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It is said here that 1 in 10,000 people have absolute pitch. I wonder if there is any serious poll that could confirm this.

Do you know any study that could tell how common/uncommon it is to have absolute pitch ?

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1 Answer 1

Those numbers are a rough estimate, and only applies to US citizens.

Wikipedia has a thorough overview of the relevant information, here. The most salient points:

  • Absolute pitch seems to be a cognitive act. It's a property of our brains, and not our ears
  • Most people exhibit some ability or sub-components of absolute pitch
  • Absolute pitch appears to be trainable to a very high degree. It can be taught/learned.
  • Different populations have different percent exhibition for absolute pitch - some estimates for chinese speaking populations go as high as 40-50%.

So, two answers to your question:

  • 1/10000 is a rough estimate for US citizens exhibiting absolute pitch
  • Since absolute pitch is trainable, and most people exhibit some components of it, it's unlikely we can get better than a very rough estimate.
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Just to support this answer: When you've listened to the same song a million times, you'll probably find yourself humming it, or "hear it" in your head. When you've done this many times you'll often find that you've remembered the pitch correctly. This is also a great way to practice it - to just regularly check if you're humming the right tone by checking it on the piano –  Saebekassebil Aug 22 '12 at 20:04
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Most people asking about "perfect pitch" have this idea that it is genetic and innate. The evidence seems to deny this possibility. It is very difficult to disentangle language and training from the phenomenon. –  horatio Aug 28 '12 at 17:15
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@MeaningfulUsername: I am absolutely certain your friends who you think exhibit this have training in it. I know non-professional people who play games trying to guess (named) pitch of notes. The fact is that if one has the words to describe the pitch, they have training. The earliest studies in children suggest that (a) people have a natural ability to identify pitch in some manner, and (b) people who are raised without tonal languages gradually "lose" the ability. Now couple that with the answer above regarding trainability. –  horatio Mar 27 at 15:19
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Where do you see me denying personal differences in people? This is the typical binary discussion that many people have about these types of things. "Perfect pitch" is distinct from "fast-processing relative pitch" in every single discussion I have seen on the topic, including scholarly articles. "Better at recognizing pitch" is not Perfect Pitch. The topic here is not about actualizing potentials, it is about how common is something that hasn't been established to exist. –  horatio Mar 27 at 15:40
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My point it that might never know because language and training in and of itself is required to test it: the biological facility is not accessible without priming it. I think this differs quite a bit from your summation? –  horatio Mar 27 at 15:55

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