Thursday, December 17, 2009

What? Really?? A New Post? Yesssssssssss!

My seven year old - George - has perfect pitch.

Yes I'm boasting. Well, cause it's really cool. You know, to be born - like you're brain wired naturally - to have perfect pitch. And, cause I grew him which means that somewhere in my dna, there's a tendency for that. Even tho I don't have it.

So, what is perfect pitch, you might ask? Well, hang on. Here's the story.

We were at a 'thing' where Colin found a tuning fork. He bangs it on the floor and holds it up to his ear and announces that it sounds just like a low 'c.' What? Then we realize that the tuning fork is a 'c' and I'm a little excited. At home that night, with his back to me, I started playing a few notes on the piano. One at a time, and asking him what they are. He pegged every single one, people. And no...he wasn't humming up a scale to figure it out. He just knows. Since then, we've also discovered that if you ask him to hum a certain note - he can pull it right out of his brain. "Hum a high 'e.'" He can do it.

Apparently only 1 in 10,000 people are born with natural perfect pitch. There are people who learn to do it, I guess. But, it's difficult. I sing and play the piano and a couple of other things. I couldn't hum a specific note or name any notes to save my life. I was only blessed with the ability to carry a tune in a bucket.

We waited to start Link on piano until he was about 7 or 8. Wanted to make sure he was reading and stuff first. George promptly began picking out all of Link's songs on the piano just from listening to him practice. He started reading really early too, so we got him started in lessons when he was 5. He learns fast. He adds things to his songs. He sits at the piano for long periods of time, picking things out, testing chords, studying the keys. It's fascinating. I'm NOT kidding you guys, he can't figure out how to do some very basic, human, normal things. But he can do this. He now works on the stuff his teacher gives him, teaches himself how to play songs that he likes - like music from The Legend of Zelda, or he decides that he wants to play Link's music. Link doesn't really like this, btw. But I remember my sister freaking out when I played her stuff and it was rude. ROOOOOD! So, I have just lightly and cheerfully encouraged Link to not care. So what if his little brother can play the same stuff, but never looked at any of the music?

Here's the wikipedia definition:

Absolute pitch (AP), or perfect pitch, is the ability to name or reproduce a tone without reference to an external standard.[1]

The naming/labeling of notes need not be verbal. AP can also be demonstrated by other codes such as auditory imagery or sensorimotor responses, for example, reproducing a tone on an instrument. Therefore a musician from an aural tradition, with no musical notation, can still exhibit AP if allowed to reproduce a sounded note.[2][3]

Possessors of absolute pitch exhibit the ability in varying degrees. Generally, absolute pitch implies some or all of the following abilities when done without reference to an external standard:[4]

  • Identify by name individual pitches (e.g. A, B, C#) played on various instruments
  • Name the key of a given piece of tonal music just by listening (without reference to an external tone)
  • Identify and name all the tones of a given chord or other tonal mass
  • Sing a given pitch without an external reference
  • Name the pitches of common everyday noises such as car horns
I've tried playing a chord and asking George to tell me what the notes are, but he can't do that yet. And, I hadn't considered asking him about car horns and stuff. Apparently, he wanted to learn to play the Hungarian Dance. So, the piano teacher got a copy of it for him to learn from. But he promptly informed her that it wasn't in the same key as the one he hears on Donkey Konga. Hmmm. So - he's teaching himself to do that instead.

Things that come to mind are the character in Good Will Hunting - who was a math expert cause he could just see the numbers and figure it out. Or - the kid from August Rush - who could hear music in everything around him. I'm still boasting, btw.

Here are a few famous people with perfect pitch:

Julie Andrews
Mariah Carey
Nat King Cole
Bing Crosby
Celine Dion
Ella Fitzgerald
George Frideric Handel
Jimi Hendrix
Michael Jackson
Frank Sinatra
Barbra Streisand
Stevie Wonder

Mmmhmmmm. I'm smart enough to not assume that he's going to be famous or anything. But I know he's got something special going and I think it's fantastically, amazingly, and incredibly awesome.

Now if we can get the rest of his brain to catch up ...


Landee said...

I want him to grow up to be the guy on American Idol who sits at the piano and helps them figure out their arrangements. This guy can play anything, btw.

George has a long life ahead of him as the ward organist and primary pianist. That will get him out of a lot of other unsavory callings.

Memzy said...

Micheal Jackson? REALLY?

I knew my little Bing was there. Heart him.

Yay for perfect pitch and new posts!!

Jenny ESP said...

What if one of my kids has perfect pitch and I'll never know cuz I'm tone deaf??? Does George Michael have perfect pitch? Cuz he's awesome. Anyway, congrats on having an extraordinary kid. We all deserve at least one to brag about.

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