POV: Gift of perfect pitch

By Seoyoung Hwang

I didn’t know I had perfect pitch until a conversation with my flute teacher about listening to music while studying. I mentioned that I couldn’t listen to classical music while preparing for tests because the names of the notes, doremifasollatido, would be shouting at me instead of being calm and melodic sounds in the background.

The gift of perfect pitch that I have allows me to experience music in a more unique way. (Illustration by Seoyoung Hwang)

My teacher told me I had perfect pitch, the ability to identify or re-create a given musical note without the aid of a reference tone. I initially thought it was a skill all musicians had since my sister, who is also a musician, has perfect pitch as well. But I found out it is actually not very common.

Having perfect pitch can be a great advantage especially when it comes to completing  music theory. I am able to get perfect scores on ear training type questions where I have to identify notes, intervals or pitches, since I am able to hear and identify notes as well as their intervals instead of trying to figure out how notes sound to figure out the interval. It’s also a great advantage when it comes to playing music and memorizing pieces since I am able to arrange the melody in my head and play the piece with ease. 

However, there are times when I wish I didn’t have this talent. For example, I am not able to listen to classical music while doing homework or resting because of the overwhelming visualization of notes which stops me from focusing. 

It also comes as a disadvantage when playing in an ensemble. Although the skill seems like an advantage because it allows me to stay in tune with other players, it’s difficult to play with multiple instruments that aren’t in tune with each other due to my sensitivity, which causes me to play off-tune as well.

The ability of perfect pitch has allowed me to learn different skills including listening more closely to others while playing music and in my daily life when involved with sound. Additionally, I have learned to cope with the challenges I face daily because of it and become resilient. 

To have the capability of perfect pitch is one of the greatest gifts I can have as a musician even if it has some downsides from time to time. I hope to learn to cope with the ability better in the future and continue applying it to all aspects of my life.