Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Perfect pitch: Knowing the note may be in your genes

Date:
October 23, 2012
Source:
Acoustical Society of America (ASA)
Summary:
People with perfect pitch seem to possess their own inner pitch pipe, allowing them to sing a specific note without first hearing a reference tone. This skill has long been associated with early and extensive musical training, but new research suggests that perfect pitch may have as much to do with genetics as it does with learning an instrument or studying voice.

Child with tuning fork. New research suggests that perfect pitch may have as much to do with genetics as it does with learning an instrument or studying voice.
Credit: Rob / Fotolia

People with perfect pitch seem to possess their own inner pitch pipe, allowing them to sing a specific note without first hearing a reference tone. This skill has long been associated with early and extensive musical training, but new research suggests that perfect pitch may have as much to do with genetics as it does with learning an instrument or studying voice.

Related Articles


Previous research does draw a connection between early musical training and the likelihood of a person developing perfect pitch, which is also referred to as absolute pitch. This is especially true among speakers of tonal languages, such as Mandarin. Speakers of English and other non-tonal languages are far less likely to develop perfect pitch, even if they were exposed to early and extensive musical training.

"We have wondered if perfect pitch is as much about nature or nurture," said Diana Deutsch, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego. "What is clear is that musically trained individuals who speak a non-tone language can acquire absolute pitch, but it is still a remarkably rare talent. What has been less clear is why most others with equivalent musical training do not." Deutsch and her colleague Kevin Dooley present their findings at the 164th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), held Oct. 22 -- 26 in Kansas City, Missouri.

To shine light on this question, the researchers studied 27 English speaking adults, 7 of whom possessed perfect pitch. All began extensive musical training at or before the age of 6. The researchers tested the subjects' memory ability using a test known as the digit span, which measures how many digits a person can hold in memory and immediately recall in correct order. They presented the digits either visually or auditorily; for the auditory test, the subject listened to the numbers through headphones, and for the visual test the digits were presented successively at the center of a computer screen.

The people with perfect pitch substantially outperformed the others in the audio portion of the test. In contrast, for the visual test, the two groups exhibited very similar performance, and their scores were not significantly different from each other. This is significant because other researchers have shown previously that auditory digit span has a genetic component.

"Our finding therefore shows that perfect pitch is associated with an unusually large memory span for speech sounds," said Deutsch, "which in turn could facilitate the development of associations between pitches and their spoken languages early in life."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "Perfect pitch: Knowing the note may be in your genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023124000.htm>.
Acoustical Society of America (ASA). (2012, October 23). Perfect pitch: Knowing the note may be in your genes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023124000.htm
Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "Perfect pitch: Knowing the note may be in your genes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023124000.htm (accessed March 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins