I've seen many quizzes on "perfect pitch and do you have it"? They all play sounds and ask you to name it. But perfect pitch or not wouldn't one have to have some music training to know the designated names? How would one see if they had perfect pitch if they had no music background?


One experimental method which does not involve naming pitches is to ask people to sing well-known songs which they most likely "learned" by listening to the original recording (e.g. "Waterloo" by Abba, "Imagine" by John Lennon, etc.) and compare their pitch with the original.

See https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f977/811c9023707817eb026a9710b047a115a3a5.pdf for such an experiment, and http://www.doc.gold.ac.uk/~mas03dm/papers/Frieleretal_LevitinReplication_2013.pdf for a replication of it.

One conclusion from the original study was that accurate pitch memory is fairly common (40% of the random experimental subjects demonstrated it to some extent) but pitch naming is much rarer - and as the OP says, the "naming" aspect must be learned behaviour, not innate.

  • +1 for an interesting take on 'learned' pitch. After several years of repetition most days, I can hit a concert C to within 50cents,. What would that be called? It certainly isn't absolute pitch, and it can't be relative. – Tim Jul 12 '18 at 15:47
  • @Tim - A late answer but it's probably muscle memory. – chasly - supports Monica Nov 7 '20 at 23:45

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