Perfect Pitch Blog 03

Hollywood Bowl

Phil “conducts” at the Hollywood Bowl

So – my final blog (for now) on Perfect Pitch or Absolute Pitch. and other related matters. Thank you for the comments so far. I’ve had to disable them on the blogs as I got over 120 spam comments last week for trainers and other dodgy goods!

Further facts and figures: I stated that 1 in 10,000 have Perfect Pitch but more – 1 in 1500 – musicians have it, which makes sense. My friend and colleague Tim Fletcher, who I believe has been studying this area too, commented on Blog 01 (go read!) about the brain’s ability to recall not just pitch but tempo, tonality, timbre e.g. the sound of a singer singing the song. Thanks Tim – very valid points for further research!

In addition to Tim’s first example, I’ve added 9 more names of pieces of music and performers that hopefully will demonstrate your ability to recall these in detail – and perhaps with personal memories linked to this too:

  1. Frank Sinatra – New York, New York
  2. Julie Andrews – Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music
  3. Europe – The Final Countdown
  4. Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
  5. John Barry – The James Bond theme from Doctor No
  6. Idina Menzel – Let It Go
  7. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen
  8. Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
  9. LSO with John Williams – Star Wars main theme
  10. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells

I hope that was an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

I’ve realised I’ve not had the time to thoroughly research or analyse my own experience as a musician or teacher of music and dyslexia so I’ve pulled together some available resources to assist musicians, parents and teachers. Click the links to open other pages or to download PDF guides.

The first place I started was the British Dyslexia Association and their general information on Music and Dyslexia. Another useful resource is their Guide for Teachers.

That took me to the ABRSM and Trinity exam board guidelines and support for SEN and music exams. Most notable were the ABRSM’s extensive resources: General guide to exams, Candidates with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Candidates with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other learning disorders and their Fair Access document.

Another resource is this document by Dyselxia Scotland on Dyslexia and Music.

According to Entertainment Scene 360, dyslexic musicians include:

  • Cher
  • Toyah Wilcox
  • Noel Gallagher
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Nigel Kennedy

This page states that famed dyslexics John Lennon, Mozart and Beethoven were urban myths rather than proven cases.

Composers with Perfect Pitch include Saint-Saëns and Souza – probably Mozart too from the age of 3. However, this page by Dan Jacob Wallace focuses on composers who probably didn’t have Perfect Pitch and that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t!

Further to my previous blog mentioning the planum temporale – a region of the brain which is mapped larger on the left compared with the right (“leftward asymmetry”), research by Keenan et al (2001) shows that it is more prevalent in musicians with Perfect Pitch (or Absolute Pitch, AP) than others.

However vague Wikipedia references and more detailed links state that the planum temporale of dyslexic people are often more equally symmetrical; that this may or may not cause Dyslexia; and the leftward asymmetry of the PT was due to older mapping techniques which might not be valid given new technology… Back to square 1.

A final link for now is the Preschool page for The te Velde Conservatory of Music in California who recommend that gifted toddlers should be immersed in classical music and get lessons (with them) from the age of 2 or 3 if Perfect Pitch is going to be learned. Worth a read, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading my musings on Perfect Pitch. I wonder what will come next?