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Absolute Memory for Musical Pitch: More Than the Melody Lingers On

In this pilot study, twenty-six subjects who claimed not to possess absolute pitch (some even claimed vehemently to be tone deaf) were tested for absolute pitch memory, a necessary component of absolute pitch. Previous studies of absolute pitch have tested for the ability in musical populations, because nonmusicians do not have the vocabulary necessary to identify musical notes. A method was introduced to test this population's abilities that did not require knowledge of specialized music vocabulary. Seven of these subjects demonstrated absolute pitch memory, and twelve made errors which clustered within two semitones of the target tone. This runs counter to traditional notions of absolute pitch as a rare ability, found exclusively in trained musicians.

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