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November 24, 2006

How's Your Pitch Perception Ability?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I have Lake Woebegone ears: I scored 72 on this fun test, a couple of points above normal. Trying to remember and compare musical phrases is kind of absorbing, isn't it?



posted by Michael at November 24, 2006


I did the test Thursday, and scored 78. It tests musical memory more than pitch, I think. It was tricky... but fun and interesting.

Posted by: Paul Worthington on November 24, 2006 10:49 PM

Gosh, this happens to be a subject I know a bit about. I used to work for a foundation that did aptitude testing.

We had two tests: tonal memory and pitch discrimination, with very little correlation between the two.

Pitch discrimination peaks in late teens and goes downhill from there. Very rapidly.

Tonal memory also peaked early, but the falloff over time was less rapid.

In this test he seems to be conflating both types of ability; I'm not sure the reason.

As for the test, I think he's performing an item analysis to test for item reliability. My guess is that a same/different test has lots of variability for individual items. For our tonal memory test we used a series of 1 to 8 tones, and subjects had to identify which tone was different.

Many people complained that the tones on my organization's test were inhuman and unmusical; however, our test analysis and validation showed it made no difference. Musicians still scored high on it; nonmusicians did not.

In this test, it looks like he's playing with chords and scales, with more melodic variety.

this, like other tests you find on the net, might be fun to take (in the biz we call it "face validity"), but until the test has been found to be reliable, (bringing consistent scores for the same individual) and valid (linked to some real world skill/proficiency), it's just a game.

By the way, I have the RJ Nagle Method of Determining Aptitude Test Reliability: If I score high on it, the test MUST be accurate. If I score low, it probably is NOT accurate.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on November 25, 2006 12:48 AM

Damn. 86.1. I shoulda done WAY beter than that. Shame!

Posted by: Flutist on November 25, 2006 1:12 AM

I scored 80. Definitely more musical memory than pitch. Fun test--it was a good wake-up exercise for my brain this morning!

Posted by: Waterfall on November 25, 2006 7:39 AM

Took it again and scored ten points higher (96) -- it assuaged my bruised ego somewhat, but the first time cold is the one that counts.
I agree that it seems to put less emphasis on pitch. It's not a perfect test but it was lots of fun. Thanks!

Posted by: Flutist on November 25, 2006 3:33 PM

80.6% here, which I'd say is pretty decent for an organic chemist.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on November 25, 2006 5:03 PM

I got 80.6 too, but there was a lot of noise around here at the time, including boom-box cars driving by . . . I might try again later, when it's quiet. Cool test.

Posted by: missgrundy on November 27, 2006 5:19 PM

I got 91.7% when I discovered this test via reddit a couple of weeks ago. Tried it again just now and got...91.7% again! (I'm a musician, FWIW.)

Posted by: Glen Raphael on December 1, 2006 6:18 PM

Good lord, we've got people with some seriously good ears (and music-minds) around here!

Well, at least l can post YouTube music clips.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 1, 2006 7:46 PM

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