Test Your Sense of Pitch
September 14, 2015 8:55 PM   Subscribe

 
I can't imagine experiencing some of those cacophonous snippets of songs any other way but teeth-grindingly horrible.
posted by ZaneJ. at 9:05 PM on September 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


26 for 26, despite not being able to identify a few of the tunes. Dunno if they were so distorted that they were unrecognizable, or my knowledge of common tunes is severely lacking.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:05 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ouch.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:06 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is clearly a front for some kind of torture research lab. (25/26)
posted by feckless at 9:07 PM on September 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


In cases where there were fewer wrong notes, they seemed to hit the note harder to make sure it was really accented and noticeable. I got 25/26, although I was whipping through them pretty quickly and may have hit the wrong button by mistake.
posted by sardonyx at 9:07 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


26/26 and caught myself grimacing hugely on each sour note.

Gah.
posted by juliebug at 9:09 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


These are fun but a little too dissonant when they are! Anyone have a more subtle resource for testing one's sense of pitch?
posted by Riton at 9:14 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


25/26, didn't recognize one of the songs. Best for Americans, or those familiar with American music.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:17 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm a music professor, and my next-studio-door neighbor gives voice lessons to non-majors.

This test was like another day at the office.
posted by dr. boludo at 9:18 PM on September 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


26/26, and like many above I have a strongly physical and visceral reaction to bum notes. I sometimes wonder if there is any overlap between strongly physical responses to "wrong" aesthetics and a general stubborn and judgy curmudgeonliness, as there very much seems to be in my case.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:18 PM on September 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Test administered by Yosemite Sam.
posted by LionIndex at 9:20 PM on September 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


I got 26/26, and the feeling that the test-makers were trying to cause me pain.

This seems more intended to identify those who are 'tone deaf' than to test for exceptional senses of relative pitch. It's also highly dependent on cultural familiarity with the tunes. I'd be interested to see the distribution of the results.
posted by lookoutbelow at 9:28 PM on September 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


26/26. A junior high music teacher once gave each of us a similar test and she told me I had perfect pitch. I'm not musical (at least, I don't perform) today, but I tend to do well remembering how things sound - accents, vocal inflections, sound effects, etc. I pick up random foreign words phonetically because they just sound memorable and appealing, and I was once told that the little bit of Irish Gaelic I know, I speak with the Cork City accent of my friend who taught it to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


26/26 and can't imagine missing any of them. But then again, I do love me some Xmas music and patriotic American marching band standards.
posted by donnagirl at 9:34 PM on September 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Responses:
1.) fine
2.) OW
3.) OW
4.) fine
5.) fine
6.) OW
7.) fin-WAIT OW

etc.
posted by komara at 9:35 PM on September 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


The piano has been drinking.
posted by not_on_display at 9:38 PM on September 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


That first paragraph is extremely misleading ("have you ever wondered how a musician can pick out a single wrong note in a complex piece of music?"). This isn't measuring exceptional aptitude at all -- it's about the "2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population [that] has problems with pitch perception."

Maybe with that in mind, let's be a bit gentler and think about how it feels to be part of that group, reading these comments?
posted by neil pierce at 9:40 PM on September 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I thought it'd be like the color thing and get more fine-tuned over time, then realized as I went that this was more like a test for colorblindness than it was a test for acuity of color vision.
posted by Sequence at 9:42 PM on September 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I got 20 out of 26, which suggests that my sense of pitch is actually significantly better than I ever gave it credit for.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:02 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I knew all the tunes, but I'm in my late fifties. I doubt that younger people will be quite so familiar with some of them. 26/26, but no strong visceral reaction to the bum notes. Guess all those hours spent listening to Charles Ives have paid off.
posted by in278s at 10:12 PM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Test administered by Yosemite Sam.

That was exactly my thought! The wrong ones sounded hugely, cartoonishly wrong. Once I got past the "argh, ow, cringe" reaction I found the incorrect tunes freakin' hilarious...it's all about perceptions.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:16 PM on September 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I did ok, but honestly, if you asked me to pick the note that was wrong, I wouldn't be able to tell you.
They just sounded "off", but it's not as if they made me cringe.

(But then, I have basically no musical training, and couldn't tell you the difference between an A and a C)
posted by madajb at 10:23 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


For a more refined, bizarro-world version of this test, I recommend the Intros round of Never Mind the Buzzcocks (Amstell seasons naturally).

