Why can’t you learn pitch?

Perfect pitch trainingBecause you are lazy. Perfect pitch is a simple skill that can be trained – easily and for free and all the information you need is on this page in about 1000 words. It’s shockingly easy.

But first! As with all skills, pitch cannot be learned magically.

You have to put in the effort and train your ear. It won’t take years or months. With this method, it will take you 3 weeks or less. But the effort is needed.

Pitch is the training of your ears to recognize certain sounds (notes or frequencies if you will) – there is absolutely nothing innate in it. There is nothing special about 440MHz (frequency of sound of note A). Indeed most orchestras tune it to 442MHz. It is only the training of the ear that we recognize it as note A.

There are two types of pitch:

  • Relative pitch – you can recognize any note, given that you have been given another reference note prior to that
  • Perfect or absolute pitch – you can recognize any note even without reference notes

Both are trained. Just like walking. You learned to walk. You weren’t born with it. Noone was born with any kind of pitch. And like walking, babies have it easier; most children will automatically learn perfect pitch if exposed to tuned instruments.

Nonetheless, older people can train pitch without any problems, and even if taught perfect pitch it will decline in quality after years 16 to 20 if not practiced at all. Now. Let us teach you perfect pitch.

How to learn perfect pitch?

1.   First you have to learn relative pitch. That is first you must learn what is mental play. Don’t worry mental play is very simple if done correctly.
2.   When you’ve practiced mental play at correct pitch you can attempt to train relative pitch using an instrument of your choice and a reference note. We recommend a piano.
3.   And finally, if you have relative pitch you can start learning perfect pitch by eliminating the need for a reference note.

Mental play

Mental play is a fancy name for simply playing the music in your head. Anyone and everyone can do it. It is extremely useful for memorizing the piece and if done at correct pitch for training pitch.

If done correctly, by using mental play you get the feel for the melodic lines, emotions etc. of the piece, learn it quicker and with that train your pitch.

  • Listen repeatedly to a rather simple classical piece trying to memorize it. Half an hour is more than enough. Try to memorize less of the piece but with more quality.
  • We recommend Moonlight sonata, 1st movement (L. van Beethoven) for an enjoying process due to the complex melodies.

Alternatively, you can take Invention no.1 (J.S. Bach)

  • After you’ve listened to the piece and for the rest of the day, play it in your head; imagining every note. Warning: don’t sing or hum. You cannot produce the sound correctly yet and it will only confuse your brain.
  • Repeat the process until you’ve learned the entire piece. Why? Because it is virtually impossible to go through entire piece actively imagining the notes and not learn mental play. Just make sure you aim for the quality not the quantity.

Relative pitch

Once you are familiar with mental play, start practicing relative pitch using a piano (recommended), or an instrument of your choice. Make absolutely sure that the instrument is tuned.

  • Prepare to loop the piece that you’ve learned at will. With almost any cell phone you can play it and then restart the song. That will do.
  • Mental play the first five notes.
  • Try to guess the first note on the piano, and then play it off your device. Correct the mistake then continue.
  • Repeat with a maximum of 5 notes at a time until you can play them correctly. Tempo, dynamics etc. are not important, but trying to achieve them is, as well as memorizing how does your piano sound.
  • Do this for at least half an hour a day for a minimum of 7 days or until you’ve finished the piece; whichever is first.

Perfect pitch (or: Absolute pitch)

Congratulations. If you can play the entire piece like that you have relative pitch. Now.

  • Warning: don’t attempt this until you have good relative pitch. It will simply take a very long time… The above method is much quicker.
  • Learn the pitch of note C4 using mental play and relative pitch. Go up and down the piano keyboard imagining every note and then try to guess C4 again.
  • When you’ve done that; practice it – every time you see a piano or pass a piano, try to guess note C4 and check on the piano if you were correct.
  • Repeat the process with every white key on the piano keyboard.

Now, that last step might sound like a bit daunting objective on a rather simple checklist. And it is. And at first you will fail, miserably.

But rest assured this is the fastest method of learning perfect pitch; and even though it may seem that it will take you an eternity, in fact this entire process will probably take around 3 weeks for an average pitch-deprived person; 1 week per step (Mental play, Relative pitch, Perfect pitch).

The most important thing you must know is that you must practice mental play, and it really doesn’t take time. You can do it on your way to school, work, library, shopping…

The most time-consuming part is training relative pitch and it will only take half an hour a day sitting at a piano. That really isn’t much; as long as you do it regularly.

And for the final step, learning perfect pitch is easy. Just start. The sooner you start, the sooner will you realize that 88 keys on the piano can be summed to 8 notes and repeated on octaves etc. And sooner will you achieve perfect pitch. Learning 8 notes really isn’t all that serious business after all 😉


About pianoNODE

If life can be compared to an art, then creating music can be understood as means of making that tone ring in our ears for just a second longer. And for some of us, that's what's necessary for a joyful life. ~ our motto


  1. grivel

    what do you think of programs designed to teach you pitch?

  2. @grivel Personally, I think they’re a waste of money. All that you need to know is in the post. If you need more explanation and it’s not expensive, then sure – but you might as well get a trainer for that money. Books and words are great, but a trainer, while not necessary, is helpful.

  3. Any chance you might add some pop rock songs to the list of with what can we learn pitch?

  4. @gholl Sure, I’ll try to add some songs, but in the mean time – you can learn pitch with any song. Any. As long as it’s in tune (and it probably is if it’s from a more known author). The 2 pieces I recommended are the ones I trained pitch with 🙂

  5. grivel

    thanks, but what I meant was – what do you think of programs, as in computer programs designed to teach you pitch?

  6. @grivel oh, that kinda programs hehe. 😛 If you don’t have access to a piano (or a tuned piano), I’d say go for it, as piano is by far the best instrument to train pitch with. That being said, there is nothing that can replace mental play training in terms of both quality of training and speed. Don’t let them fool you.

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