Poll : Do you have perfect pitch?

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Allen
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Poll : Do you have perfect pitch?

Post by Allen » Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:00 pm

No perfect pitch? Blame your genes.


http://news.com.com/8301-13580_3-9767153-39.html

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Post by Ralph » Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:49 pm

Nope, I don't even have imperfect pitch. :cry:
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Post by Chalkperson » Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:51 pm

Ralph wrote:Nope, I don't even have imperfect pitch. :cry:
Me Neither... :wink:

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Post by slofstra » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:29 pm

The article states 47% of women and 53% of men have perfect pitch. I don't think so. To me 'perfect pitch' means you can hum any note, like B-flat, on command. There are people that can do this.
What do you call 'sight reading'? To me, it means you can sing a piece in your mind, or you can play the piece correctly from the sheet music, the very first time you see it.

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Post by Ralph » Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:59 pm

Well, these folks say you can learn "Perfect Pitch."

http://www.perfectpitcheartraining.net/ ... PgodzE0eYg
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Post by IcedNote » Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:07 pm

Ralph wrote:Well, these folks say you can learn "Perfect Pitch."

http://www.perfectpitcheartraining.net/ ... PgodzE0eYg
I recently did a research paper on "learning" perfect pitch. My findings suggest that it IS possible. However, it will not be instantaneous. Those who are "born" with it can identify a pitch as quickly as they can identify a color (assuming they're not colorblind!). Those who "learn" it still have to take a second to think about it. I fall into this latter category.

I even came across a study at the University of Wisconsin that suggest that EVERY human is born with it. However, since perfect pitch is not required for survival, most of us lose it before we'd ever think to apply it.

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Post by slofstra » Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:15 pm

There was a movie called "Perfect Pitch". Here's a bit of the plot synopsis from IMDB.

"Chuck Wang is called in. Surprisingly, they respond to his introduction about rooting for an underdog. It quickly goes sour, however, when Chuck introduces the details of classical music and genius. The spark of an idea gets tossed around though, and soon becomes unrecognizable as an idea about a baseball pitcher throwing a perfect game in the seventh game of the World Series. Chuck is congratulated for his brilliant concept, and is whisked out. "

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:03 am

I do not have absolute pitch (the preferred term), and this caused a huge controversy once on the other board (GMG). It is entirely an either/or proposition and yes, genetically based, with no gray area. And only a very few people relative to the population have it.

Perhaps part of the issue is that some people here have never known anyone who has it; I have known a number who do. I assure everybody, it is completely a different world.

P.S. If the issue is going to be raised about the great composers, vastly disproportionately they had this sense, but it is not necessary to have it to be a great composer. Haydn, Wagner, and Stravinsky to name but three, all lacked it.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 29, 2007 5:01 am

No.
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Post by Teresa B » Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:18 am

Nope. I've found that after so many years of piano-playing, I can identify specific tones if they're played on a piano. And really only the middle couple of octaves at that. So the timbre must be the tipoff. (Maybe that way you could sort of "learn" absolute pitch--but why bother??)

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Post by greymouse » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:11 am

I have almost perfect pitch. I remember pieces in my head in the correct key so if I hear a tone it's compared against those. However, it's not as powerful and effortless as some people have. It sometimes takes a few seconds to click, and I can't distinguish microtones or any of that silliness.

I was born with remembering music in the right key, but the ability to think in terms of chords, keys, and intervals didn't come until I started playing and writing music obviously. Transpositions do often get under my skin because it feels like 2 pieces are playing at once.

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Post by karlhenning » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:21 am

I don't have 'fixed' absolute pitch. Generally, over a couple of weeks of intensive work on a given piece, I'll get something of an 'absolute pitch imprint' and I know where readily to find the pitch. (Whenever we work on Nuhro, for instance, I live in G.)

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Post by Heck148 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:50 am

jbuck919 wrote:Perhaps part of the issue is that some people here have never known anyone who has it; I have known a number who do. I assure everybody, it is completely a different world.
it's true - these people are truly different.

some performing musicians have it, but certainly not the majority, IME. performers must have good relative pitch

at conservatory, many of the absolute pitch people were the theory "nerds" :lol: :roll:
these people were amazing - it you went up to a piano, and simply crashed out a random tone cluster, held down the keys, some would be able to identify every pitch sounded.

for performers, it is probably best off to have very good "relative" pitch...

