Title

Memory for the absolute pitch of familiar songs

Publication Date

1989

Journal

Memory & Cognition

Volume

17

Issue

5

First Page

572

Last Page

581

Abstract

Four experiments were conducted to examine the ability of people without "perfect pitch" to retain the absolute pitch offamiliar tunes. In Experiment 1, participants imagined given tunes, and then hummed their first notes four times either between or within sessions. The variability of these productions was very low. Experiment 2 used a recognition paradigm, with results similar to those in Experiment 1 for musicians, but with some additional variability shown for unselected subjects. In Experiment 3, subjects rated the suitability ofvarious pitches to start familiar tunes. Previously given preferred notes were rated high, as were notes three or four semitones distant from the preferred notes, but not notes one or two semitones distant. In Experiment 4, subjects mentally transformed the pitches of familiar tunes to the highest and lowest levels possible. These experiments suggest some retention of the absolute pitch of tunes despite a paucity of verbal or visual cues for the pitch.