How do I know if I have Absolute Hearing?

In this article we will deal with the subject of the absolute ear; this subject, which is of interest both to piano teachers and to piano tuners and music lovers alike, is, however, known with little precision. The purpose of this article is then to clarify some of these questions:

– What is absolute hearing?
– What characteristics do those who claim to have absolute hearing?

First, we clarify that what is absolute hearing. That it is the ability of some people to identify any note played on a musical instrument by hearing it. For example, if someone play the piano’s Do3, a person with an absolute ear. Can then identify it as a Do3 without seeing which piano key.

There is a special skill in some people. However, contrary to what it is not an innate gift, it is not born with people. But we can learn it to ourselves.

Absolute Hearing On The Piano

Another of the false conceptions we think it is very important to banish with this article is that, contrary to what its name says, the absolute hearing is not absolute. By this we mean it is not a special auditory quality that some people have. And that whoever does not have it can never develop it, but on the contrary. What do we mean when we say absolute hearing is not absolute?

The absolute ear is not something “absolute”.

The absolute ear is not so because the tones of the musical instruments are not absolute but are relative to the tuning pattern tone that is conventional. This is because the frequency of the pattern tone has varied throughout history. It is a function of that pitch pattern that all notes on an instrument have.

Perfect Pitch Without Knowing Notes

So how is it possible that there is an absolute hearing of tones that are not absolute. But relative to a pattern tone that has varied throughout history?

And when we say we mean a variation not of a semitone but of two or three tones. It is worth wondering how we can continue to call it an absolute hearing. If the frequency of the pattern tone according to which we tune the tones is conventional and variable. A group of people decided what the pattern tone will be thereafter. As has happened with the current tone of 440 Hz. And they determined this from an ISO standard in 1975.

How is it possible that there is an absolute ear of tones
which are not absolute but relative to a pattern tone
that has varied throughout history?

Tonal Memory

What we know as absolute hearing is a tonal memory. And just as with any other aptitude, we find that there are people who have a special predisposition to develop it much faster than others. However, if we put that same person to listen to an instrument tuned in a tuning pattern tone of two hundred years ago, he will make an error in all the tones he is guessing. Although he will correct them in the current tone in which his tonal memory has developed.

This leads us to denounce that in the daily life of piano teachers and their students, and in many pianists, there is a disease we consider to be serious. And linked to what we explained earlier about absolute hearing and which is “Desafinitis”. We have developed this concept to refer to those musicians and teachers who practice their profession in instruments. Out of tune or fallen in tone without even worrying about it.

This would not be conceivable in any other music professional playing any other instrument: guitarists or guitar teachers tune their instrument between songs. While piano teachers have the luxury of tuning the piano every few years and saying “this instrument is still in perfect condition to teach”.

Desafinitis

In jest and another not so much, we have developed this concept to refer to those musicians and teachers who practice their profession in instruments out of tune or fallen in tone without even worrying about it.

This would not be conceivable in any other music professional playing any other instrument: guitarists or guitar teachers tune their instrument between songs. While piano teachers have the luxury of tuning the piano every few years and saying “this instrument is still in perfect condition to teach”.

When we speak of Desafinitis we are referring to a disease that makes teachers or musicians. They believe we can use a piano that is not suitable for teaching for this purpose. Therefore, if we have said the absolute ear is a tonal memory that developes by listening to tones tuned under the same pattern throughout our musical formation. It is worth asking: what will be the consequences in the tonal memory of the students . Those who attend classes of teachers who have their piano out of tune or fallen from tune?

We say the tonal memory developed in such conditions will be imperfect and defective and that, therefore. If you want to acquire a quality musical training is to attend the class of this teachers. It depends on your own musical memory. And will depend on the periodicity tuning of the piano of your teacher. By listening to tuned pianos you will develop this skill.

Learn to Tune Your Own Piano

We also understand that for economic reasons. It is not possible for every musician or teacher to hire a piano tuner with the frequency required for an excellent tuning of the instrument. And this is once a month, as we have already explained in previous articles. That is why at the Escuela de Tecnología Pianística de Buenos Aires they recommend both pianists and teachers. To learn how to tune their own pianos themselves. Just as all instrumentalists do with the rest of the musical instruments.

Do I Have Perfect Pitch

They can learn this in a few months and that is much simpler than learning to play the piano. But which will give them the possibility of offering quality teaching and excellence.

And, if you are in search of excellence in your profession there is a question that no musician or teacher should ever stop asking. Am I a teacher who teaches with a piano out of tune or a pianist who will give a concert with the piano out of tune? With pianists there can be many reasons a piano is out of tune. But who says as a pianist you can’t go three hours earlier to the place where you will play and tune the piano so you can give a better quality concert and thus a better image of yourself?

Conclusion

The development of the musical or absolute ear depends on a piano. One that is well tuned in tone permanently and, for this, it is not possible to afford to continue calling a piano tuner every month because it is very expensive. For this reason we consider it indispensable that every piano teacher or instrumentalist learns to tune their own piano.

Obviously this requires an investment; as all training involves sacrificing time and money, but this learning will make you a better teacher or pianist, will greatly professionalize your work. And most importantly will be proud of the class or concert you give, because you can ensure that the training of your own ear and that of your students will be of excellence. And, not least of all, you can earn extra income by tuning other people’s pianos.

Since you have learned to tune your own piano, why can’t you do it with the piano of your students or acquaintances? Learning to tune a piano will not only give you the opportunity to have an absolute ear of greater precision. But will also open the doors to a very interesting commercial activity such as being a piano tuner.

As mentioned earlier, the purpose of this article is to reflect on what absolute hearing is and how it develops. And how learning piano tuning through ETPBA courses is a solution to this type of problem. Taking a piano tuning course will give you a level of excellence in your work as a teacher or musician. That you may not now possess but which is the level of excellence to which everyone should aspire in their musical activity.