M2M Day 231: I always get the first note right & other perfect pitch observations

This post is part of Month to Master, a 12-month accelerated learning project. For June, my goal is to develop perfect pitch.

Yesterday, I tested myself on 500 notes (across five 100-note sessions) and correctly identified 86.4%, where the eligible notes included C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, G, A, Bb, B.

Today, on the same grouping of ten notes, I tested myself on 400 notes (across four 100-note sessions) and correctly identified 92.5%, scoring my maximum of 94 twice.

A few interesting observations from today:

  • I always correctly identify the first note of the session. In other words, when I’m completely cold, my hit rate is 100%. In fact, throughout the day, I test this ability, even when I don’t have time to complete a full 100-note session, and succeed every time. Thus, the mistakes I make are always caused by a confusing combination of notes shifting my reference frame.
  • If I get confused, I just need to take a short break. Sometimes, I’ll hear a note in the middle of the session, and can’t decide if it’s an Eb or an E, or it’s a C or C#, etc. In theses case, if I mentally count to ten, this is enough time to let my brain reset and approach the note as if it’s the first in the session.
  • My instinct is almost always right. During today’s sessions, I would almost always correctly identify the first 50 notes. Then, I would get nervous, and try to proceed more cautiously, carefully considering each note. The problem is… I tend to overthink it. For example, I may hear a note and my brain will instantly think: “Okay, that’s an E”. But then, I’ll think: “Well… Maybe my reference frame is screwed up and it’s actually an Eb”. Finally, I’ll talk myself into guessing Eb, only to find out that the note was an E all along.
  • Going slow helps me, but also confuses me. Putting bullet points #2 and #3 together, I’m stuck in a bit of a paradox. Sometimes, a slow deliberate approach helps me, but other times, it forces me to override my instinct (which is almost always correct). For now, I will continue training with as little break as possible, forcing myself to practice my reference tone maintenance.
  • Closing the gap between 94% and 100% isn’t worth it. To reduce my mistakes any further, I would likely focus more on my test taking techniques and less on my actual perfect pitch abilities. So instead, I plan to add the eleventh note (Ab) to tomorrow’s sessions. It’s one day early, but I’m ready. I can always focus on optimizing my test taking abilities at the end of the month, if needed.
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Max Deutsch is a product manager at Intuit, the creator of Somebody.io and Rightspeed, and the guinea pig for Month to Master.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.