Absent of a defined pitch centre, even skilled musical guests sometimes miss a note or two, with the result of sending me off on a wild goose chase

I'd love to hear other perspectives on this. I find having a fairly strong grasp of pitch almost a handicap in this situation. Guests on the show that can pick up the 'line of best fit' for the song will often call out a popular hit because obviously, and I'll be stunned because "Feel Good Inc." can't have a *major* third, regardless of rhythm, style, or obvious Damon Albarn impersonation etc etc (I haven't checked if this specific one actually happened, but you get the point)
posted by AAALASTAIR at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


A painful test, which favors US audiences. Ηere' s a different one, a bit more difficult, bit more nuanced.
posted by helion at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


I started to think the result was already clear when I answered 'yes' six times in a row.
posted by Quilford at 10:56 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


The sample one was weird for me, because it was incorrect for bagpipes (missing some but not all of the gracenotes) but not necessarily for other instruments. But I guess having the wrong *number* of notes is different that having the existing notes be off.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2015


I got them all, but after the first one I was hovering over the play button so I could stop playback after the first wrong note. Partially as a game, partially because while some were merely off, others were wrong.

helion's test is much harder. I missed four. It also isn't music only people raised on Looney Tunes will be familiar with. Turn off the TV and go with your instinct if you want a good score.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:09 PM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm a trained, lifelong musician -- though percussionist -- and I have a terrible ear. Granted, I've had almost no ear training to correct this and being a percussionist who cannot sing at all, I've not had much incentive. I had to stop playing timpani because it would take me too long to re-tune (which, in the middle of a piece, was nerve-wracking) and that was basically the only time it was actively a problem. It affected me somewhat in college in freshman theory, too. But I dropped-out as a music major shortly thereafter, anyway.

So my score was 23/26 and it wasn't easy for me. Some of them I listened to several times and I also sort of think that I must have had some false negatives in there. (Granted, for me about a third of them had disturbingly wrong notes -- but a lot I felt were more ambiguous.) I expected to get a truly dismal score and was surprised that I did as well as I did and that the test declared that I have a "fine sense of pitch". Which I don't.

Seeing the scores here and that many felt this was trivial puts me back where I expected.

And so I just want to say that I absolutely fucking hate that I have a terrible ear. And I can't sing.

But it's worth exploring the cultural stuff involved in this -- there's a cultural conceit that having a good ear and being able to sing are just talents that either you have or you don't have. And while it's certainly true that different people seem to have some apparently innately varying degrees of ability in these two things, it's also true that it's very much mediated by both environment and training. They are trainable skills.

Insofar as we accept this narrative about them being innate, we can be very complacent about it. As in math, this encourages people to simply think in fatalistic terms of either being good or bad at these things. Even though I know better, I've internalized this idea about these two musical deficiencies and I never worked up the motivation to improve, even though I don't like feeling inadequate about them. But it's also that I don't like feeling inadequate -- taking this test, I felt a lot of frustration because it seems like it should be very easy.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:22 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you take helion's test, be aware that the recording levels vary a lot. I might have lost a point on a question I couldn't hear. My score on the OP test was 26/26 and my score on helion's was 86.1%/87th percentile. (You can review your answers and see the response rates for all the questions, replaying any phrases you'd like, which is interesting though not especially informative.)

Ivan, as you see, I test out pretty well for pitch, but I've had iatrogenic damage to the nerves innervating my vocal cords - the only instrument you carry with you from birth, and mine's broken. I'm grateful and fortunate, of course, that my surgeon could put filler in one side of the cords, so I can talk - but my weak, wavering, six-note range is not a thing of glory. The cultural conceit is definitely a myth - my voice was nothing special before, but now I literally can't sing.
posted by gingerest at 11:34 PM on September 14, 2015


Ah, I didn't intend to imply that what I called a "cultural conceit" is that there's an assumed connection between singing and having a good ear -- although I do think there's modest correlation. I just meant that there's an assumption for each that they're something you're born with, or aren't, and that these aren't skills you can acquire from training and practice.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:46 PM on September 14, 2015


21/26, which seems to mean I've got terrible pitch, based on the responses above. Not a surprise.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:00 AM on September 15, 2015


The first one was easy. You just pick the ones that are "wrong" (though you could work some of those "wrong" ones into interesting variations).

25/26, didn't recognize one of the songs.

Not even the Beethoven? Or any of the Bugs Bunny standards? (Or do you mean you recognized 25 and didn't recognize 1?) If you got 25 out of 26 without knowing the songs, that's proof enough to me that you don't need to know the songs to take the test.

Ηere' s a different one, a bit more difficult, bit more nuanced.

