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Psychol Sci. 2003 May;14(3):262-6.

Good pitch memory is widespread.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.


Here we show that good pitch memory is widespread among adults with no musical training. We tested unselected college students on their memory for the pitch level of instrumental soundtracks from familiar television programs. Participants heard 5-s excerpts either at the original pitch level or shifted upward or downward by 1 or 2 semitones. They successfully identified the original pitch levels. Other participants who heard comparable excerpts from unfamiliar recordings could not do so. These findings reveal that ordinary listeners retain fine-grained information about pitch level over extended periods. Adults' reportedly poor memory for pitch is likely to be a by-product of their inability to name isolated pitches.

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