in tune

• help singers and singing ensembles find a pitch without pitch pipe


• difficult when working with out-of-tune instruments or groups.

• ability lies in identifying absolute pitches not in relationships between intervals.

• creates difficulty in transposing music. (Can be overcome by highly developing ability to transpose.)

• difficulty in transposing music while performing. (Again, can be overcome by developing this skill.)

Other advantages and disadvantages also exist and can be found by doing Google searches and reading additional resource material.

Relative Pitch and Perfect Pitch are Both Valuable Musical Abilities

While a small portion of the population possesses Perfect Pitch, and it seems to be highly sought after by many musicians, neither of these abilities should be placed above the other in terms of musical benefit . Both are very beneficial to the world of music, and both are needed. These abilities compliment each other, and thus work harmoniously together. Which ever one you may possess is a benefit for yourself, and the world of music. In simplest terms, one is incomplete without the other.

Additional Resources and Related Articles

Smartwave Software makes a great game aimed at helping people develop their pitch recognition skills. It can be downloaded here.

Other related articles about music and music publishing include: "Learn to Read Music in Ten Minutes," here, "DIY: Publish Your Own Sheet Music," here, "How to Find a Sheet Music Publisher," here, "How to Write Parts for a Transposing Instrument," here, "How to Play Piano with Nine and One Half Fingers," (humor), here, and "A Piano Parable for Christmas," here.

Famous People with Perfect Pitch

Can Perfect Pitch Be Taught?

Washington Post

Here is complete list of articles and topics by Daniel Carter.

© 2010 Daniel Carter


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)