That's more of a memory and training test, where two passages might be equally good or bad, but your task is to listen to both, one after the other, and decide whether they were the same. If you've had musical training, you'll have an easier time remembering (maybe visualizing) the first passage and comparing the two as you listen to and visualize the second.
posted by pracowity at 12:13 AM on September 15, 2015


Only did ten before I observed that they weren't getting any harder, or rather, any less ridiculously obvious, so I hopped to the comments and, yeah, my suspicions were right. Though there's a difference- for me the wrong ones provoked hilarity rather than pain.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 12:17 AM on September 15, 2015


26/26 for me, which was much better than I expected. I remember taking a test at school in music class where we were played pairs of beeps and we had to write down whether the second was lower, higher or equal to the first, and I did quite dismally at that so I've always believed I have a poor sense of pitch. I guess this test is just measuring gross deficiencies however. When I was doing it there were quite a few that sounded kind of off to me, but not extremely so, and I only answered No to those that were blatantly wrong and I was totally sure of. I was expecting to get a few wrong from false negatives but as luck would have it that was the right approach. I recognized about half the tunes.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:18 AM on September 15, 2015


It's harder than it looks.
posted by steganographia at 2:12 AM on September 15, 2015


26/26. Very easy and obvious to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:58 AM on September 15, 2015


26/26. Quite a few I didn't recognize the melody of, but they still go so hilariously off tune that it's still easy to decide.

Helion's test was much harder, but I got 91%. A lot of the time both different melodies sounded in-tune and it was just a game of "wait, did all sixteen of those notes match or not?"
posted by ymgve at 5:03 AM on September 15, 2015


26/26, looks like all those years listening to The Residents and Throbbing Gristle have been for nothing. Thanks a lot...
posted by SageLeVoid at 5:23 AM on September 15, 2015


It's earier if you imagine Road Runner or Bugs Bunny playing them. Believe me, if all those endearing BANG.
posted by BiggerJ at 5:24 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


25/26 - If you think it was painful to listen to imagine being a musician and having to play like that intentionally.
posted by Gev at 5:34 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you think it was painful to listen to imagine being a musician and having to play like that intentionally

It's better fun than playing the straight versions.
posted by Wolof at 5:59 AM on September 15, 2015


Ah takes me back to high school band and occasionally playing b-natural instead of b-flat as we tuned (just kidding, this was way worse than that - one instrument purposely playing up or down half a step is just more of a weird ululating cry than fingernails on chalkboard bad).
posted by combinatorial explosion at 6:03 AM on September 15, 2015


Wow, yeah, the test helion linked is tough. I make part of my living composing and performing music, and I found most of the amusical examples really difficult to follow. Was that bum note different from the other bum note? Who could say? I think I clicked "different" on a lot of the questions just because neither sample felt "right," so I couldn't remember if they were the same wrong or different wrong.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:04 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you click quickly, you can play most of the test tunes at once.

I've done it, so you don't have to.
posted by Devonian at 6:18 AM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


25/26 and they don't tell me which one I got wrong??? Argggghh
posted by nzero at 7:14 AM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh. Did it again and got 26. I don't know which one I answered differently... Damn it.
posted by nzero at 7:51 AM on September 15, 2015


25/26, which surprised me. I have a lot of trouble with music. I play guitar but I can't for the life of me figure out things by ear. I can't find the key of a song. I can't "jam" with people unless I know exactly what chords they're playing. I am a frustrated musician who always assumed I just had problems with pitch. So why did I do so well on this?

Can tell if I play a scale and get a note wrong, so obviously I have some sense of pitch. So why do I have so much trouble with other things?
posted by bondcliff at 7:53 AM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


22/26.

This test is testing familiarity with modern western 12 equal temperment tunings. I suspect that exposure to other tuning systems has "ruined" my sense of relative pitch; making some of the passages that; since i guess i'm not familar with, seem just "off", like they're correct, but transposed.

Or I've just got a tin ear. ;-)
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 7:56 AM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh. I didn't realize so many of those songs would only be familiar to a USA audience. I mean, yes, Yankee Doodle, sure, but O Tannenbaum, Silent Night, God Save the Queen (My Country 'Tis of Thee in the USA) and Auld Lang Syne should be pretty universal. Let's see...

