As the title suggests I have a form of perfect pitch that is not exactly perfect pitch. So let's say I hear a melody. I can name the notes as I hear them if they're not insanely fast of course. The thing is that if it's flat or sharp ... I have no clue about it. My mind adjusts to the scale and will just call out the right note according to which scale is the melody on. So for example, let's say someone plays the notes " Eb G Ab" I will call them out as E G A. But by grabbing the instrument and knowing what I just said I can reproduce it right away.

My problem is chords. I'll listen to a chord and I'll be able to identify the top most note right away but that's about it all. I fail to distinguish the rest of the notes in the chords. Lately I managed to listen to the bass too but I want to do what it seems easier than it is to me for most people I interact with, which is to identify chord quality (major/minor/Dom7 e.t.c e.t.c)

I have the impression that this "semi perfect pitch" or whatever it is is getting in my way so I'm asking for ear training suggestions. I also think I have a bad memory cause I can't remember what I hear. I'm already going for the interval ear training and can identify the intervals melodically but again when it comes to chords it seems extremely hard to me.

Just more info: I developed my type of pitch recognition by reading sheet music as a classical guitar player and always speaking the topmost note (the melody usually) in my head. Doing this for years trained my ear to adjust to scale and speaking notes. Adjusting to scale because I never said "E flat or F Sharp" they were just E and F. And no I don't need a reference tone to start doing it.

I also have bad aural memory. If I don't act instantly on what I hear it vanishes from my memory. Which is doing this even harder for me. I'm hoping that by developing my recognition skills it will become easier to memorize music since I can file it in a "visual/photographic" way which is stronger for me than memorizing sounds.

2 Answers 2


Based on what you've said, I believe you need to learn how to distinguish between notes with the same note name but different accidentals first. You say you refer to Eb as "E" depending on the context. But that nomenclature will doom you the moment you read music that suddenly switches to the tonic minor. You see, the only difference between a C major chord and a C minor chord is the middle note: E natural for C major, and E flat for C minor.

I believe this is getting in the way of your ability to learn chord qualities. When you refer to both Eb and E natural as "E", I fear that's why you almost cannot distinguish between major and minor chords.

So play those notes with the same note name but different accidentals consecutively. Reliably label all your Gb's, G naturals, and G#'s. When you can do that for all such notes, then you can try identifying major and minor chords.

Start easy. Maybe get a teacher or a helper. When I was young, my piano teacher trained me to identify major and minor chords by playing them, then asking me whether I just heard a major or minor chord. You may need similar ear training.

Save identifying dominant 7ths, diminished chords, etc. for later. Major and minor chords can already be hard enough to distinguish. (I also have absolute pitch but a somewhat poor time identifying chord qualities--I'm slow to recognize diminished and augmented chords, and inversions of half-diminished 7th chords can trip me up to the point where I don't initially think they're half-diminished 7th chords. At least I reliably recognize major and minor chords, though.)

  • I'm not sure what you mean by "doomed when reading music that switches to the tonic minor." When it comes to playing my instrument by reading music I have no issues at all. I'm actually really good at reading sheet music. I'm bad at identifying what I hear. I also know music theory and the difference between minor/major - Just in case you thought I'm untrained. I also can identify minor/major if I have the time but at a moving setup (listening music) I can't be consistent. It's more about how much info I can retain in my memory which is not much. So it has to become spontaneous.
    – Not Amused
    Aug 31, 2018 at 6:34

I had similar problems. What helped me out was using certain exercises on a good website


Got to the interval section and select harmonic intervals and pick some simple distances. After a week you will smash it !

  • Thanks for the link. I'm actually already using a site like the one you mentioned (tonedear.com). The thing is as I say at a comment to another answer: I can already identify the intervals if I have the time. Which that's exactly what sites like that do. You have to much time to think. When it comes to playing/reproducing what you hear or matching on to what you hear you don't have time to think. It has to happen instantaneously. And that's what I'm trying to train/improve. So the bottom line of the problem is that even if I know how an interval sounds. I can't use that in practice.
    – Not Amused
    Aug 31, 2018 at 6:42

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