I've known quite a few really outstanding people in this regard - one guy could sight-sing anything - all by relative pitch, by interval - he could sight-sing atonal music extremely accurately, with huge intervals and no tonal center...he was truly gifted.

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Post by greymouse » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:56 am

A mistake musicians make I've noticed in trying to develop perfect pitch is sitting around beating a little hammer or banging a piano key tearing their hair out. :P Using real music is the way. Imagine a piece or just some random song in your head, then play it on CD. If it is in the same key you imagined, you have the basic talent and you can develop the ability to sing atonal music without a starting pitch.

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:02 am

Heck148 wrote: I've known quite a few really outstanding people in this regard - one guy could sight-sing anything - all by relative pitch, by interval - he could sight-sing atonal music extremely accurately, with huge intervals and no tonal center...he was truly gifted.
Well, that is a question of ear training and a method called solfege, which means that you learn to sing intervals out of context. I can do it to some extent, but never aced the course, so to speak. Some of the best trained people in the world in this regard are English choir boys. The King's college choir gets an "A" at the beginning of rehearsal and never another note.

People with absolute pitch have their own set of problems, though they are nice problems to have. If anything is transposed, they have to transpose it. And concert pitch has changed by about a half-step since the 18th century, meaning that Mozart would hear any of his works as being in the wrong key.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Ken » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:35 am

I haven't perfect pitch, but I do know somebody who is genetically-blessed with perfect pitch, and it makes an excellent party trick indeed:

"Do it again!"
"Fine..."
(piano note sounds)
"Eb."
(resounding laughter)
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Post by karlhenning » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:38 am

jbuck919 wrote:People with absolute pitch have their own set of problems, though they are nice problems to have.
Dunno. A nice lady at First Congo seems to find it really irritating when a piano is tuned 'low'.

Tangentially, I've sometimes wondered about the intersection of different tuning temperaments, and perfect pitch . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by karlhenning » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:43 am

jbuck919 wrote:. . . And concert pitch has changed by about a half-step since the 18th century, meaning that Mozart would hear any of his works as being in the wrong key.
Another tangent, and mind you, I don't have money on it either way.

But what if Mozart did not have absolute pitch, not in this 'hard-wired' genetic sense, but simply excellent relative pitch, which (combined with his constant practical musical work) would serve quite 'functionally' as absolute pitch. How would we in the 21st century know, one way or the other?

Cheers,
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Post by Heck148 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:43 am

karlhenning wrote: Tangentially, I've sometimes wondered about the intersection of different tuning temperaments, and perfect pitch . .
There are indeed problems....I remember one violinist who claimed to have absolute pitch - absolutely awful pitch was more like it - she really played badly out of tune....

she could sort of identify pitches on hearing them - but as far as putting them in the right relationship to surrounding pitches, she was a disaster...

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:11 am

karlhenning wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:People with absolute pitch have their own set of problems, though they are nice problems to have.
Dunno. A nice lady at First Congo seems to find it really irritating when a piano is tuned 'low'.

Tangentially, I've sometimes wondered about the intersection of different tuning temperaments, and perfect pitch . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
There is of course the famous story of Brahms, who had absolute pitch, though it is irrelevant to this anecdote, playing the B-flat concerto of Beethoven. The piano was tuned so low that the orchestra could not tune down to it. Brahms simply played the whole thing in B.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by BC » Wed Aug 29, 2007 11:16 am

karlhenning wrote: Tangentially, I've sometimes wondered about the intersection of different tuning temperaments, and perfect pitch . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
A luthier I know had a customer return again and again complaining his guitar would not stay in tune. Eventually he worked out the guy had perfect pitch and heard the tempered scale as "out of tune".

