ACQUISITION OF ABSOLUTE PITCH: THE QUESTION OF CRITICAL PERIODS


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Abstract

Past research is reviewed which suggests that absolute pitch can be acquired during preschool years. In order to account for this phenomenon, an analogy is drawn between the early acquisition of categories for speech sounds and pitch; the acoustical similarity between vowels, music tones, and chords is also noted. Attention is then directed to a Japanese technique of Oura and Eguchi (1981) for training absolute pitch in preschool children. The technique involves identification of chords. Pilot work is reported which describes an adaptation of the first stages of the Japanese technique to eight North American preschool children and a control group of adults. The majority of the children and all adults mastered a transposed chord discrimination task but were less successful in chord identification. In contrast, Oura and Eguchi reported that Japanese children performed well on the latter task. The superior performance of the Japanese ehildren may be attributable in part to a simpler chord training procedure and weekly piano lessons which were coordinated with their absolute pitch training program. Additional studies are therefore required to determine the viability of the chord training procedure for the acquisition of absolute pitch among North American preschool children.

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