Music Perception
A Distribution of Absolute Pitch Ability as Revealed by Computerized Testing
Patrick Bermudez, Robert J. Zatorre

Abstract

BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT OF ABSOLUTE PITCH (AP) ability over the better part of the last century has strongly suggested that a variety of proficiency levels exists and can only be more comprehensively described with the use of rigorous testing providing precise and unbiased reaction times for all responses. This study describes the design, implementation and validation of a computerized test of absolute pitch and resulting data for 51 musicians, 27 of whom self-reported as AP possessors. The test was sensitive to previously reported differences in accuracy and timing for C major diatonic versus non-diatonic notes and showed a range of performance, from perfect to random, including a substantial number of intermediate levels of proficiency. We discuss the implications of detecting such a distribution of behavior as well as the effect of test design and scoring strategies on that distribution.

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