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J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Aug;128(2):890-3. doi: 10.1121/1.3458848.

Absolute pitch correlates with high performance on musical dictation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


Absolute pitch (AP)--the ability to name a musical note in the absence of a reference note--is a rare ability whose relevance to musical proficiency has so far been unclear. Sixty trained musicians--thirty who self-reported AP and thirty with equivalent age of onset and duration of musical training--were administered a test for AP and also a musical dictation test not requiring AP. Performance on both types of test were highly correlated (r=.81, p<.001). When subjects were divided into three groups based on their performance on the AP test, highly significant differences between the groups emerged. Those who clearly possessed AP showed remarkably high performance on the musical dictation test, the scores of those without AP varied widely, and the performance of the intermediate group of borderline AP possessors fell between that of clear AP possessors and clear nonpossessors. The findings support the hypothesis that AP is associated with proficiency in performing other musical tasks, and run counter to the claim that it confers a disadvantage in the processing of relative pitch.

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