What do musical legends like Mozart, Andre Previn, Stevie Wonder and Julie Andrews have in common? The answer to this question will understandably differ. Many will say a great voice. Some will say an uncanny ability to write music, but few people will mention their unique ability of perfect pitch.
Perfect pitch (also referred to as absolute pitch in some circles) is the ability of a person to recognize notes merely by listening to them. Musicians who have this attribute are capable of identifying the pitches of notes without the use of references. It is this secret ability that many of the great legends have shared.
To understand it better, consider the intriguing case of the legendary composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. Few can deny that his works in music are some of the greatest that has been shared with mankind. This feat is made even more remarkable because of the known that fact he achieved most of his best work while he was deaf. His ability to identify with music notes, even when he was not reading from a guide, allowed him to compose musical works that were so challenging, some of them could not be played be until 50 years after they had been written. And yet, despite this hearing defect, none of his many pieces had a wrong note.
This is the beauty of absolute pitch. In many ways the ability of perfect pitch is a lot like learning a new language. Just as people are able to identify words, so also can music legends such as Stevie Wonder immediately identify note pitches by just listening to them. This view is also supported by several researches which have shown that musicians who possess the ability of absolute pitch, tend to rely on an area section in the left side of their brain which is also used for processing of languages and common sounds.
Being able to understand music and not merely listen to it is what has made the difference between ordinary musicians and true greats. At the age of 6, Mozart was already a competent violinist playing in many of the courts of Europe. His early exposure to music was key to the growth of his ability in this field. By the age of 30, Mozart was so familiar with the language of music that he had written as much as 40 symphony pieces. In the same vein, many of the popular musicians today were able to gain the ability of perfect pitch from the exposure to music which they experienced as a child.
If the beauty of absolute pitch is its ability of giving musicians the extra edge to go from mediocre to great, then the option of perfect pitch training is one which every music enthusiasts should aspire for. absolute pitch is not an ability that is passed through the genes. It is one that is learnt as people grow up. Just as Andre Previn was able to build his ability over the years, so also can people today improve theirs with the right perfect pitch training methods.
It is certainly an end worth aspiring to. Five decades ago, Julie Andrews teased the world with the sound of music. Such is the mystery of absolute pitch that today, we are still amazed by the perfect symmetry of its results.