How to Name Pitches Without Instruments

Naming pitches without the help of an instrument requires the development of a skill called perfect pitch. It is possible, although extremely difficult, to develop perfect pitch. People with the ability typically are born with the skill, and they hear pitches as easily as most people see colors. However, some programs have been developed to help those without natural perfect pitch to identify musical tones without the help of an instrument. The process is basic, but if practiced diligently, it is possible to develop the ability to hear pitches without using an instrument.

Step 1 Begin by listening to an F# played on the piano. Don’t think too much about what you hear. Casually listen to the note to see if you can pick out its identifying features. F# has a sharp buzzing sound to it. It will sound this way on every instrument you play, not just the piano.

Step 2 Compare the F# to another pitch, such as C. C tends to be a much clearer pitch and sounds smooth. At this point, just see if you can hear the difference between these pitches. Once you can hear that there is a difference, other than one is high and one is low, move on to the next step.

Step 3 Add a third pitch in between the two pitches you have already compared. Listen to this pitch until you can begin to identify its characteristics. Does it have a certain color, energy, lightness, buzz or flatness to it? Take notes about each pitch so that you can remember.

Step 4 Enlist the help of a friend to play notes on the piano for you. Ask them to play one of the three pitches you have learned so far, and then try to identify which pitch is being played. When you are able to correctly identify 15 consecutive pitches, learn three more pitches by using the process in the previous steps. Continue to add pitches until you can identify all twelve from the piano.

Step 5 After you feel proficient with identifying the pitches played on a piano, try other instruments. Once you have learned to identify the pitches played from the piano, you should be able to identify the pitches from any instrument.But it takes practice!


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