Absolute pitch among students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music: A large-scale direct-test study

Diana Deutsch*, Xiaonuo Li, Jing Shen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This paper reports a large-scale direct-test study of absolute pitch (AP) in students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Overall note-naming scores were very high, with high scores correlating positively with early onset of musical training. Students who had begun training at age ≤5 yr scored 83% correct not allowing for semitone errors and 90% correct allowing for semitone errors. Performance levels were higher for white key pitches than for black key pitches. This effect was greater for orchestral performers than for pianists, indicating that it cannot be attributed to early training on the piano. Rather, accuracy in identifying notes of different names (C, C#, D, etc.) correlated with their frequency of occurrence in a large sample of music taken from the Western tonal repertoire. There was also an effect of pitch range, so that performance on tones in the two-octave range beginning on Middle C was higher than on tones in the octave below Middle C. In addition, semitone errors tended to be on the sharp side. The evidence also ran counter to the hypothesis, previously advanced by others, that the note A plays a special role in pitch identification judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3853-3859
Number of pages7
Journaljournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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