August 26, 2008

Perfect Pitch May Be Heard Often

New York researchers say a new test shows that more humans have "perfect pitch" than expected.

The ability to recognize and remember a tone without a reference is much more common than commonly believed, say researchers at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Their findings were presented Wednesday in Sapporo, Japan, at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and described in a news release Tuesday.

"Tests for perfect pitch have always demanded that subjects already have some musical training or at least familiarity with a particular piece of music, which really limits the pool of candidates you can test," says Elizabeth Marvin, professor of music theory at the world-renowned Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. "That means nobody really knew how prevalent perfect pitch is in humans in general."

Their test corresponded with results of conventional tests for perfect pitch in musicians, which the researchers say strongly suggests the new test works. But Marvin and other researchers said they were surprised by the number of non-musicians who used perfect pitch to identify groups of notes but did not know they had perfect pitch.