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 11:46 am

BC wrote:
karlhenning wrote: Tangentially, I've sometimes wondered about the intersection of different tuning temperaments, and perfect pitch . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
A luthier I know had a customer return again and again complaining his guitar would not stay in tune. Eventually he worked out the guy had perfect pitch and heard the tempered scale as "out of tune".
Bach, who had absolute pitch, was of course the most famous exponent of equal temperament. For those who disagreed with him, including his close friend the organ builder Silbermann, he would toss off a fugue in A-flat minor or some such key and it would drive everybody out of the church.

I don't exactly disbelieve your guitarist story, but a guitarist can adjust the tune of his instrument to his own liking. An organist cannot.

Tangentially (again) there is a huge school of thought about proper tuning of keyboard instruments that can look insanely like a cookbook collector's club. I used to post on the organ mail list sponsored by the University at Albany, and some people there would go to bizarre extents to advocate alternative tuning systems. One guy even claimed he retuned his harpsichord every time he switched from one composer to another.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by IcedNote » Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:45 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
BC wrote: I don't exactly disbelieve your guitarist story, but a guitarist can adjust the tune of his instrument to his own liking. An organist cannot.
I believe what he was referring to is the fact that guitarists will tune their guitar slightly differently when playing a piece in A-major as opposed to G-major.

How do I know? I'm a guitarist. :roll:

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Post by karlhenning » Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:47 pm

Now's the time to reveal the invention of the organ-capo!

Cheers,
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Post by greymouse » Wed Aug 29, 2007 4:18 pm

karlhenning wrote:Now's the time to reveal the invention of the organ-capo!

Cheers,
~Karl
:lol: I think the closest we've come to that is Ives banging wooden blocks on piano keys, but the future may hold promise for more.

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Post by Opus132 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:16 pm

jbuck919 wrote:And concert pitch has changed by about a half-step since the 18th century, meaning that Mozart would hear any of his works as being in the wrong key.
Heh, you don't have to have perfect pitch for that. A lot of HIP recordings sound blatantly out of tune to me, and while i managed to get more or less used to them there's quite a few performers which i avoid like the plague (Manze for instance still makes me cry).

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:16 pm

greymouse wrote:Ives banging wooden blocks on piano keys
What is this with modern "composers" compulsion to abuse the piano thus? Someguy thought it was a sign of genius for some dimwit to run a piano thru a wall and call that "music." Revenge perhaps for hours of practicing as a child when they would rather have been out shooting hoops with their pals?
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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:48 pm

Opus132 wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:And concert pitch has changed by about a half-step since the 18th century, meaning that Mozart would hear any of his works as being in the wrong key.
Heh, you don't have to have perfect pitch for that. A lot of HIP recordings sound blatantly out of tune to me, and while i managed to get more or less used to them there's quite a few performers which i avoid like the plague (Manze for instance still makes me cry).
There is a huge difference between flat and sharp on the one hand and out of tune on the other. Many especially older "original instrument" performances have their out of tune moments. It is not the same as a difference in concert pitch.

For years, my (unused) vocal audition piece was the movement from Bach's Cantata, Christ Lag in Todesbanden, "Hier ist das rechte Osterlamm" I could manage the pronunciation, the ornamentation, I have a decent voice, but the problem is that at the very end he covers a span of two octaves (from E5 to E3) in the space of a single measure. Either you get the top or you get the bottom, but very few people can get both. (Even Fischer-Dieskau did not manage this.) And it all depends on what you choose for concert pitch.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:52 pm

Opus132 wrote:(Manze for instance still makes me cry).
Not looking for a fight here, just information. Why?
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Post by Opus132 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:04 pm

jbuck919 wrote: There is a huge difference between flat and sharp on the one hand and out of tune on the other. Many especially older "original instrument" performances have their out of tune moments. It is not the same as a difference in concert pitch.
But it's not that they have mere 'out of tune moments', i'm talking about the whole piece. I have a recording of Handel's Keyboard Suites performed by Ludger Remy which sounds completely off from start to finish. Even Leonhardt sounds out of tune most of the times (both his solo keyboard as well as orchestral recordings), though not as much as other HIP performers.

I don't know a lot about theory but the difference has to be substantial for being so noticeable.
Last edited by Opus132 on Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Opus132 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:08 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: Not looking for a fight here, just information. Why?
Because he sounds completely out of tune, and i mean a lot.

