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Thread: Do you need Absolute Pitch to transcribe music?

  1. #1
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    Do you need Absolute Pitch to transcribe music?

    Is Absolute Pitch used entirely when transcribing music?

  2. #2
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    Do you need AP to transcribe music? No.

  3. #3
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    Why?

  4. #4
    Registered User Color of Music's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blanche_Minim View Post
    Why?
    Because I'm sure you know, you can play any and every song in any and all practical keys. I can hear the same song twelve times in one key; however, the song doesn't change just because the key has.

    There's a misconception regarding transcribing think that you must write it in the same key. When bands play songs from their albums on stage, they don't always play in the same key they recorded the track in. Not to mention if/when they do decide to use another key, they have to tune/transpose their instruments. Of course, most instruments other than keyboards/digipianos (acoustic pianos don't count because their tuning is fixed - even if you want it de-tuned for effect)

    Which brings up the clarification between transposing and tuning. Transposition deals with a "fixed pitch." That's a definite C, Eb, and what have you. Tuning is the act of getting the desired fixed pitch (to put it simply). IOW, when a bassist/guitarist decides "Okay, I will play this song in Eb instead of E,"

    Knowing his/her lowest string is E (E3 for guitar, E2 for bass), they have to loosen the tuning pins (is that the right name?) and either with good ears or with an assisting instrument (piano/keyboard most often), they will tune every string down a semi-tone (Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Cb (B)-Eb.) This means that what they play on stage will be transposed (but again, these two items are totally different)

    Where Perfect Pitch does come into play is when we talk about frequencies. The terms use is cents. Standard tuning (fixed pitch) is @440. The note associated with this frequency is "Middle A" (To me, this is the m3 interval below Middle C. Others may say it is a M6 above. Both As are in the middle of the keyboard). Each note has it's own frequency, but you can put 440 across all twelve semitones to make it less stressful. This is the frequency the orchestra use when warming up (though not everybody plays an A; a great portion of the orchestra does though) However, frequency is a different beast which we aren't discussing.

    Somehow, I get the feeling either you want people to get PP or discouraging folks who already have it (and it's not many, believe me). I've said it before (and others agree) AP isn't all it's cracked up to be - not everybody wants to sing or be a sound person or "tuning fork" (pun-intended).

    Absolute Pitch (as well as RP, but moreso AP) can be taught, but it's more than not - self-taught! This isn't like Improvisation where for ahile it was thought that you couldn't teach it (There's a massive sub-forum on it here). As Malcolm has said, having AP is sometimes a curse (as well as blessing), but that has to with the person's intent would does have it. Though AP folks can irk RP folks, not all AP folks do that.

    For me. I'm absolutely thrilled to have AP, but here's what I think you're missing. I acquired it naturally. However, this is different from what you're asking regarding transcribing because as I said, you can write the same song in many keys. Heck, I saw a video on YT where the sheet music was in C, but the audio was in Bb. Geez! That annoyed the stuffing outta me! (No, it didn't! I just happened to notice it) The song was the same though and plus writing/playing in different keys changes the atmosphere/timbre/mood.

    I also do not solely rely on AP, especially, if a song has tonicization or modulation in it. I know what the temporary and/or established new keys are, but I also know how far away they are from the original key. Not to mention if I ever wrote a song for someone to sing ands/he couldn't sing in that key. Sure, I'd immediately know what the desired key is (if I am told), but I also have a pretty good ear to figure it out (ie: Maybe one or two notes off). Yet, I hope the singer has a developed sense of relative pitch as well if not absolute pitch (Wouldn't be surprised if they had both).

    If I were to use the analogy of both kinds of transmissions:

    Many say that one has not driven until one has driven a manual. Why? Driving is actually involved. Clutch, Gearshifter, Accelator, etc. This is how I learned music before I took classes. I taught myself how to manually drive the car that is music. Once one gets well enough at doing so, it's becomes automatic! (Though I don't recommended driving a manual or automatic with your eyes closed!)

    I drive an automatic transmission and have been for quite awhile, but I been known to drive the manual as well! However, just like with AP, AT has its criticism! Like - you're not driving! Putting the gear in drive and having the gears change for you doesn't count.
    Some prefer it and I know why, but you understand the opposition against. Sometimes the AT does things you don't want it to do (same with the MT, but you have options because you do actually control it!)

    AP has this problem. Sometimes one does get something wrong (Oh, that wasn't an Ab, but a G#?) Enharmonics. So, unless you rather go around calling every note you hear by two names ... (The gears changing for you, Now, this isn't bad if you're in traffic or weather conditions, but even in an AT the transmission can mess up with constant (automated) shifting)

    RP people (Manual drivers - especially novices) - the extra tasks slow them down. I just wanna drive (play the song). As I said before though, they have a better chance of finding out what it is wrong if something goes wrong and admit fault as they have more control over the car. (And many like manuals more because of the control! Right, JonR? )

    And of course, there are people who have driven and do drive both - even if they prefer one over the other. Both car types are useful in their own way!

