ABSOLUTE PITCH (AP) IS THE ABILITY TO IDENTIFY OR produce a musical note in isolation. As traditionally defined, AP requires accurate pitch memory as well as knowledge of note names. The incidence of AP is higher in Asia than it is in North America.We used a task with no naming requirements to examine pitch memory among Canadian 9- to 12-year-olds of Asian (Chinese) or non-Asian (European) heritage. On each trial, children heard two versions of a 5-s excerpt from a familiar recording, one of which was shifted upward or downward in pitch. They were asked to identify the excerpt at the original pitch. The groups performed comparably, and knowledge of a tone language did not affect performance. Nonetheless, Asians performed better on a test of academic achievement. These results provide no support for the contribution of genetics or tone-language use to cross-cultural differences in pitch memory.
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