I've been playing classical guitar for a few years and my theory is not bad. I also think that I am really good at detecting relative pitch and chords. I can play most of the things (solo or chords) I hear by ear, and say if a chord is major, minor etc.

The problem is that, I cannot detect the absolute pitch easily. Sometimes I remember a song that I was listening some time ago, and while it plays in my mind I can play it on my guitar, too. And when I start playing the song on my computer, what I see generally is that I just transposed whole the song without knowing. Sometimes it is only a half step, sometimes half a scale. Also, I can say the scale of a song, but not the key.

Is there any special exercise that I can do to improve this?

  • I changed perfect pitch to absolute pitch in your question. Absolute pitch is that a song is in a particular, single key. Perfect pitch is a person's ability to recognize a note as being a particular pitch.
    – Karen
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 13:55
  • Thanks! At first I made it absolute but on a few Google searches I saw the term perfect, so I thought it was the actual term.
    – Seyf
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 14:16
  • 1
    I've never been aware of any difference between the terms "absolute pitch" and "perfect pitch" (wikipedia even claims the later is another popular term for the former), and I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're making here. But I do agree that "absolute pitch" is a more clear term, especially when opposed to "relative pitch". Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:38
  • Perfect Pitch is the ability to match pitch by ear (such as singing along to a song). Absolute Pitch is the ability to produce any pitch without external reference or context. Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 16:22
  • 2
    @jjm - just trawled through a dozen references to PP and AP, nearly all refer to them as the same. Is one a misnomer? Most times they are interchangeable. AP is becoming the more acceptable term for knowing a note name, but where did the PP reference come from? I thought that was 'able to sing in tune'.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 16:40

4 Answers 4


I used to have the same problem.

I don't know if there is actually an "official" absolute pitch training, but I bet it's a long journey.

Now, here's an easy thing you can do as a good start:

  1. Pick up a few "reference" tunes that you know by heart, and for which you know you can remember the pitch perfectly without any help. It could be songs you know since you're little, or ones you actually listen to very regularly. (for example I use the first notes of Bach's Toccata in D minor)
  2. Remember the scale of these reference tunes. (easier if the scale is in the name: the toccata in D minor is actually in D minor!)
  3. Whenever you're listening to some new song you plan to cover, shut your ears and play one of your reference tunes in your mind, then relatively determine the scale of the new song by comparing it with the scale of this tune you know by heart. Remember it.

Then when you try to cover the song with your instrument a few minutes later, you will know the scale of your song in advance, and there won't be any bad surprise when you compare your version to your computer's one anymore.

  • Thanks for your comment! I can keep some absolute pitches in my brain, but when I listen even a short portion of a song, they suddenly become relative again. :)
    – Seyf
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 7:39

As eyam said, a song you know really well from when you were young is good to play and then check by listening to it. Problem being that as soon as you know how to play it/ knowing which key/frets/fingering you start in, you are no longer testing your absolute pitch.

Might be better to wake up every morning and have that note playing in your head, then go to your guitar and play the note and see if its the same. Or even better, humm the tune into your guitar tuner because if you are getting good / within a semitone you will need to see how far out you are.

EDIT: the morning part when you wake up is because you have no musical influence then. You could argue that if you hear a song on the radio that for the rest of the day you are just using relative pitch. I don't have absolute pitch just relative pitch and if I hear a song I like on the radio it can play in my head until the evening and still be in key.

  • Thank you! In the morning, I can tune a guitar almost perfect. After listening a few songs? It is a terrible experience. I'll do the humming and also I got a pitch pipe in key of A.
    – Seyf
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 7:44

Even though I’ not a musician, I've always had the ability to identify notes on the guitar and piano from their pitch. By the way I recommend Mnemonics for Perfect Pitch if someone wants to acquire some level of absolute pitch.


The ability to aurally remember a song in the correct key (or within two semitones) is called the Levitin Effect. It is discussed in Sometimes I naturally sing songs in the right key. Do I have perfect (absolute) pitch?

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