I'm sitting in the car with this beautiful girl,
minding my own business and all of a sudden, out
of the blue, this horrible sound starts blaring
out of nowhere. My heart starts to race. I'm thinking
that a fire has broken out and an alarm is going
off. Or maybe a bank has been robbed and someone
has sounded the alarm! Escaped prisoners! Mayhem,
hysteria, what's going on here? I turn to the
cute brunette sitting next to me and I ask her;
"What's that hideous sound?" She turns
to me with eyes wide open, her perfect lips part
and she answers; "B flat."
Pitch - There are certain musicians who
have the uncanny ability of being able to identify
any pitch you throw at them. That means that
if you played a B flat on your instrument, they
could tell you what it was immediately with
little or no hesitation. Because of this, if
they develop this interesting ability to its
full extent, they can also learn to listen to
something and play it back without much effort.
Some musicians using this strange and bewildering
musical sixth sense can even transcribe stuff
without even using their instruments to help
them along the way. Pretty cool, don't ya think?
I know this bassist who not only has perfect
pitch; he also has a photographic memory, the
ability to look at something and kind of take
a mental photo of it, and recall it perfectly.
Just like looking at a photo for reference,
a Polaroid camera in his brain. He can just
look at a chart of anything, take a mental snapshot
of it and play it back without having to look
at the chart again. Jeez, I can hardly even
read a chart!
to get it - Unfortunately, if you don't
have it now and you're old enough to be reading
this without the help of your Mom or Dad, it's
probably going to take a little work. Most of
the musicians who have perfect pitch developed
it as kids. I would assume it's because they
started learning music while their brains where
developing and their brains got wired for sound
better then the rest of us. Guitarists generally
don't have perfect pitch. I think the reason
for this is simple: we guitarists tend to start
playing later in life. Pianists often get started
by their parents really early in life, some
as young as four or five.
- Most musicians, who have it, describe the
sounds of certain notes as colors. There are
some courses and programs to develop perfect
pitch. I don't know if they work or not but
I have an open mind. You may want to try one
of the programs out for yourself. If it works
out, let me know and I'll do it too.
Exactly Perfect - I don't have perfect pitch,
I have what we call relative pitch (I'll get
to it later). If God came out of the heavens
and asked me if I wanted perfect pitch I would
say; "Sure, God." But if he only gave
me one wish, I would chose world peace over
perfect pitch. Perfect pitch would come somewhere
between free strings for life and a complete
ban on whale hunting.
Perfect Pitch Make You the Greatest Guitarist
in the Universe? - I'm not sure, it can't
hurt. I know a lot of musicians, some of them
have perfect pitch but most of them don't. One
thing I do know for sure, perfect pitch or not,
all the really great players I personally know
have good ears. It is important to develop your
ear. I know one musician with perfect pitch,
a pianist. He can tell you what any note is,
figure out any phrase in half the time it takes
me, listen to song once and play it back for
you. But you know what? He really isn't that
hot a player. Because of his gifted ear he could
definitely be a better player than me but I
don't think he really works on all the other
stuff that I did. He doesn't write well, doesn't
understand scale/chord relationships and doesn't
seem to practice very much. I would love to
have his ear but I wouldn't trade it for the
other things that I have as a player.
Pitch - Relative pitch is a little different
than perfect pitch. People who have relative
pitch have the ability of recognizing what one
pitch is in relation to another. I know I just
confused you, sorry. I'll give you an example:
If you play one note and tell me that it is
an E note and then play, let's say, a B flat
note without telling me that it is a B flat
note, I would know what it is because my ear
tells me that the interval between the first
note (E) and the second note (B flat) is a diminished
5th. I just know the sound of a diminished 5th
interval and because I know my music theory,
I know that the note that is a diminished 5th
from E is B flat. The cute girl sitting next
to me in the car on that day in Studio City
would know the B flat without having to hear
the E note first.
Note on the Brain - To be honest, I've been
playing guitar long enough that I have a built-in
E note in my head. The reason is because the
first thing I play when I pick the guitar up
every day is the sixth string which as you know,
is an E note. After 25 years, it just kind of
got engrained in my brain. For that reason,
half the time I can usually tell what any single
note is by itself even without the first note
to compare it to. It is still relative pitch
because I'm still mentally comparing the note
in question to an E note, the E note stuck in
my brain. Someone with perfect pitch doesn't
have to compare one note to any other note (even
a mentally created one) to know what it is.
By the way, a Diminished 5th is the interval
that starts off the Jimi Hendrix song, "Purple
Haze." In the case of "Purple Haze"
it is a B flat and an E, try it. I know the
sound of "Purple Haze's" intro so
I know the sound of a Diminished 5th interval.
Relative Pitch - You can develop relative
pitch with a little practice. Take a look at
the intervals below. Memorize what they look
and sound like one by one. I also included some
song names that will help you to remember what
the intervals sound like. After you get used
to the sounds of all the intervals, have one
of your guitar player buddies test you on 'em.
I'll start with the easier intervals first:
4th - Song examples: "Here Comes the
Bride", "Amazing Grace."
- Song examples: "Twinkle Twinkle Little
Star," Theme to "Star Wars."
- Song examples: "When the Saints Go Marching
In", "On Top of Old Smoky."
- Song examples: "My Bonnie Lies Over the
Ocean," "My Way."
5th (Augmented 4th) - Song examples: "Purple
Haze" intro, "Maria" from West
- "Happy Birthday."
- "Greensleeves," "Smoke on the
- "Love Story" (in reverse).
- "Star Trek" Theme
- I have no idea for songs for this one. I offer
a challenge to all readers of this lesson: find
a common song that uses this interval and I'll
be eternally grateful. Someone once told me
the theme to "Superman" starts with
the interval of a major 7th. but the song isn't
common enough to be of any use.
Use this free site to practice and check your progress >>>
used to the sounds and shapes of all the intervals.
Move them up and down the fingerboard and on
to other strings. You will find the shapes will
stay the same till you get to the fourth and
third strings. Get together with a guitar friend
and test yourselves: have him play an interval
and see if you can tell what it is by its sound.
You'll find your ears improving a little everyday
and before you know it, you won't need a beautiful
brunette to tell the names of various daily
ear-training software for musicians that I suggest: