They LAUGHED when I said
they could have Perfect Pitch

... until I showed them the secret, and they heard it for themselves!

The true story
by David Lucas Burge

 
 

An early newspaper clipping recalls the days of Burge's seminars, where musicians became astonished to discover their own Perfect Pitch (Absolute Pitch).

   

The true story of how David Lucas Burge
discovered the secret to Perfect Pitch.

Published in music magazines around the world
for decades, this true life story has become a classic.

 

 

 

  It all started in ninth grade as
a sort of teenage rivalry . . .

I'd slave at the piano for five hours daily. Linda practiced far less. Yet somehow she always shined as the star performer at our school (Springer Junior High, in a suburb of Wilmington, Delaware).

It was frustrating. What does she have that I don't? I'd wonder.

Linda's best friend, Sheryl, bragged on and on to me, adding more fuel to my fire.

"You could never be as good as Linda," she would taunt. "Linda's got Perfect Pitch."

"What's Perfect Pitch?" I asked.

Sheryl gloated about Linda's uncanny abilities: how she could name exact notes and chords — all BY EAR; how she could sing any tone — from memory alone; how she could play songs — after just hearing them; the list went on and on...

My heart sank. Her EAR is the secret to her success I thought. How could I ever hope to compete with her?

But it bothered me. Did she really have Perfect Pitch? How could she know notes and chords just by hearing them? It seemed impossible.

Finally I couldn't stand it anymore. So one day I marched right up to Linda and asked her point-blank if she had Perfect Pitch.

"Yes," she nodded aloofly.

But Perfect Pitch was too good to believe. I rudely pressed, "Can I test you sometime?"

"OK," she replied.

 

 
David Lucas Burge  
 
  Now she would eat her words...

My plot was ingeniously simple. When Linda least suspected, I walked right up and challenged her to name tones for me — BY EAR.

I made her stand so she could not see the piano keyboard. I made sure other classmates could not help her. I set up everything perfectly so I could expose her Perfect Pitch claims as a ridiculous joke.

With silent apprehension, I selected a tone to play. (She'll never guess F#, I thought.)

I had barely touched the key.

"F#," she said. I was astonished.

I played another tone.

"C," she announced, not stopping to think.

Frantically, I played more tones, skipping here and there all over the keyboard. But somehow she knew the pitch each time. She was AMAZING.

"Sing an Eb," I demanded, determined to mess her up.

She sang a tone. I checked her on the keyboard — and she was right on!

Now I started to boil. I called out more tones, trying hard to make them increasingly difficult. But she sang each note perfectly on pitch.

I was totally boggled. "How in the world do you do it?" I blurted.

"I don't know," she sighed. And that was all I could get out of her!

The dazzle of Perfect Pitch hit me like a ton of bricks. I was dizzy with disbelief. Yet from then on, I knew that Perfect Pitch was real.

 

 
"How in the world do you do it?" I blurted. I was totally boggled.

(Autumn 1970, ninth grade)

 
 
  I couldn't figure it out . . .

"How does she DO it?" I kept asking myself. On the other hand, why can't everyone recognize and sing tones by ear?

Then it dawned on me. People call themselves musicians and yet they can't tell a C from a C#? Or A major from F major?! That's as strange as a portrait painter who can't name the colors of paint on his palette. It all seemed so odd and contradictory.

Humiliated and puzzled, I went home to work on this problem. At age 14, this was a hard nut to crack.

You can be sure I tried it out for myself. With a little sweet-talking, I got my three brothers and two sisters to play piano tones for me — so I could try to name them by ear. But it always turned into a messy guessing game I just couldn't win.

Day after day I tried to learn those freaking tones. I would hammer a note over and over to make it stick in my head. But hours later I would remember it a half step flat.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't recognize or remember any of the tones by ear. They all sounded the same after awhile; how were you supposed to know which was which — just by listening?

I would have done anything to have an ear like Linda. But now I realized it was way beyond my reach. So after weeks of work, I finally gave up.

 

Then it happened . . .

It was like a miracle . . . a twist of fate . . . like finding the lost Holy Grail . . .

Once I stopped straining my ear, I started to listen NATURALLY. Then the simple secret to Perfect Pitch jumped right into my lap.

Curiously, I began to notice faint "colors" within the tones. Not visual colors, but colors of pitch, colors of sound. They had always been there. But this was the first time I had ever really "let go" — and listened — to discover these subtle differences.

Soon — to my own disbelief — I too could name the tones by ear! It was simple. I could hear how F# sounds one way, while Bb has a totally different sound — sort of like "hearing" red and blue!

The realization struck me: THIS IS PERFECT PITCH! This is how Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart could mentally envision their masterpieces — and know tones, chords, and keys — all by ear!

It was almost childish — I felt sure that anyone could unlock their own Perfect Pitch with this simple secret of "Color Hearing."

Bursting with excitement, I told my best friend, Ann (a flutist).

She laughed at me. "You have to be born with Perfect Pitch," she asserted. "You can't develop it."

"You don't understand how Perfect Pitch works," I countered. I sat her down and showed her how to listen. Timidly, she confessed that she too could hear the pitch colors. With this jump start, Ann soon realized she also had gained Perfect Pitch.

We became instant celebrities. Classmates loved to call out tones for us to magically sing from thin air. They played chords for us to name by ear. They quizzed us on what key a song was in.

Everyone was fascinated with our "supernatural" powers, yet to Ann and me, it was just normal.

 

 

 

 

  I began to shake up the old school of thought that said "You have to be born with Perfect Pitch" . . .

In college, my so-called "perfect ear" allowed me to skip over two required music theory courses. Perfect Pitch made everything easier — performing, composing, arranging, transposing, improvising, and even sight-reading (how? because — without looking at the keyboard — you know you're playing the correct tones). And because my ears were open, music just sounded richer.

I learned that music is truly a HEARING art.

Way back then, I never dreamed I would later cause such a stir in the academic world. But, after I entered college, I started to explain my discoveries to more people. I often said that "Pretty much any musician can have Perfect Pitch if they just know how to listen."

Some professors laughed at me. My words (at that time) were completely against the common understanding about Perfect Pitch.

Still later, I toured colleges and universities in the US and Canada with my Perfect Pitch Seminar (photo at right and news clipping above).

But again, the "erudite experts" often laughed at me.

"You must be born with Perfect Pitch," they'd solemnly declare. "You can't develop it!"

I would always listen politely. Then (with perhaps a hint of flourish) I'd reveal to them the simple secret to Perfect Pitch — so they could hear it for themselves.

You'd be surprised how fast they changed their tune!

I soon learned that the ONLY way people ever become convinced they can have Perfect Pitch is when they actually hear it for themselves.

 

 
 
Burge released his Perfect Pitch method in 1981. He later toured colleges and universities in the mid-80's with his Perfect Pitch Seminar (above), where students and teachers alike became amazed to actually experience Perfect Pitch for themselves.

Burge's entire original Seminar plus his complete Perfect Pitch Lessons are now contained in his Perfect Pitch Ear Training SuperCourse (see below) — the #1 best-selling ear training method for 30 years now.

 
  So . . . whatever
happened with Linda?

Oh yes, flashback to my senior year of high school . . .

I was nearly 18. In these three-and-a-half years with Perfect Pitch, my piano teacher insisted I had made ten years of progress. And I had. But my youthful ambition still wasn't satisfied. I needed one more thing: to beat Linda.

Now was my final chance.

The University of Delaware hosts a music festival each spring, complete with judges and awards. To my horror, they scheduled me that year as the grand finale of the event.

The fated day arrived. Linda gave her usual sterling performance. She would be tough to match, let alone surpass. But my turn finally came, and I went for it.

Slinking to the stage, I sat down and played my heart out with selections from Beethoven and Chopin, and the Toccata by Ravel. The applause was overwhelming.

Afterwards, I scoured the wall, searching for our grades among the top tier performers. I saw that Linda received an A, no surprise.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear — my own score: an A+.

Sweet victory was music to my ears, mine at last!

 

Now its YOUR turn . . .

I'm happy to share with YOU the exact same secrets I've shared with so many people, starting all those many years ago in high school.

Please — don't laugh at the thought that you too can have Perfect Pitch. Throughout all these years, I've found there's only one thing that is sure to convince you . . .

. . . and that is when you hear it for yourself.

Best wishes,
David Lucas Burge

 

     


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