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Perfect Pitch

Perfectpitch is the ability to identify a note in the musical scale by its correctmusical name – e.g. - if someone played the note D on an instrument like thepiano, violin, guitar etc, a person with perfect pitch would be able to say itwas indeed sounding a D before being told. Now it seems that some people may beborn with this ability to correctly identify notes/keys, and others may learnit at an early age, depending on their musical environment. I was fortunate tobe born to a mother who was musically gifted, and an extraordinary pianist; youcould sing her a tune, and she would be able to play it on the piano, withaccompaniment, after only one or two hearings. She loved the piano – it was herlife – and played whenever she could. She played professionally - in hotel bars,for musicals and theatre performances, ballet and keep fit classes, churchservices, recitals, accompanying instrumentalists, and anywhere she was neededand wanted. And she was still playing professionally until two years before herdeath at the age of 89!

So that isthe musical environment in which I grew up. My mother played the piano at homewhenever time allowed, so I often heard her playing. She had perfect pitch, andbeing an amazing musician, she was keen for me to learn music too. When I wasvery small, she used to turn on the radio each day in the early afternoon, for “Listenwith Mother”, and we would sit together and listen to the daily nursery rhyme,and the story, and whatever else was in the programme then (I can’t remembernow!), and this was a ritual every weekday, between the ages of two and five.One day, after the programme, I apparently went to the piano, climbed onto thestool, and picked out the tune of the nursery rhyme in the right key,much to her amazement. So from that she realised that I too had perfect pitch.

I startedhaving piano lessons at the age of five, and violin lessons at eight, and therest is history, as they say. Having perfect pitch helped me tremendously whenI went to the Royal Academy of Music as a Junior Exhibitioner on Saturday morningsfrom age 12, as aural tests were a doddle, and it just made everything so much easier.Similarly when I did my main training at the Royal College of Music, and playedprofessionally for twenty years in the mainstream classical music world – it wasvery handy to have perfect pitch – a great gift. And I found that right up tothe time I started playing the gong some fifteen years ago now.

There were afew years, when, for personal reasons, I didn’t play the violin much at all.And when the music inevitably came back into my life, it initially went downthe Sound Healing route over twenty years ago. Then the gongs came in, and I foundthat the dissonant harmony of the gong sounds took some getting used to aftermy classical music training. Gong sounds are quite different to the sounds of anyof the other more conventional instruments I was used to in my former classicalcareer, and as I got into the gongs, my pitch changed. I gradually became usedto playing spontaneously instead of from music; and constantly hearing theenormous range of harmonics that a large western gong produces, seemed to affectmy ability to hear the pitch of Western scale notes accurately. I found I wasno longer 100% accurate in identifying them, as I always had been before. So mysense of pitch changed when the gong came in.

Nowadays Ido still play the violin – mostly folk and traditional music in recent years - andthe more I play, especially with others, the more accurate my pitch is. For themost part, it seems now to be more relative than perfect. i.e. I can oftenidentify notes accurately, but not always – I can sometimes be a semitone or evena tone out in placing which key we are in, or what notes/chords are beingplayed (Western scale). So it would seem that the gong sounds may have shiftedmy sense of pitch in some way. Interesting! It may also have something to dowith concert pitch being at 440 hz, which I worked with exclusively during mylife in the classical arena, and Solfeggio being 432 hz, which I have also beenusing on and off in my Sound Healing work since 1999. My “perfect” pitch seemsmore tuned into 432 hz these days. Maybe the combining of these two “A”frequencies has confused the brain, rendering it unable to perfectly identifynotes/keys now. This comparison between 440 and 432 could lead to aninteresting discussion, but that’s for another day’s Blog!

SheilaWhittaker 19/6/19




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