Music-related Memory - Development - Relative and Absolute Pitch

Relative and Absolute Pitch

There are two methods of encoding/remembering music. The first process is known as relative pitch, which refers to a person's ability to identify the intervals between given tones. Therefore, the song is learned as a continuous succession of intervals. The alternate process is that of absolute pitch, the ability to name or replicate a tone without reference to an external standard. Relative pitch has been shown to be more important than absolute pitch with regard to developing high musical talent. Relative pitch has also been credited with being the more sophisticated of the two processes as it allows for quick recognition regardless of pitch, timbre or quality, as well as it has the ability to produce physiological responses, for example if the melody violates the learned relative pitch. Relative pitch has been shown to develop at varying rates dependant on culture. Trehub and Schellenberg (2008) found that 5- and 6-year-old Japanese children performed significantly better at a task requiring the utilization of relative pitch, than same aged Canadian children. They hypothesized that this could be because the Japanese children have more exposure to pitch accent, via Japanese language and culture, than the predominantly stressed environment Canadian children experience.

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