Perfect pitch is the ability some musicians have to perceive musical notes independent of any tonal reference.
Perfect pitch is used primarily to make other musicians without perfect pitch feel inferior. Typically, this is accomplished as follows. The musician with perfect pitch points at the musician without perfect pitch, and says something like, “You lack perfect pitch! Ha ha ha!” At this point, the musician without perfect pitch runs away crying.
However, I am here to tell you that the notion of perfect pitch is bunk. All humans have perfect pitch. You have perfect pitch already. Would you like me to prove it to you?
First, choose your favorite song by your favorite singer or band. Yes, you love lots of songs. Think of one that you would love to turn up if it came on the radio, because you’ve heard it like a hundred times and you still think the song is cool. Go ahead and choose the song. I’ll wait. While I’m waiting, I’m going to choose “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. Note! You don’t have to choose “Comfortably Numb.” Any song will do, whether it’s by Pink Floyd or not.
Okay, now you have your song. What you’re going to do is play the opening section of it right in your mind. You’ll just close your eyes and think the song right now, like it’s playing on the radio. Dum dum dum dee dee dee… and you’re going to hear the singer start to sing the song. In my case, Roger Waters is going to go, “Hello hello hello…”
Now did you just hear the singer sing that note in your head? That note is, for you, an absolute pitch. You could, if you wanted to, hum that note very quietly. And you could do it today or a month from today, and you will always hum that note.
You could even walk over to a piano or a guitar, sing the note again, and futz around on the keys until you found the exact same note that Roger Waters was singing (F-sharp below middle C). From now on, if you want to know what an F-sharp sounds like, just play the opening sequence from “Comfortably Numb” in your head1, and wait for Roger to sing an F-sharp for you.
If you did this for twelve songs all in different keys, you’d know all the notes of the scale. Poof! Perfect pitch for you!
1The original 1979 version, not the cheesy harmony version with post-Waters Floyd they did in the mid-80’s. That was a B-minor chord.