perfect pitch. what about perfect timing?

diosdude

Silver Member
I haven't played a melodic instrument since 9 years old (guitar), yet i think i have perfect pitch (i can sing the first note of every one of my favorite songs, and subsequently the entire song exactly in tune and key). I often get into very heated discussion with my lead guitarist and bassist over tempo. I hate banging them over the head with it, but i always insist that they concede tempo to me. Even when they challenge me with a metronome, i always come out in the right. Perfect pitch is a widely accepted theory, some say that you can be born with it. Is perfect timing even something that is discussed?
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
If you read up on people who actually have "perfect pitch", it's more than just correctly singing the first notes of all your favorite songs without a reference. It has to do with "seeing" each pitch as a color in your mind. One of my friends actually has it, and I've picked his brain about it many times. I don't understand how he "sees" pitches, and he doesn't understand how I don't. He's the same way with math. He "sees" numbers and shapes as different colors. It's really weird, but it has helped him go far in life with his career (computer programmer/mathematician). He's also a kick-ass musician. He pictures melodies as a series of color schemes, and he can instantly tell you what notes are being played in a solo, and repeat it immediately after hearing it.

So, you probably don't actually have perfect pitch, in the true sense of the term, but you have a good memory for specific pitches, which is excellent to have as a musician. I sing often, and groups I sing with don't need a pitch pipe with me around. As for "perfect timing", I doubt that something actually exists. I have a few "key" tempos memorized, but I couldn't count off to you the difference between 120 and 125 successfully. Just like pitches, tempos CAN be memorized, but should only be relied upon if you're 100% sure you've got them down. It sounds as if you probably do, so kudos!
 

tbmills

Gold Member
If you read up on people who actually have "perfect pitch", it's more than just correctly singing the first notes of all your favorite songs without a reference. It has to do with "seeing" each pitch as a color in your mind.
having a sense (like hearing) cross over into other senses (like sight or taste) is called synesthesia. a few famous musicians have it like duke ellington, john mayer and pharrell williams. seeing or tasting sound is synesthesia.

perfect pitch is simply the ability to be on pitch without any external aid.

i think your friend may have a little more than he thought.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
perfect pitch is simply the ability to be on pitch without any external aid.
It's the ability to identify quantifiable pitches without any sort of reference. You can acquire relative pitch and pitch memory, but perfect pitch is something different altogether. Yes, it's not quite synesthesia (that's an extreme case, and my friend has been medically studied), but it's definitely not the same thing as pitch memory.
 

Dalton M

Member
Sorry for getting off topic, because I don't know about perfect timing, but just note that being able to identify a pitch isn't all to having perfect pitch. My friend has it and he's also able to tell you exactly how sharp or flat you are, without using any relative pitch.

I think that you might have relative pitch, and subsequently relative timing.
 

tbmills

Gold Member
It's the ability to identify quantifiable pitches without any sort of reference. You can acquire relative pitch and pitch memory, but perfect pitch is something different altogether. Yes, it's not quite synesthesia (that's an extreme case, and my friend has been medically studied), but it's definitely not the same thing as pitch memory.
yes. being a human tuner is perfect pitch. and yes anyone who spends time around music can become comfortable with memorizing pitches. seeing color in sounds or tasting chocolate when someone plays an E is synesthesia.
 

ddamm27913

Member
If you read up on people who actually have "perfect pitch", it's more than just correctly singing the first notes of all your favorite songs without a reference. It has to do with "seeing" each pitch as a color in your mind. One of my friends actually has it, and I've picked his brain about it many times. I don't understand how he "sees" pitches, and he doesn't understand how I don't. He's the same way with math. He "sees" numbers and shapes as different colors. It's really weird, but it has helped him go far in life with his career (computer programmer/mathematician). He's also a kick-ass musician. He pictures melodies as a series of color schemes, and he can instantly tell you what notes are being played in a solo, and repeat it immediately after hearing it.

So, you probably don't actually have perfect pitch, in the true sense of the term, but you have a good memory for specific pitches, which is excellent to have as a musician. I sing often, and groups I sing with don't need a pitch pipe with me around. As for "perfect timing", I doubt that something actually exists. I have a few "key" tempos memorized, but I couldn't count off to you the difference between 120 and 125 successfully. Just like pitches, tempos CAN be memorized, but should only be relied upon if you're 100% sure you've got them down. It sounds as if you probably do, so kudos!
this is that brain condition called savvaunt (sp). theres tv specials on it. it's kind of like autism.

your friend is gifted
 

KzSgDrummer

Silver Member
I have perfect pitch, and I WISH I had perfect timing/tempo. Occasionally I don't count off a song where it should sit, but my problem more has to do with recognizing tempos of the music I'm listening to.

The feel of a song throws my brain for a loop, and by that I mean I could hear three different grooves ( (let's say one with machine-like unaccented 16ths, one with open quarters, and a montuno) all at the same tempo and my brain will think the difference between the three is something like 15 BPM.

