Perfect Pitch Research
Independent research at leading universities demonstrates the power of Burge's methods.
From the Far East to the Far West, musicians in over 120 countries have already learned the simple secrets to Perfect Pitch (known in scholarly circles as Absolute Pitch).
Yet the debate about Perfect Pitch had raged for decades: Could you develop it? Or was it a supernormal hearing skill that only the elite are born with?
David Lucas Burge released his simple secret to Absolute Pitch in the March 1981 issue of Contemporary Keyboard (now Keyboard magazine). The music world became intrigued, though at that time there was no research to substantiate his methods. Even so, thousands of musicians took up the program.
Independent research from two leading universities would later show dramatic results with Burge's Absolute Pitch methods. Here are some review highlights:
Students become Absolute Pitch possessors
Research on Burge's Absolute Pitch methods was first conducted at the Ohio State University. To make a 401-page story shorter: As many as "three of the five subjects who completed the training regimen actually became possessors [of Perfect Pitch/Absolute Pitch]"1 despite the brief training period.
Of special interest in this study is the following: All of the students were tested for Absolute Pitch on piano, regardless of their native instruments. This makes the results even more remarkable, because Burge teaches that pitch recognition occurs first only on one's own familiar instrument. Says Burge:
At first you begin to recognize pitches only on your own instrument. If you are a guitarist, you learn to quickly recognize tones on the guitar, but your ear might not catch the pitches on the piano or other instruments at first. Then, once your ear gets used to recognizing pitches on your guitar, the ear awareness expands to include all other instruments as well. [Burge fully explains the step-by-step levels of Absolute Pitch development in his Perfect Pitch® Ear Training SuperCourse.]
Since flutists, guitarists, trumpet players, etc. all were tested on piano and not their own native instruments any ability of pitch recognition is quite remarkable, even to Burge, who would not expect a flutist to recognize tones on the piano during the initial stages of Absolute Pitch development.
The researcher concludes that the statistics "clearly indicate dramatic improvement as a result of [Burge's] training [which] was found to be significant for all measures of absolute pitch ability."2 This achievement undoubtedly has raised many brows and indicates a startling breakthrough in music self-development.
What is the experience of Perfect Pitch like?
Students commented on their brand new Absolute Pitch abilities:
What's really strange is listening to the radio and naming the pitch ... This has been especially helpful in sight-reading skills (with or without my instrument)...3
It has improved my tonal memory greatly. I can now tell when someone is playing the same piece in a different key than from when I heard it several days before.4
My overall ear developed; I hear things much clearer and sharper. Pitches [are] much more definite and focused.5
It sharpened my ability to listen, hear inner tones and express the overall music ... I derive more pleasure from practicing...6
A sax player says:
Intonation problems seem to be much more obvious to me. When playing with groups it is easier to detect what I need to do to play in tune...7
A vocal student envisions the ease of a singing ensemble of Perfect Pitch graduates with "perfect intonation and not having to give starting pitches."8
Perfect Pitch is like learning how to swim
At the University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada), a more thorough research study was completed by Marguerite Elaine Nering. After students had used Burge's Perfect Pitch methods a few minutes daily for only two months, Nering found:9
Of the six highest-ranking experimental subjects..., four show acquisition of the ability [italics hers] ... Indeed Burge's Perfect Pitch course seems to be a very effective method for acquiring Perfect Pitch.10
Although literature has shown the powerful association between ... early age and Perfect Pitch possession, this experiment has shown that by training in the Burge method, the ability can be improved and even acquired among adults ... This improvement can take place in a fairly short time, as was the case in this experiment. A few with keen pitch acuity can even acquire Perfect Pitch ability in a short time.11
This experiment among others should lay to rest the myth about Perfect Pitch possessors being born, not made ... It is similar to learning a skill such as swimming, in that one must be exposed to it and work at it to one extent or another.12
The greatest composers and musicians possess or have possessed Perfect Pitch ability or at the very least a high degree of pitch acuity. This alone is enough to attest to the value of Perfect Pitch training. Music is a hearing art; a musician can perform only as well as he or she can hear. As aural acuity is improved, so is musicianship. Perfect Pitch is a high degree of aural acuity.13
Some of [the] benefits [of Absolute Pitch/Perfect Pitch] are greater creativity, sensitivity, enjoyment, better ability to tune, listen keenly, compose, better knowledge of key, greater language adaptability.14
As more musicians acquire the ability and an acceptance of Perfect Pitch as an acquirable ability becomes more commonplace, it should become regarded as a more natural ability that ... always benefits [one's] musicianship.15
Burge deserves much credit for removing a great deal of the mystery from Perfect Pitch and for making it readily available to the average musician. He does this in terms any layman can understand. By setting aside the technical discussions ... he has been able to get on with the practicalities ... devising a course capable of benefiting many. Lessons ... follow a logical and complete sequence and are simple to understand.16
Of importance to this study is that through this method almost anyone, it seems, can acquire the ability of Perfect Pitch ... His course seems to be an idea whose time has come.17
The Burge course has proven itself through this study and that [at Ohio State University] to be an effective means of improving pitch discrimination and even acquiring Perfect Pitch.18
Because of the effectiveness of the Burge Perfect Pitch technique and the apparent value of Perfect Pitch ability, it seems a reevaluation of theory course content and of methods of teaching ear training in schools, universities, and musical institutions is in order.19