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Music

The prevalence of perfect pitch

PEDRO HAMDANYou don’t need to be gifted to have perfect pitch, that is, the ability to identify a musical note using your ear alone. The skill can be developed, and people who have greater musical proficiency because they play an instrument or read music tend to do better in acquiring it. This was the conclusion of a study by a team from the Brain Institute (ICe) at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), which tested 200 students at the UFRN School of Music and 30 musicians from the university orchestra; participants were asked to name 36 notes played at random on a piano and respond to a questionnaire about music education (Frontiers in Neuroscience, October 13, 2016). Eighteen percent of the students were found to have perfect pitch, a rate that is higher than average for the population as a whole but substantially lower than the rate displayed by orchestra members: 44%. Study participants who scored better generally had begun their musical training earlier than their colleagues. However, the researchers rebuff the idea that there is an ideal age for initiating music studies, or a kind of window of opportunity for developing perfect pitch.

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