Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Absolute Pitch

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1782-1



In humans, the ability to name or vocally produce any musical note without using a reference note. More broadly, the ability to accurately remember auditory pitch not just in terms of the relationships among pitches.


If you ask a musician for an example of a musical talent or gift, one of the most common answers would be absolute pitch (AP), and for good reason. Typically defined as the ability to name or produce musical notes without the need for a starting reference, AP is thought to be exceedingly rare, with an estimated incidence of occurrence of around 1 in 10,000 people (Bachem 1955). While this number may vary substantially across cultures (Miyazaki et al. 2012), it is clear that AP is disproportionately present in top music conservatories across the world (cf. Deutsch et al. 2006), and moreover, a number of well-known composers and musicians, from Mozart to Mariah Carey, have reportedly possessed AP. Yet, despite over a century of...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Khalil Iskarous
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA