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Author Topic: Have Perfect Pitch But Can't Transpose-Help!  (Read 3543 times)
baton999
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« on: August 02, 2009, 11:40:46 PM »

Hi - I'm a professional pianist, keyboardist, which means I get paid to play, and have been doing so for over 40 years. Problem-I have perfect pitch. I see a note or a chord symbol on paper, and I hear it in my head. Major problem, no pun intended. By the time I've figured out that the Fm7 or the Eb should be played up a minor third, I'm three bars behind! And, of all things, I was a theory major at a very fine liberal arts college conservatory of music. Any suggestions, prayers, or help would be most appreciated...

Thanks in advance...

Bo
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Bob
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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2009, 12:10:32 AM »

I've heard of that happening before.

The only thing I can think of is to ignore what you hear and focus more on the intellectual side of it, maybe just practice thinking through progressions without playing them (or hearing them in your mind).  Or train your mind to accept that you see one thing on paper, think a certain, and then produce a different sound -- So yes, it's not the same sound as what's written, but the mind can 'hear it' transposed. 

Or use roman numerals.  That might help too.  II V I and remember that.  Then it doesn't matter what key you're in.
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Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."
jgallag
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« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2009, 03:07:49 AM »

Do you practice transposing? I'm not surprised that you can't transpose even though you have perfect pitch. It doesn't entitle you to anything besides being able to identify pitches. For everything else, you're going to have to practice it like someone who doesn't have perfect pitch.

I agree with Bob about roman numerals. Don't forget inversions, they're very important. Also, you might think about working on relative pitch. You should know you're hearing a major sixth, for example, by sound, not because you can identify both pitches and they happen to be a major sixth apart.

Bottom line, though, you need to add transposition to your daily practice. You can't assume that you're going to be good at something you don't do on a regular basis.
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quantum
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« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2009, 03:18:30 AM »

I know someone in the same situation.  They have trouble accompanying transposing instruments because the note they see in the score is not the note they hear.

I discovered I had perfect pitch as a child, but in addition to piano as my major instrument I was also learning clarinet (a transposing instrument).  I was able to train myself to turn perfect pitch off in my head, or at least put it aside.  Maybe I have further enhanced my sense of pitch by associating it with a particular timbre - on piano it is a Bb but on clarinet it is a C.  


Do you transpose at sight? or play choral scores on the piano with C clefs?  Maybe you could treat your perfect pitch in the same manner.  As seeing one thing but hearing another.  

Have you worked at utilizing relative pitch?   Instead of thinking CEG, think major triad on scale degree I.  

Have you tried just working from the paper and trying to ignore that your ear is telling you it is a different note?  
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perfect_pitch
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« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2009, 06:16:08 AM »

This is an interesting thread...

I have perfect pitch, however I can usually transpose songs with ease. I don't actually think of the written note when I transpose but try to hear how it would sound in the new key in my head and then it's just adjusting my fingers to play the new notes.

I guess I'm just a freak.    Grin
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retrouvailles
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2009, 07:25:47 AM »

I guess I'm just a freak.    Grin

No one is arguing with you here.
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communist
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2009, 03:39:27 PM »

No one is arguing with you here.

Your not exactly normal yourself.
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retrouvailles
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2009, 04:29:54 PM »

Your not exactly normal yourself.

*You're

Well, I may not be normal, but then again, who is?
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richard black
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2009, 08:23:17 PM »

Well, speaking as another jobbing professional pianist with perfect pitch, I can only second the recommendation for practising it. I'm pretty good at it now but it's really only work that gets you there. On the whole I'd say perfect pitch is an advantage, but if you're transposing completely at sight then there's not much in it.
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Petter
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2009, 11:08:53 AM »

*You're

Well, I may not be normal, but then again, who is?

me
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perfect_pitch
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« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2009, 01:47:57 PM »

me

Remember - Even insane people don't know their insane...

On the other hand though - I know I'm not normal and would never deny the fact    Grin
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turayza
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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2009, 12:36:10 AM »

A pianist with perfect pitch? Go play violin XD

Is there any way for you to focus on the notes from the piano and the black dots rather than the sound you're hearing in your head?

It sounds like you're not doing too badly though, if you've managed to perform professionally for so long (:
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-Scarlatti K. 115
hardybar
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2009, 06:18:15 PM »

I have the solution for you! Simply learn the other Clefs! When you can learn all the C clefs and know them as well as you know Treble G and Bass F, you can simply use them to play any transposition. This is courtesy of Jeanette Cass, one of my professors at the University of Kansas back in the stone age. You're welcome!
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artsyalchemist
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« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2009, 06:34:08 PM »

I have the same exact problem as you..so don't feel bad.  It's sure a pain when you're singing in a choir and you end up going under or over..or worse, sight-reading, lol.
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franzliszt2
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« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2009, 07:53:24 PM »

I played horn from the age of 12, and that's a 5th out. I just got used to it from quite young.

It's like colour I find...if someone shows you the word green, and it's in red, it's confusing if someone asks you to say the colour and not the word, or vice versa depending on your brain. It's similar if someone plays a G and says it's a B. But you get used it I suppose after you adjust.

