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Subtly different from hearing a phrase and then finding it on the guitar - what about hearing a single note and 'knowing' what it is?

That 'knowing' could either be being able to name the note ("that's an Eb") or knowing exactly where it is on the guitar without resorting to sliding up and down a string to find it.

I suspect the purer way is to simply be able to instantly find it on the guitar - being able to name it and then know where it is on the guitar simply adds in extra steps which would get in the way of the music.

Anyway, I know this can be done - on another forum a number of folks have said they can do this, hear a note, or even entire chords, and know what the key/chord/note is.

So how? What's the secret? 

If i hear a note I can generally guess whereabouts it is on the guitar and usually get within a few notes - but it is guessing. What's the secret of knowing an A is an A as surely as I know red is red and a dog is a dog?

I'm pretty good at working out chords sequences by ear - last night listening to a fiddle tune on the iPod I could hear the changes go from I to V and back again, I could hear the cadences. But I'd have no idea what key the tune was in unless I had a reference note.

So whats the secret? Does an F note have colours and shapes and 'things' in it that make it recognisable as an F whether played on a guitar, piano, kazoo, or tuba?


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Hi Derek,

I have no answer (I'd write a book if I did). But let me suggest something: this is obviously an un- or under-trained hearing problem. So maybe try to isolate the problem - get rid of the guitar (and all the entwined muscle memory) and isolate on pitch identification and creation. You use the program 'Transcribe!', right? Try dragging the keyboard up until it occupies the whole screen.  Use your mouse to play, say, middle C; move the mouse far away, close you eyes, and try to find middle C again (with the mouse there is no pitch specific tactile feedback as there is with key/fret board). At first I was 'guessing' and finding it within a couple of semitones, but within a couple of minutes I was finding it dead certain every time - orange is orange, not yellow or red). Obviously this can be repeated for any note, and you can start simple, with only the white keys and then go chromatic later. Of course you can turn it around: play a random note (eyes closed) and then try to name it (I'd save this for later).

This is just a new idea, so I don't know how well it will work in long run. I expect that for a while at least, it is a skill that will need to be 'warmed up (relearned)' and practiced every day. But maybe it eventually becomes automatic. Progress checking should be pretty easy - can you find that middle C (or other desired note) without ever sounding a reference pitch? If not, can you find it a minute or so later (i.e., is your absolute pitch memory getting longer?)

my $0.02, ganon

Hey Derek

This is a great question and a deep one at that.  It's very hard to answer and I don't believe there is just one secret you need to know to answer your question.  But there are a few things/tips I can give along with explain how difficult this is.  What your talking about it "Perfect Pitch."  Few have this ability, some strengthen their ears to having relative pitch but having perfect pitch is something you are either born with or learn from suski method training when your young.  What your talking about is learning the language of music.  That's what I tell my students.  Music is a language, when you said red is red or dog is a dog.  I don't have perfect pitch but my ears are getting stronger.  I know when I hear a D or E chord on the radio just from doing it so many times.  Think about vibrations of the notes.  Do they have long wave lengths or short wave lengths.  This was a tip from my friend who has perfect pitch.  He can pull an A440 out of the air.  Also, what seems to help me is to have a melody I sing really well and know what the highest note in the phrase is and really internalize it.  Know what it feels like and "memorize it."  Lastly, you could look into some ear training programs online.  I did this when I was in school and it sure helped me a ton!!  It broke me in to least being able to figure out tunes/melodies by ear.  Again, it's super hard to just call out a note but with time you can develop relative pitch.  Anyway, not sure I was any help but thought I would comment on your post.  :)  

Good luck and keep listening!



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