Hearing pitch

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by jtwang, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. jtwang

    jtwang Member

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    Yesterday I saw a live clip of Joe Bonamassa playing "I Woke Up Dreaming". A couple of seconds into the song I told my gf that this song reminded me of "Man of Constant Sorrow" for some reason, but it was not the rhythm, not the tempo, not the chord progression (blues in the key of F), not the tuning (standard but with capo at 1st). So today listened to MoCS and realized that that song too is in the (rather unusual for guitar) key of F.

    I have never played either of these songs, but I've seen "O Brother..." and heard that song a couple of times, last time I heard it was some 6 months ago. I heard the Bonamassa song for the first time yesterday.

    I figure the key of F is the reason I heard the similarities. Things like this have been happening to me more and more lately; I'm familiar with song A and I hear song B for the first time and immediately know what key it's in because it the same key as some Sinatra song from some record I have (or whatever I can relate the new song to). I've also noticed that I can tune up to pitch without a tuner when changing strings/doing guitar setup.

    I knew I have good relative pitch (intervals, chords) and just like many of us, I can usually recognize common chord forms for guitar, but I have never paid much attention to pitch.

    Anyone else with similar experiences? Is there any good reasons to try to develop this more or would that be a waste of time?
     
  2. Birddog

    Birddog Member

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    There's a similar thread out there to this one -- do a search and you'll find it. It's more about hearing songs, which I'll relate below.

    I never really tried to develop the ability, but it has come upon me after 30 years of playing.

    If I'm trying to hear a song's key, I can 'hear' the beginning of "Riding the Storm Out" by REO (lame, you say? how dare you!) which is a long, sustained A, and can compare that to almost anything I hear by walking the pitch from A up to whatever key is I'm listening to...It's a weird ability, but never fails to amaze....my wife.

    :D
     
  3. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    I believe that some people have natural pitch discrimination that simply needs to be realized. You sound like a good candidate.
     
  4. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I have something similar - but only after over 40 years of playing music!
    Personally I'd say - while you're lucky to have it - it's not worth focussing on developing it. In any situation where you need to know the precise pitch or key of a song, you will (or should) have an instrument handy to check.
    As I think most will say, it's relative pitch that is the essential musical skill, which develops naturally through experience, but can also be trained rather more easily than absolute pitch (although of course, you yourself wouldn't need a lot of training to develop the latter).
    Eg, it's more important to be able hear a chord sequence as (say) I-iv-IV-V, than to be able to hear that it's in (say) G.
    More important to know what the 9th of a chord sounds like than to know what (say) an A note sounds like.

    Obviously the two skills can support each other, but absolute pitch confers no important advantages in itself (IMO).
    As Birddog says, this has been discussed many times, here and elsewhere, and views differ.

    (In my case, btw, my "skill" is only partially (and vaguely) to do with recognising absolute pitch, and more to do with comparisons with my vocal range - IOW, it's more a relative pitch thing than an absolute pitch one. And it's only useful in the nature of a game; competing with my gf to guess keys of songs on the radio! She usually wins...)
     

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