Perfect pitch, also known as absolute pitch, is the ability to correctly identify any music note without having an audio reference.
While it may not sound like a huge feat to those that don't study music, it is an often desired skill among musicians who strive for perfection when it comes to hitting the right notes.
Many musicians and composers have been cited as having perfect pitch, but it's one of those things that are hard to determine for sure.
You would expect well-known genius composers like Mozart or Beethoven, that are noted as having "absolute pitch" to be the truth, but one cannot really know for sure! Especially for legends that are from the history books.
Musicians who use their voice as their main instrument are even harder to find; I came across several lists that included all types of instrumentalists and composers but not enough singers. I want to focus on just these gifted artists with this blog post.
It's important to note that having perfect pitch doesn't mean you hit the right notes all the time. Perfect pitch is about always being able to hear the right notes, even if they aren't being sung well.
It's a very rare thing to have perfect pitch, no matter how long and hard you study the art of music.
Many musicians like myself have what we like to call relative pitch, which means that you are usually within a half step or two from the musical note you are trying to sing accurately without reference.
Relative pitch can come from years of practicing and studying music theory over time. But perfect or absolute pitch is a skill that people can't acquire or time; you either are born with it, or you aren't.
According to educational psychologist Jill Carden, around 4% of music students are found to have absolute pitch.
When you consider those that don't study music, it is said that 1 in 10,000 people possess the skill, but that figure isn't backed by a specific study.
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Vocal heavyweight Mariah Carey is said to have had perfect pitch from a young age, where she struggled with being comfortable with performances at first and preferred the studio.
Many critics have said that she has had a scary amount of exact pitch in her performances.
This legend was hailed as having perfect pitch to the point where full bands would tune themselves to her reference notes! If that isn't a stunt and a feat as a singer, I don't know what is. Instrumentalists usually frown on the musical ear capabilities of singers.
Whitney Houston is another vocal goddess that wouldn't surprise you if you heard that she possesses the skill of absolute pitch.
All of her performances are scarily accurate in terms of melody and tonal precision; I don't doubt that she had the right notes hardwired into her brain.
Michael didn't use instruments for his songwriting and arranging process because his musical ear was so insane.
According to Rob Hoffman, "We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part."
Dimash is a very popular Kazakh singer who was a child prodigy at an insanely young age. His music teachers and parents noticed his impeccable ear around the age of 5. At the age of six, in 2000, he won the national piano contest Aynalayin.
Charlie has done many interviews and public showcases of his unique skill for identifying any pitch or song.
In a Jimmy Kimmel interview, he talked about how he would pull pranks in school with his perfect pitch powers. His skill has definitely proven to be true time and time again.
Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys was discovered by his church choir director at the young age of 8 to have the gift of absolute pitch. He soon after developed an obsession for playing the piano and composing music in addition to his singing talents.
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Leah is a popular Filipina that is well-known for being both Disney princesses Mulan and Jasmine.
She is noted for having absolute pitch as well as flawless control over her notes in live-performance settings. She was the first Asian actress to win a Tony award!
Celine Dion is said to have perfect pitch according to a source list that includes composer David Foster. It's not hard to believe that she possessed the skill with her amazingly accurate live performance notes, along with her effortless riffs and runs.
Word on the block is that Frank Sinatra had perfect pitch as well, without any formal music training. Some reports that I found claim he "acquired" perfect pitch over time, which isn't really a thing, but he, at the very least, had relative pitch.
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While perfect pitch comes with its obvious benefits, it can also be a pain to deal with as well. In choir or group musical settings, I've had friends with perfect pitch that regularly experienced headaches if people were singing out of tune.
The ability to tell pitches well can take away from the emotional and natural magic of performance at times.
It is totally okay to be pitchy from time to time, but that ringing in your ear that constantly tells you how far you are from the correct note can mess things up.
To see if you have perfect pitch, or if you are completely tone deaf, you need to have an instrument (digital or live) to help you reference pitches and a musically-trained person with you who can help verify your attempts.
You can also choose to buy a pitch-assisting tool like the one below for practice on your own.
Without a tool or a music friend with you, you will want to be able to identify any pitch by the note names given to make the process of intonation easier.
For example, if your musically-trained assistant can play a G on the piano, but aren't familiar with which note is called G and which is called C, you will need to learn your scales first.
To get a feel for what your musical ear can do without referencing actual note names, you could also try to play the game of "Guess that song key".
For example, your musical (or non-musical friend) can pick a song, and you will then need to sing it in the right key before hearing the reference.
It's probably a good idea to test at least five different pitches or songs that are unrelated, and it's an even better idea to do the test at different times to make sure you aren't just getting lucky in one moment.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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