? Merriam-Webster defines perfect pitch (also called “absolute pitch”) as “the ability to recognize or sing a given isolated note.” For a musician, this means being able to sing, for example, E4 when prompted and without any external reference tone, or to recognize the same note when it’s played on another instrument. Musicians with perfect pitch can also identify notes which sound simultaneously, such as chords played on a piano or guitar, regardless of any other sounds which may be present. They can identify the key of a piece of music just by hearing it. Perfect pitch isn’t, as some may think, an almost magical ability to understand music with no effort. While it’s thought that a small number of people are born with, or develop in early childhood, the ability to recognize certain pitches, most musicians who can do this have obtained the ability through practice. Furthermore, among non-musicians, perfect pitch doesn’t come with a complete knowledge of all tones, and these people tend to only be able to distinguish between the notes from the C major scale, or the white keys on a piano. Musicians have to take the time to learn the different notes, scales, chords, and so on. The ability to distinguish between these sounds is gained through ear training. Ear training is crucial for musicians because it teaches them to understand pitches and intervals, and the understanding of these things leads to the abilities to play music by ear, to transcribe, to compose by transferring notes in the mind to an instrument or voice, and more. Singers with perfect pitch are able to stay in-tune at all times, making it a necessity for performance. And players of string instruments such as the violin or cello need to be able to hear pitches accurately in order to stay in-tune and play in different orchestral settings. Thus, perfect pitch is a valuable skill for musicians regardless of level or instrument. Ear training represents the path to acquiring the aural skill necessary to recognize or sing a given note.
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