Amazing Grace (should be international)
Oh Suzannah (American)
The Star Spangled Banner (American, though national anthems should be more known internationally)
America the Beautiful (ok, yeah, American)
something ragtime I can't remember the title for (probably American)
Yankee Doodle (American)
Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two) (American, but famous from 2001: A Space Odyssey)
Für Elise (should be international)
The First Noel (should be international)
For He's a Jolly Good Fellow (should be international?)
Silent Night (should be international)
La Marseillaise (no comment)
The Battle Hymn of the Republic (ok, totes American)
God Save the Queen (My Country 'Tis of Thee) (should be international)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (should be international)
London Bridge Is Falling Down (no comment)
Auld Lang Syne (should be international)
La Cucaracha (possibly skews North American)
Pop! Goes the Weasel (should be international)
Aloha ʻOe (ok Hawaiian)
Oh My Darling, Clementine (ok, American)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (yeah, American)

I stand corrected, those are at least half American folk songs.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:59 AM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gah, the phrasing! I was relieved when I spotted the mistakes so I could just stop and avoid having it leave me hanging by ending the snippet 2-3 notes from the end of the phrase.
posted by ignignokt at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think a bot that just identified diatonic/chromatic could probably get a 23/26 on this. It's not a good test of pure pitch identification or recall, but I'm not sure that's what they use it for.

If I ran this test, I'd sneak the break from Angel of Death in there.

Oh, also, if you enjoyed some of those snippets, test your sense of pitch on this thing I did on a hack day (hopefully relevant self-link).
posted by ignignokt at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I actually enjoyed some of the "wrong" ones quite a bit- it was a little like what would have happened if Charles Ives went into audiology instead of insurance.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:41 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I did worse the second time around with 23/26, (first time on my iPod, it was 25/26) but I was really distracted writing down the song titles and I still think there is something off about Pop Goes the Weasel. Several of the songs were repeated and they are not in the same order as ignignokt posted. After the test sample, I had Turkey in the Straw as the first tune.

I am resolutely unmusical so I don't think this is an accurate test.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:58 AM on September 15, 2015


OTOH, the other test linked above? sub-normal for musical memory so that sounds about right.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:11 AM on September 15, 2015


Years of piano lessons, a music performance degree, years of music theory classes, and I still only managed a 66% -- low fricking normal -- on the much harder Tone Deaf test (I got 26/26 on the one in the OP but I'm not really counting that as a good test).
posted by jpolchlopek at 9:11 AM on September 15, 2015


Can't say for certain, but I'm pretty confident the distorted songs would be obvious to most people regardless of whether they were familiar with the melody.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:11 AM on September 15, 2015


Burnt Hombre, I can say that with little to no familiarity with Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, I figured it was wrong just by sound, despite not being able to identify the song at the time.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:37 AM on September 15, 2015


26/26 and ow ow ow my poor ears!
posted by Lynsey at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2015


22. How do I tell if this is because my sense of pitch sucks or because I listen to a lot of jazz (Monk, Coleman) & classical Indian music?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:39 AM on September 15, 2015


I listen to a lot of Monk and Coleman (but not Indian music), and I got all 26 easily, so ... maybe not that?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:09 PM on September 15, 2015


25/26. Für Elise threw me because they included the right hand continuation of the left hand's arpeggio along with the melody — there's a downward jump that sounds a bit odd without any of the left hand notes. (Is a downward jump of a sixth even allowed in counterpoint? I don't think it's part of the melody.)

And I thought the distorted ones were delightful, but sometimes I listen to Schnittke and Elliott Carter, so...
posted by Wemmick at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you think it was painful to listen to imagine being a musician and having to play like that intentionally.

Say, have you seen the Carioca?
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 1:47 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, for one, am pleased to see that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is making good use of my tax dollars.
posted by ecorrocio at 2:50 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is tune 6? That's the only one I didn't recognize.
posted by John Cohen at 6:14 PM on September 15, 2015


Oh, I missed this comment with all the song titles.
posted by John Cohen at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2015


I found many of the altered ones more interesting than the originals, but I also think Adrian Belew's "Guernica" would benefit from a little more dissonance. Orange Dinosaur Slide, that was hilarious, thanks!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:21 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This test is too easy (I got 100%) and helion's is too hard (I got 75%). I'm fine with a challenging test, but the latter test seemed to be more of a test of memory than pitch — I could have done better if there were a way to replay them. Also, as noted, the volume is a problem — I kept adjusting the volume, so sometimes I didn't catch the beginning. And when the test started, I had the volume too low and didn't realize I wouldn't be able to replay it, so I just missed the first one.
posted by John Cohen at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2015


I got 16/26. Judging from the responses here (and the gentle but firm warning on the NIH website), I'm a heck of a lot closer to tone deaf than I thought. So thanks, I guess?
posted by librarylis at 8:41 PM on September 15, 2015


89% on helion's test. Much more fun.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:31 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tried helion's test again and got 83.3% ("very good performance"), instead of my previous 75% ("normal performance"). I still say it tests memorization more than pitch.
posted by John Cohen at 11:48 PM on September 15, 2015


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