Magazine article USA TODAY

Acquiring "Perfect" Pitch Now Possible

Magazine article USA TODAY

Acquiring "Perfect" Pitch Now Possible

Article excerpt

If you are a musician, this sounds too good to be true: psychologists at the University of Chicago (III.) have been able to train some adults to develop the prized musical ability of absolute pitch, and the training's effects last for months. Absolute pitch, commonly known as "perfect pitch," is the ability to identify a note by hearing it. It is considered remarkably rare, estimated to be less than one in 10,000 individuals.

Perfect pitch always has been a very desired ability among musicians, especially since several famous composers, including Wolfgang Mozart, reportedly had it. The assumption has been that this special talent has a critical period to be established in childhood based on early musical training and that it was not possible for adults to acquire the skill.

Howard Nusbaum, professor of psychology, and colleagues tested how much an individual's general auditory working memory capacity can predict the success of acquiring absolute pitch. This study follows up from the group's previously published work, which shows that people with absolute pitch can be "retuned" in about 45 minutes of listening, demonstrating that absolute pitch is not so absolute. The new study shows that people without absolute pitch have the ability to learn notes quickly as well. …

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