Music

Can you really acquire perfect pitch?

David Lucas Burge claims that you can. I’ve seen his ads in music magazines for years. He tells a story from his youth where, frustrated by a classmate’s seemingly God-given ability to discern pitches, he figured out on his own how to identify pitches without using a reference pitch (known as “relative pitch”). I never bought his course, though always lamented what I believed were my sub-par listening skills.

I have not played much over the twelve or so years since I last gigged, and struggled mightily in transcribing the music for my MA thesis. Once I figured out a song’s key, I didn’t have a very difficult time plucking out the melodies on my guitar or piano and notating them on manuscript paper, but I know I could have done it more efficiently.

I finally gave in and ordered Burge’s Perfect Pitch Supercourse in the hope that I can sharpen my ears, even if I don’t develop the miraculous “perfect (or absolute) pitch.”

I’ve gone through the first three “Masterclasses” so far, and he is very long winded, and repeats himself ad nauseam regarding the tone “colors”, the difference between timbre colors and tone colors, the subtleties of the colors and not to listen too deeply for these characteristics. I’m not sure if there is a reason for this constant repetition, and am just getting to the part where the exercises begin – with buying a box of crayons. Hmmm.

I must say, however, that of the tones that he has used so far, F# and Eb, I have gotten pretty good at distinguishing them, and can hear a bit of what he is talking about. I even picked out a G before he announced what it was, without relating it to the other pitches, and new instantly it wasn’t the F# and Eb that he had been focusing on. I’ll report my progress during the course.

I was surprised to see that he lives in Hawai’i, or at least he did at the time that this set was published.

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