Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Playfulness of Perfect Pitch

During the first two times that I attempted to learn Perfect Pitch, I made the mistake of seeing each of my exercises as a job. I would force myself to sit down and train for twenty minutes every night. If I made a mistake, I would mentally beat myself up. I remember how frustrated I would get, especially during my first attempt, when I could not complete an assignment as quickly as I would like. In my mind, if I could just get through to the next lesson, then somehow, I would gain absolute pitch.

Then, on my second attempt, I made it to lesson 19 out of 24 in Burge's course. Though, my ear had grown in many ways, it was behind where it should have been. I could name name any tone on my keyboard from A3 to C5, but if I switched to another piano, or I stepped out of that range, I would lose the ability. Why was I having so much trouble?

The answer is simple, I was working at it too hard. It sounds odd, but ear training can be stunted when you work too hard at it. Absolute pitch requires a level of playfulness when you train for it. If you try and force it too much, then it will only stunt your development.

Absolute pitch is not the only form of ear training that benefits from a playful attitude. I discovered this when I was working with some frequency training by David Pensado. While practicing the exercises that he taught, I found myself giving a very playful attitude towards the techniques. I wasn't trying to accomplish anything in particular, I was simply exploring the frequency spectrum. I would slowly run a low pass filter on a song until I couldn't hear the cymbals anymore. Then I would take note of the frequency and move on.

This is the attitude that we need for perfect pitch. If we sit down and try and drill ourselves to get the notes memorized, then we are going to walk away really frustrated. Instead, we need to approach it with a sense of playfulness and discovery. We are not trying to force our ear to hear something, instead we are exploring the notes. The ear will pick up on this on its own.

See you soon,

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