Saturday, October 17, 2009
The 'Location' behind Perfect Pitch
Perfect pitch (PP) was considered a genetic anomaly - identical twins are far more likely than fraternal twins to have PP, and ~50% of people with PP have relatives who also have it. New studies, however, reveal that PP is far more common form of "speech" which can be learned.
In the study, English speakers read the same list of words on different days and their pitch for any given word varied by as much as 2 notes. But speakers of tonal languages (e.g. Vietnamese, Mandarin) hit the exact pitch, day after day, and an unusual number had PP. In Mandarin, depending on pitch, 'ma' can mean "mother," "horse," "hemp," or "to scold."
Pitch range was tied to geography so much that researchers guessed where subjects or their parents grew up. Range predictability suggests pitch recognition develops early on, perhaps in the womb.
Moreover, researchers recommend giving children musical instruments, preferably with labeled notes (e.g. a color-coded xylophone) as PP people have a higher rate of synesthesia - seeing a color when hearing a sound.