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:10 pm

Opus132 wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: There is a huge difference between flat and sharp on the one hand and out of tune on the other. Many especially older "original instrument" performances have their out of tune moments. It is not the same as a difference in concert pitch.
But it's not that they have mere 'out of tune moments', i'm talking about the whole piece. I have a recording of Handel's Keyboard Suites performed by Ludger Remy which sound completely off from start to finish. Even Leonhardt sounds out of tune most of the times (both his solo keyboard as well as orchestral recordings), though not as much as other HIP performers.

I don't know a lot about theory but the difference has to be substantial for being so noticeable.
Mr. Opus, you need to be tested for absolute pitch. It is an easy test (I could do it for you in a cold minute). I don't know what the level of your musicianship is, but some people who don't know they have it just don't know notes. It is not necessary to be a trained musician (as opposed to am avidlistener) to have absolute pitch. As far back as high school I knew a girl who had absolute pitch but could not read a note of music.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Opus132 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Mr. Opus, you need to be tested for absolute pitch. It is an easy test (I could do it for you in a cold minute). I don't know what the level of your musicianship is, but some people who don't know they have it just don't know notes. It is not necessary to be a trained musician (as opposed to am avidlistener) to have absolute pitch. As far back as high school I knew a girl who had absolute pitch but could not read a note of music.
Well, i doubt it, and it would be quite redundant if i did, since i'm not a musician and never owned an instrument in my life. I also can't read notes, so i don't know how easy it would be to test.

But really, i think anybody who has a decent ear could spot a difference between those:

http://rapidshare.com/files/52155531/Co ... y.zip.html

http://rapidshare.com/files/52156118/Lu ... y.zip.html

Perhaps it's merely the tone of the instrument that is different and i'm just getting confused? Either way, i simply can't shake the impression Remy is playing on a different pitch then Tilney.

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:16 pm

Opus132 wrote: Well, i doubt it, and it would be quite redundant if i did, since i'm not a musician and never owned an instrument in my life. I also can't read notes, so i don't know how easy it would be to test.

.
Here is exactly how I would do it, and trust me, it is an infallible test, and I'm sure you could find a musician close to you who could do the same thing.

I would play four notes on any instrument and tell you their technical names (I don't think you'd have much trouble remembering the letters of an ordinary scale). I would then let you rest for approximately five minutes, and would play you four more notes. Some would be the "test" notes, and others would not. You would either get it, or you would not.

People with absolute pitch remember a pitch the very first time they hear it, even if they are only three years old. They cannot miss in identifying it; they only need the name of the note.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Opus132 » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:23 pm

jbuck919 wrote: I would play four notes on any instrument and tell you their technical names (I don't think you'd have much trouble remembering the letters of an ordinary scale). I would then let you rest for approximately five minutes, and would play you four more notes. Some would be the "test" notes, and others would not. You would either get it, or you would not.
Fair enough, didn't know it was that easy to test. I'll definitely give it a try, though i'm not holding my breath.

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Thu Aug 30, 2007 12:33 am

Perfect pitch? We play cricket, not baseball, Down Under.

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Post by BC » Thu Aug 30, 2007 5:22 am

jbuck919 wrote:
I don't exactly disbelieve your guitarist story, but a guitarist can adjust the tune of his instrument to his own liking. An organist cannot.
You say you don't exactly disbelieve the story and in so doing imply that you don't exactly believe it either.

I have no reason to doubt its truth. The person who told me it isn't the type to make this kind of thing up. It's possible he misunderstood what was happening but it seems unlikely: he was an experienced professional luthier, and alternative explanations for what happened don't spring very readily to mind. His customer was a beginner and completely baffled by his guitar not sounding in tune (to his ears) in some parts of the neck.

It is scarcely relevant that a guitarist can tune his own instrument. He can vary the tuning of the open strings. He can't alter the spacing of the frets, based on equal temperament.

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Post by Auntie Lynn » Thu Aug 30, 2007 9:41 am

Yep, got it all -- absolute pitch, relative pitch, perfect pitch - but it's a double-edged sword...as mentioned above, if the turntable's off, it's a nightmare because the whole orchestral score has to be transposed up or down in the mind's eye (as the case may be)...

