“I am exceedingly lucky that my voice, along with perfect pitch and perfect rhythm, was given to me at birth.” -Kate Smith

Perfect pitch is the ability to hear a note played on any instrument and to instantly know what note it is and whether or not it is in tune. Only one in 10,000 people have perfect pitch. Mozart, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Beethoven all had it but Tchaikovsky, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Stravinsky did not.

Perfect pitch was long believed to be something endowed at birth. However, researchers are beginning to uncover the psychology behind perfect pitch. In a recent study it was only found in individuals who had extensive musical training in childhood. Further, researchers in Japan actually taught 26 children perfect pitch in under a year.

In another study psychologists gradually decreased the tuning of a symphony while adults with perfect pitch listened. Not only did the listeners fail to notice the shift, but the song altered their ability to accurately perceive the pitch of notes they heard after the song was over. This all suggests that perfect pitch is not a stable trait set at birth but, rather, is malleable and can be both learned and disrupted by experiences.

Yesterday we looked at the brain of Einstein, a mathematical genius, and today we considered the brains of musical geniuses. Both discussions led to a similar conclusion: the human brain has a remarkable ability to change and adapt.

Even as adults we can learn new skills and doing so has been shown to counteract some effects of brain aging. A tip some researchers have suggested for keeping your brain fit as you age is to turn everyday activities into new skills by, for instance, brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s