Ask Leon: What is the Difference Between Perfect Pitch and Relative Pitch?

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans,

This is a question I get a lot from beginning students that want to learn to play by ear,

"What is the Difference Between Perfect Pitch and Relative Pitch?"

Let's begin with Perfect Pitch. Perfect pitch is a skill that you are most likely born with and if not, you will most likely never develop it.

Think of perfect pitch as begin able to remember the exact sound of any pitch in the same manner that you remember and recognize what a color looks like.

When you see the color red, provided you are not colorblind, you will recognize it instantly. The same is true of a person who has perfect pitch. When they hear the note C played on a piano or guitar they know that the note is C just by the sound because they have the ability to just remember this pitch by its sound.

According to Wikipedia perfect pitch may related to certain genes, possibly an autosomal dominant genetic trait. In my personal experience, I never known a musician that developed perfect pitch if they were not born with it.

Relative pitch however is a completely different story. Relative pitch is the ability to hear a melody and know what it is and how to play it by listening to the intervals between each note and reproducing them on an instrument. Although you may not begin on the same note as the melody in question, you will reproduce the melody exactly but in another key.

With a high level of relative pitch recognition ability combined with understanding music theory fundamentals you will be able to quickly hear a melody and reproduce it on your instrument even if you begin playing in the wrong key.

By hearing the difference between where you start playing and the note that you should be matching you can determine the amount of the transposition between the melody you are playing and the music you are trying to play along with.

Relative pitch is a skill any one can learn and with guidance and enough practice you can become very skilled at it in a relatively short amount of of time. It greatly helps to have a high quality, interactive practice tool such as Ear Master 5 to train yourself when beginning to learn relative pitch skills.

If you are interested in learning how to use the power of relative pitch ear training in your instrument playing and music writing I encourage you to follow along with the announcements on my newsletter about my upcoming members-only music academy where I will be teaching students exactly how to acquire relative pitch in a very easy and direct manner.

I hope this clears up any confusion between the difference between perfect pitch and relative pitch. If you have any questions leave them in the comments below or email me directly. I am always looking for great questions to answer that will benefit you and rest of the fans of the One Minute Music Lesson.

Until next time: Practice Smart - Not Hard,

Leon Harrell