    There's nothing wrong with having AP (unless you use it to deliberately annoy somebody and that's wrong!) However, RP is not the end all be all! In fact, neither pitch type is! Both have their advantages and disadvantages!

    This is of course a very long winded way of explaning why it's not necessary! If you have it, great! If you don't, that is fine, too! The language remains unchanged to both types of people!

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    I'm not discouraging the people with Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch. I actually admire and I look up to those people who possess the very skill. I believe it should not only be the 3% of the population that should have Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch, I believe everyone should have the skill.

  6. #6
    Registered User Color of Music's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blanche_Minim View Post
    I'm not discouraging the people with Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch. I actually admire and I look up to those people who possess the very skill. I believe it should not only be the 3% of the population that should have Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch, I believe everyone should have the skill.
    Then, Absolute Pitch would not be the "gift," many make it out to be. It already isn't, but I can't tell you how often RP folk seem to be astonished at AP folk. A user asked about a particular scale. OF course, I gave him the "Key" note - right on cue: "Holy Moly! How'd you know that? Do you have AP? and likewise, I said, yes! There's a never-ending debate regarding both Pitch types! SInce math and music are related, anybody who can answer any problem without the aid of a calculator or pencil and paper. Would you want everyone to have this skill, too? Because believe it or not, even they make mistakes.

    If AP is a unique gift, I rather the 3% that have it only have it. At least the other 97% have something to do. And again, don't think that AP can exist with RP as AP only covers up RP. Like the guys who improvise very, very well! Most think that they do it without thinking when in fact they are thinking, but faster than we're listening. They just aren't saying what they're thinking. Of course, they would if they were teaching, but that is a totally different animal altogether. Like the math geniuses who can answer problems in half a second; yet, to get there, they've mentally done the appropriate operations!

    Lastly, we are humans and do err - I like it that way - AP or not!

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blanche_Minim View Post
    I'm not discouraging the people with Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch. I actually admire and I look up to those people who possess the very skill. I believe it should not only be the 3% of the population that should have Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch, I believe everyone should have the skill.
    You can "believe" all you like, it won't make it happen.
    If everybody did have AP, then music would be very different. Specific pitch frequencies would be used for their absolute qualities, but that would mean is harder to imagine. We would all be able to identify a "C" when we heard it, but we'd also need to understand the same meaning from it. We'd need to have the same associations.
    This is possible, but would take a long process of development.
    As it is, music works via RP (as Color of Music said). We (ie 97% of us) don't recognise any special quality to "C" (as distinct from "D" or any other pitch), but we do recognise special qualities to intervals and chords. And we all - at least in the west - have similar associations to the same intervals and chords. Eg, we all hear much the same effect when we hear a maj7 chord; we'd all describe its emotional effect in much the same terms. That's partly because of its frequency relationships, partly because of associations built up through familiarity with how such chords are used. Which in turn means, of course, that composers exploit those associations when composing, embedding the associations more deeply.

    IOW, the language of music is all about RP - not AP.

    Composers that have AP have to put it to the background when composing, if they want their music to appeal to everyone.


    In answer to your original question, AP is of course useful when transcribing because you could notate the pitches and key accurately with no reference.
    But then the question is: how useful is that? When would it be important to be able to do that? In what situation would you need to be able to transcribe something without having an instrument handy to check (via RP)?
    And - even if you have no instrument, no way of checking via RP - you can still transcribe a piece using RP to identify the chord types, the chord changes, the melodic intervals.
    Eg, you'd be able to hear if it was I-IV-V, whether the I was major, which chord tones the melody outlined, etc. That's all that matters. You can choose any key you like to write it down in. The actual key (of a specific recording) doesn't matter. If and when it does matter (later, eg if you are writing for specific singers or musicians), you can easily transpose it.

    I know you're dead set on learning AP, and that's your choice. If you're training your RP too, that's well and good. But AP is only a personal thing, for you yourself. You must always remember it has no relevance whatsoever for music as the vast majority of people appreciate it. ALL of music's beauty and meanng comes from relative pitch. NONE (nada, zero) from absolute pitch. (I mean, for you yourself, you may get heightened personal appreciation via AP, which is nice, but remember it means nothing to anyone else. And even to someone else with AP, it will mean something different.)
    If you want your music to communicate, forget your AP.
    Last edited by JonR; 04-17-2013 at 09:43 AM.

  8. #8
    i dont

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