But it helps in identifying "certain uncertainties..."

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Post by diegobueno » Thu Aug 30, 2007 9:59 am

Opus132 wrote: But it's not that they have mere 'out of tune moments', i'm talking about the whole piece. I have a recording of Handel's Keyboard Suites performed by Ludger Remy which sounds completely off from start to finish. Even Leonhardt sounds out of tune most of the times (both his solo keyboard as well as orchestral recordings), though not as much as other HIP performers.
Most likely they have their instruments tuned to a non-equal temperament system of the sort that would have been in use during the early 18th century. If your ears are accustomed to modern equal temperament, those other tuning systems are definitely going to sound weird.

Here is one of many online explanations of historical temperament issues (I expect some people here already know all about this, but here it is anyway):

http://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~oneskull/3.6.04.htm

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 31, 2007 2:28 am

Auntie Lynn wrote:if the turntable's off, it's a nightmare because the whole orchestral score has to be transposed up or down in the mind's eye (as the case may be)...
That was how I could tell my turntable needed servicing. I have relative pitch but some pieces I know very well, and when the entire composition down-shifted, I called the repair guy. He thought the thing okay, so I insisted he test it with an oscilloscope or something like that, and I was right.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 2:57 am

BC wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
I don't exactly disbelieve your guitarist story, but a guitarist can adjust the tune of his instrument to his own liking. An organist cannot.
You say you don't exactly disbelieve the story and in so doing imply that you don't exactly believe it either.

I have no reason to doubt its truth. The person who told me it isn't the type to make this kind of thing up. It's possible he misunderstood what was happening but it seems unlikely: he was an experienced professional luthier, and alternative explanations for what happened don't spring very readily to mind. His customer was a beginner and completely baffled by his guitar not sounding in tune (to his ears) in some parts of the neck.

It is scarcely relevant that a guitarist can tune his own instrument. He can vary the tuning of the open strings. He can't alter the spacing of the frets, based on equal temperament.
Frets or no frets, guitars are infinitely retunable by turning the tuning knobs. This sounds like a case of the same kind of compulsive thing I was talking about with the pipe organ e-mail list. Frankly, if tuning is such a fetish, get another job. If Bach had it figured out, it doesn't need to be re-thought.

But don't fret, I don't wish to make a federal case of it. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

absinthe
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Post by absinthe » Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:32 am

There are always intonation problems with guitars, particularly the electric variety (though I suspect the occur on acoustics but pass (usually) unnoticed by most people. The B string (II) is particularly vunlenrable and the tuning is compromised to get it almost right.

The strings would seem to be the same length nut to bridge so that an exact octave occurs at the 12th fret on every string. As the frets are fixed why should it be otherwise? Except if you look at the bridge of a modern guitar you'll find the bridge point for each string is adjustable and usually set differently so in fact the strings are not the same sounding length. A lot goes in to making these compromises - the "bend" of the neck, the action, the height of the frets, the type of string....
Last edited by absinthe on Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

anasazi
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Post by anasazi » Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:32 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Auntie Lynn wrote:if the turntable's off, it's a nightmare because the whole orchestral score has to be transposed up or down in the mind's eye (as the case may be)...
That was how I could tell my turntable needed servicing. I have relative pitch but some pieces I know very well, and when the entire composition down-shifted, I called the repair guy. He thought the thing okay, so I insisted he test it with an oscilloscope or something like that, and I was right.
Doesn't your table have a pitch control adjustment? You must own a real oldie of a turntable. Even my old cheap Technics has a dial where I can adjust the speed a bit, and a little strobe light to show me when it's right.

Oh, the poll: I don't have perfect pitch. I don't even always have relative pitch. That's not very good for a pianist who would like to play more jazz.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 31, 2007 4:34 am

anasazi wrote:Doesn't your table have a pitch control adjustment?
This was in 1967. It was an older console model with a radio and big as a book case. Nothing fancy. I have gone thru many systems since then.
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BC
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Post by BC » Fri Aug 31, 2007 6:13 am

jbuck919 wrote:
BC wrote: Frets or no frets, guitars are infinitely retunable by turning the tuning knobs. This sounds like a case of the same kind of compulsive thing I was talking about with the pipe organ e-mail list. Frankly, if tuning is such a fetish, get another job. If Bach had it figured out, it doesn't need to be re-thought.