To make up for this deficiency I have one or two key grooves that I'll play with my hands to get a better sense of where it sits ("oh, this is definitely more around 102 than 110"), but even then it's far from an exact science, unlike this perfect pitch business I possess. At any rate, I rarely leave home without my little Boss DB-30 pocket metronome, and I'm always drilling different tempos into my head with that thing. Hell, I'm doing it right now! 122 at the moment...
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Donald Fagen is said to have perfect timing. There is a story where Peter Erskine practiced a piece for two weeks at one twenty and then went in to lay down the track, and Donald Fagen said it was slow. He clocked it at 119. Peter Erskine tells this story at clinics. Supposedly, the guy who plays with Steely Dan now, Keith Carlock, has a perfect sense of metric timing and that's one of the reasons why Fagen hired him. I don't know how much of this is true.
 

fugazi

Member
Donald Fagen is said to have perfect timing. There is a story where Peter Erskine practiced a piece for two weeks at one twenty and then went in to lay down the track, and Donald Fagen said it was slow. He clocked it at 119. Peter Erskine tells this story at clinics. Supposedly, the guy who plays with Steely Dan now, Keith Carlock, has a perfect sense of metric timing and that's one of the reasons why Fagen hired him. I don't know how much of this is true.
what you mean with metric timing?
 
L

lewisn27

Guest
My music teachers Ex- fience (<-sp) has perfect pitch and every time she heard an instrument that was tuned off the perfect pitch, she was sick. It was something to do with the vibrations coming from the instrument, it just made her fell sick and sometimes even throw up. Strange, strange things happen in the world of music.
 

That Guy

Platinum Member
My music teachers Ex- fience (<-sp) has perfect pitch and every time she heard an instrument that was tuned off the perfect pitch, she was sick. It was something to do with the vibrations coming from the instrument, it just made her fell sick and sometimes even throw up. Strange, strange things happen in the world of music.

Strange yet interesting.
 

fugazi

Member
My music teachers Ex- fience (<-sp) has perfect pitch and every time she heard an instrument that was tuned off the perfect pitch, she was sick. It was something to do with the vibrations coming from the instrument, it just made her fell sick and sometimes even throw up. Strange, strange things happen in the world of music.
Do you perhaps know what happens when she hears drums? Because drums can't really be off-pitch, or does 'her brain' still want to have it on-pitch?
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
I thought perfect pitch was the ability to identify any single note?

In any case, it sounds like an ego issue with you and the string players. If they want to challenge you on it, let them, even if you think it's your turf. Correct timing is everybody's business.

Also, if something sounds out of tune to you, don't hesitate to whip out a tuner and check them.

Correct pitch is everybody's business.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
what you mean with metric timing?
If you have perfect pitch, you can sing a pitch by ear or hear a pitch and identify it. If you have a perfect sense of metric timing or tempo, let's say, you can play at a given metronome marking by ear or hear something and identify its metronome marking.
 

jonescrusher

Pioneer Member
this is that brain condition called savvaunt (sp). theres tv specials on it. it's kind of like autism.

your friend is gifted
No, he's describing synthesthesia. The 'Savant' condition is a rare symptom of severe autism. Synesthesia is usually experienced by people of otherwise regular health. Perfect pitch doesn't have to occur alongside synesthesia.
 

KalashnikoV

Member
If you have a perfect sense of metric timing or tempo, let's say, you can play at a given metronome marking by ear or hear something and identify its metronome marking.
One of the instructors for my high school drum line used to be able to do that sort of stuff. It was incredible–we'd play a click and he'd be able to consistently clock it within 2 bpm of the actual tempo. Given, he was a professional percussionist and snare drummer who had been playing with and tutoring all sorts of orchestras for years.
 

abe

Senior Member
My music teachers Ex- fience (<-sp) has perfect pitch and every time she heard an instrument that was tuned off the perfect pitch, she was sick. It was something to do with the vibrations coming from the instrument, it just made her fell sick and sometimes even throw up. Strange, strange things happen in the world of music.
Hmm... I wonder how would she survive in baroque period when many instrument where tuned differently? ;)
 

rockitman

Senior Member
Perfect timing is relative, unlike perfect pitch.

Donald Fagen is well known for being tremendously picky about his drummers and timing.
That's why Steely Dans music tends to be so groove specific. If I dare say so, music like that would be a bore if it weren't for the well crafted melodies.

The timing of any rhythm section is truly relative to what they are playing. Meaning that the effect that a instrumentalist uses to swing is entirely different than what is executed on a slow ballad or a hard straight foreward rock tune. That being said, we all know it is best to lay the beat back a bit on ballad, swing it when necessary, and drive the beat on a rocker. Perfect timing is more about phrasing correctly than recognizing the BPM.
 
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