You just have to adjust for a period of time. OR refine your relative pitch. People with perfect pitch tend to be slightly weaker at this, because they can rely on their perfect pitch. Try thinking in intervals maybe.

If it's extreme, just re-write it on some paper in the key you will be playing/singing in. Choirs are the worst, becasue they nearly always get flatter and flatter and sometimes you end up a full semi-tone out.
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gruffalo
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« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2009, 07:22:39 PM »

in this situation, perfect pitch is giving you the illusion that you can transpose, but it cannot be done quick enough. it needs to be supported by a good knowledge of harmony and you need to study chord progressions and know how to shift through them quickly at the keyboard. I recommend first studying figured bass, sight reading, sight reading choral scores etc. Once you have a good grasp of these, you then need to train yourself to transpose without using your ear as much, but relying instead of a good knowledge of the keyboard and the harmonies you are working with. For what it's worth, i have perfect pitch too and I found it difficult to transpose until i figured out what i was doing wrong.
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theodore
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« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2009, 12:36:08 PM »

I am both a pianist and violinist. When I was in the US Army I once had to play the lead part in J.S. Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”. This particular solo part includes, from beginning to end, a set of running triplets.

The rehearsal began with my tuning of the violin to the Army Chapel organ “A” which I found to be almost a whole tone low – somewhere between a “G” and a “G” sharp.  I was then handed a solo part which was written for the “A” clarinet (written note “C” -  but out of the clarinet comes an “A”.

Since I knew the piece in F major I asked the organist to play his first chord and positioned my first note and from then on played the triplet interval patterns.  I had no idea what pitches I was playing, but after a few tries at a slower tempo everything fell into place.

My vocal solfege training while singing in a church choir helped immensely and my experience of playing by intervals saved the day.
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smartassmusic
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« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2009, 11:51:59 AM »

Hi,
You've trained yourself to associate pitch with certain names (A,Bb etc) and also with an awareness of what it feels like to play them on the piano. You simply need to associate what your hearing with your harmonic knowledge.

Instead of hearing "Cmaj7, Dm7, G7" you hear chord "I, II,  V". By doing this, you're intellectualizing only to the same degree as you were previously by naming the pitches.  Then, as the previous post says, you adjust your ear to the new key and play "I, II, V" which you will recognize instantly.

Melodically, you need to do the same thing, so be aware of which degree of the scale the melody note may be. If your harmony is good then you'll quickly forget that you could never do this.

A good friend of mine had excellent perfect pitch and had to train himself to think this way......,which I think that we should all do anyway.

Joseph Hofman's father apparently had such good perfect pitch that if a tune was played in a different key, he simply couldn't recognize it! Now that's a pain.

Ps any notion of concentrating on the page and avoiding listening, sends me round the room screaming. You merely adjust the way that you think about WHAT you're hearing.
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28lorelei
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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2010, 07:46:12 PM »

There is a solution to this problem:  learn to transpose in your head!  Start out with a simple piece like "Happy Birthday" or something.  Play it in your head in Bb, and maybe also in C or something.  Try it out in several keys.  After this, you can try it with something more complicated.  Practice doing this until it's easy, e.g. being able to transpose the Pathetique in your head or something.  After this try it on a transposing keyboard, and then, after you've mastered that, you can start to practice transposing on a normal piano!  At least that's how I did it Smiley
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chick98
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« Reply #19 on: June 25, 2010, 12:47:41 PM »

Your post reveals the double-edge nature of 'Perfect Pitch'.

Concert Pitch has varied over the last century; my piano was built during the age when A = 435. Today, of course, the International standard is 440; however, the New York Phil & BSO use 442 while German, Austrian, Russian, Spanish & Swedish ensembles use 443 (go figure...). It seems as though orchestras are reaching for A = 445!

I've always believed that Perfect Pitch was as much a curse as a blessing, Good Luck!
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slow_concert_pianist
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« Reply #20 on: July 01, 2010, 03:40:33 AM »

Remember - Even insane people don't know their insane...

On the other hand though - I know I'm not normal and would never deny the fact    Grin

I'll 2nd that.....well the "insane" bit Lips Sealed Undecided Grin
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Currently rehearsing:

Chopin Ballades (all)
Rachmaninov prelude in Bb Op 23 No 2
Mozart A minor sonata K310
Prokofiev 2nd sonata
Bach WTCII no 6
Busoni tr Bach toccata in D minor
perfect_pitch
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« Reply #21 on: July 01, 2010, 05:32:50 AM »

I'll 2nd that.....well the "insane" bit Lips Sealed Undecided Grin

Well - at least you finally admit that your insane!

That's the first step to recovery.
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nearenough
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« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2010, 02:22:45 PM »

"Concert Pitch has varied over the last century."

I don't have perfect pitch, but my piano teacher had it (Leon Tumarkin -- wish somebody else knew him).

I would play 10-12 random notes on the piano and he would name them all.

He said if a recording was half a tone off it would annoy the hell out of him.

Saint-Saens could sit at the piano and instantly transcribe orchestral scores into any key and play them (NYT article about 20 years ago).

Jozef Hofmann heard Rachmaninoff perform a new piece and then played it the next night by ear as an encore. (Well known anecdote).

Thanks for listening. B sharp.
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