But don't fret, I don't wish to make a federal case of it. :)
No, they are not "infinitely retunable": that is the point. No matter how an open string is tuned, the relationship of different fretted notes on that string to one another is a compromise to achieve equal temperament. The beginning guitarist heard these as irritating dissonances because he had some kind of perfect relative pitch.

As indicated, he was a beginner, so your "get another job" jibe is a non-sequitur; nor was he an obsessive, just someone who couldn't understand why his new guitar didn't sound in tune.

Bach did not have this "worked out" - he merely thought the compromise was worth it. Perhaps he didn't have as sensitive an ear as the beginner guitarist in question. We have no way of knowing, although I have no doubt that probability and hoary prejudice in tandem can achieve absolute certainty on this point. :wink:

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 6:44 am

BC wrote:
Bach did not have this "worked out" - he merely thought the compromise was worth it. Perhaps he didn't have as sensitive an ear as the beginner guitarist in question. We have no way of knowing, although I have no doubt that probability and hoary prejudice in tandem can achieve absolute certainty on this point. :wink:
I doubt very much that anyone who ever lived except his few peers as composers had as sensitive an ear as Bach. If someone writes two sets of preludes and fugues that cover all the keys, including those that no one has ever composed in otherwise, the reason cannot be "compromise."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

BC
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Post by BC » Fri Aug 31, 2007 7:28 am

I have neither the time or the expertise (or indeed the necessary level of interest) to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of just temperament, well temperament, equal temperament etc. I understand that some people believe that Bach himself would have had problems with 12 tone equal temperament (and, by implication, the tuning of guitars?) but again I feel insufficiently well informed to enter the debate.

However seems clear that, however much might be gained from having a system of tuning that allowed modulation, it was achieved through compromise: I am no great defender of received wisdom, quite the opposite, but am at a loss in understanding why you think this particular piece of received wisdom is wrong, or why you think Bach's composing in different keys is evidence either way.

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 7:39 am

BC wrote:I have neither the time or the expertise (or indeed the necessary level of interest) to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of just temperament, well temperament, equal temperament etc.
Evidemment.

People who wish to rethink the situation of tuning in Bach's time and second guess him are buying into what amounts to a conspiracy theory. There is something called having the last word, and it is not had by the latest hack who thinks he can out-think Bach.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

BC
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Post by BC » Fri Aug 31, 2007 11:00 am

I have tried to understand your basic argument, but the logic once again escapes me. Your implication appears to be that Bach's views on the subject of equal temperament are known beyond doubt; but that there are nevertheless people who are conspiring to pretend that he believed something else; and that these people mistakenly believe that they are cleverer that he is. They would indeed need to be clever to know Bach's views better than he knew them himself!

Here is Wikipedia:


J. S. Bach wrote The Well-Tempered Clavier to demonstrate the musical possibilities of well temperament, where in some keys the consonances are even more degraded than in equal temperament.

I am not suggesting that Wikipedia is an unimpeachable authority, but I imagine that this is reasonably close to the orthodox view, although it apparently differs from your own. Perhaps the Wikipedia contributor is one of the "hacks" you refer to - but isn't he or she making an honest attempt to understand what Bach thought rather than claiming to know Bach's views better than Bach knew them himself?

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 12:40 pm

I have heard this argument before and it is simply wrong. It is propounded by "experts" who usually have no ear themselves who believe that keys have ""personality" characteristics beyond the tonic being at a different pitch, a charming notion but one cut entirely out of fantasy. It is impossible to write works through the complete cycle of keys as Bach did without a "wolf" appearing somewhere in anything but equal temperament.

Why the great composers chose a specific key for each composition must remain one of the great mysteries. They are not answerable to us for the difference between specific key and tuning. And some of them, including Bach and Beethoven, occasionally transposed their own compositions.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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