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There is a question here about the musician who can only identify the pitch of the one single note correctly. Well, this is not completely worthless maybe and could replace a tuning fork.

However I wonder, how often the perfect pitch would not span over all usual sound range? It is always limited at least by the sound range a human is able to hear, but could it be more limited than a typical musical range?

For instance, could anyone have a perfect pitch for just one or two octaves, for instance? Or even more narrow?

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    I don't think that's what the questioner meant. They were saying that when they hear a pitch, they can name tunes that start with the pitch. I don't think that "certain" in that question meant a single specific pitch. At any rate, I can't answer definitively, but I will say anecdotally that I've met and worked with many people with perfect pitch, and it was never a small range or only a few specific pitches. Extremely low or high pitches seem to give at least most of them trouble, but I'm talking about notes so extreme that they barely register as pitch anyway. Sep 20 '15 at 12:31
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    Musicians tend to have a much higher accuracy naming notes that are played by their primary instrument. For example, if I were a flutist, it would be easier for me to develop "perfect pitch" naming the flute's notes and/or hearing notes played in the flute's range. Nov 23 '15 at 6:15
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As someone who has absolute pitch, I can speak from experience: I cannot tell notes apart in the extreme high range. My ability to distinguish notes drops off significantly around 10 kHz or so. Extremely low notes are fine for me (provided they are audible), but I play the bass guitar, for what that's worth; I'm not sure if I've merely had more practice listening in the low range or if those notes are objectively easier to hear.

I discovered that my ability to identify notes was limited when a friend asked me what pitch a CRT TV makes when it's powered on. I couldn't give him a definite answer.

Despite what many people think, perfect pitch is not perfect. Many people with "perfect" pitch (myself included) sometimes think a note should be a couple hertz sharper/flatter when it is actually in tune.

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    Yiu wrote: "Many people with "perfect" pitch (myself included) sometimes think a note should be a couple hertz sharper/flatter when it is actually in tune." I wonder how you define "in tune"? If you, on a violin on the D string, play D-E-F♯ then the F♯ should be intonated rather sharp as a leading note to G in order to sound in tune. But if you play a double stop F♯ on the D string and the open A string then you need to flatten the F♯ in order to play a minor third in tune in just intonation. None of these two might be the same F♯ as the F♯ on a piano, but both of them are in tune. Sep 6 '21 at 8:24
  • I define "in tune" as the standard 12-TET tuning used on modern pianos, since that is the dominant tuning I grew up listening and tuning my instruments to. If you ask me to tune my violin by ear, I'll often tune my A string to 438 or 439 hz instead of 440, because this sounds "in tune" to me without a piano reference.
    – McGlothlin
    Sep 7 '21 at 19:39
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I am a Bassist and I have perfect pitch in low frequencies. It starts to weaken in mid frequencies, and weakens more still in high frequencies (though I can still "color hear" in these frequency ranges, just not/no where near as well respectively). I can "color hear" notes on my own instrument (Double Bass and Electric Bass) the best, but the ability does pass over to other low pitched instruments too (such as the Tuba, Bass Trombone, lower regions of a a Piano). I can work out chords, but have a tendency to work them out from the bottom up (I will work out the lowest note using perfect pitch, and the rest of the notes using a mixture of perfect pitch and relative pitch). Beyond that level of perfect pitch/absolute pitch/color hearing I have to resort to relative pitch in order to get by.

The timbre of the instrument that someone plays, and it's pitch range (or in the case of a Keyboardist the main range that they play in) drastically affects any color hearing that a person may develop, so no, absolute pitch does not cover the full sound range.

I personally do not like the term perfect pitch as, let's face it, it's definitely not perfect. There are different levels of it too, from basic color awareness to universal color hearing. It is my belief that very well developed relative pitch is probably superior, but getting to that point takes years of practice.

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My personal experience with my acquisition of absolute pitch is that I indeed initially could only identify the pitch of the one single note correctly - Middle C. That was back in Grade 8. It took me years to learn/index all 12 notes in 12TET by heart with absolute pitch instead of using relative pitch to derive them from the fewer notes I could identify with absolute pitch. So yes, people can indeed have single-note absolute pitch range.

(On a related note, my ability to identify the key of a musical excerpt by ear - also a form of absolute pitch - was also similarly spotty, with me often only being able to identify certain keys for years and needing to use reference pieces of classical music back then - and this time, relative pitch to fill in the rest wasn't much use.)

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  • Similar experience: I seem to recognize the A (the tuning-fork 440 Hz-ish one) reliably on different instruments; yet I do not have absolute pitch even within one semitone tolerance on my primary instrument. It's almost like all piano notes are sounds, except for A, which says "A" when played.
    – rfbw
    Sep 6 '21 at 18:50
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I'm pretty sure that a sinousoidal sound wave actually registers as exactly one pitch in the ear. Other periodic functions can be expressed as an infinite sum of sinousoidal functions each of which has a frequency that's a multiple of the frequnency of the periodic function plus a constant function. I heard that the range of frequencies humans can hear goes from 20 to 20,000 Hz. That's probably just approximate for most people. I'm guessing that that range is true only for the sinousoidal tone. If a 10 Hz sinousoidal sound wave is played you probably can't hear it but if 10 Hz of another tone is played, you might hear it and it might sound very wierd because if you express it as an infinite sum of sinousoidal waves, you can't hear the sinousoidal wave that's 10 Hz. I've noticed that I could not sense the relative pitch of very low notes on the piano compared to higher notes. That might be the reason. Maybe the reason is because hair cells in the ear for very low notes register a wider range of frequencies. I think the same might also be true for me about really high notes that I can't sense relative pitch of them. Also, I believe the math shows that for sound whose frequency is more than half the highest frequency sinousoidal wave that you can hear, you can't distinguish between one periodic sound wave of that frequency and another periodic sound wave of the same frequency if the latter sound wave is changed in amplitude to sound the same volume.

I think that for almost all people who have absolute pitch, of the pitches they can sense relative pitch for, if they can sense absolute pitch for one of those pitches, they will be able to figure out how to sense absolute pitch for any of those pitches. I don't know that for sure. If that's so, then maybe people didn't bother inventing a very precise definition of absolute pitch for that reason.

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My daughter has perfect pitch. She can figure out notes outside the piano range from both ends. Some people can only hear the instrument of what they play. Some people can hard all different sounds as notes. The main advantage for perfect pitch is violin-like instruments and singing. Piano teachers with perfect pitch is great; They can hear all the wrong notes, especially the left hand. Speedy recovery from a wrong note on piano is also the advantage from PP.

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    Perfect pitch doesn't help identifying wrong notes, neither does it help recovering from wrongly played notes.
    – Tim
    Oct 4 '16 at 16:56
  • @Tim What do you mean? Perfect pitch can be useful to detect wrong notes immediately, where people without perfect pitch might not notice them.
    – Karlo
    Jul 12 '18 at 9:20
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    @Karlo - whilst that may be true, just about everyone with relative pitch finds detecting wrong notes immediately simple and useful. The two are not the same, and absolute (perfect) pitch will be helpful in identifying a note's name, in isolation, but relative pitch won't, however, the latter is far more useful in a musician's situation, where a single isolated note isn't often played.
    – Tim
    Jul 12 '18 at 9:56

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