Absolute pitch

Diana Deutsch
Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

In D. Deutsch (Ed.). The Psychology of Music, 3rd Edition, 2013, 141-182, San Diego: Elsevier.
Absolute pitch (or perfect pitch) is the rare ability to name or produce a note of given pitch in the absence of a reference note. Its study has contributed to the understanding of critical periods in perceptual and cognitive development, relationships between language and music, the influence of language on perception, the brain substrates of specialized abilities, and the role of genetic factors in perception and cognition. This chapter discusses research on absolute pitch drawn from a wide variety of disciplines, including music, psychology, neuroscience, and genetics. The high prevalence of absolute pitch among tone language speakers is discussed, and it is argued that if infants were given the opportunity to associate pitches with meaningful words in infancy, they might readily develop the neural circuitry underlying absolute pitch at the time. Other sections concern the neuroanatomical substrates of absolute pitch, and the relationship between this ability and other abilities.
perception, absolute pitch, perfect pitch, musical ability, tone language, critical period, speech, genetics, categorical perception, memory, octave, relative pitch, neural substrate

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