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University of California Genetics of Absolute Pitch Study

frequently asked questions



What do my test scores mean?

After taking the test, you will receive your scores for the pure tone test and piano tone test. There are a total of 36 possible points for both the pure tone test and piano tone tests. Four of the 40 tones on each test are not counted because they lie in very high or low octaves.

Your test scores are the total number of correct tone guesses you made on each test. Each exactly correct answer is given 1 full point, but a semi-tone error is given .75 point. We allow the semi-tone errors to accommodate the pitch perception shifts with age or possible distortions that may be produced by your computer. Individuals over the age of 45 are given a full point for semi-tone errors.

We have chosen to use pure tones as our criteria because pure tones (synthesized sine-waves) have no timbre that might provide additional pitch clues to some individuals. The cut-off value for AP1 (our most rigorous definition of absolute pitch possession) is 24.5 on the pure tone axis, which was 3 standard deviations above the mean pure tone score (17.34) of our initial round of testing subjects.

Some people will score close to AP1 cut-off, but not high enough to be given the designation AP1. We encourage those individuals to return to our site on another occasion and try the test again!

Will I be paid for my participation in the University of California Genetics of Absolute Pitch Study?

No, you will not be paid. All of our subjects participate voluntarily. However, there will be no costs to you for participating. Should you decide to contribute a DNA sample for our genetic study, we will pay for collection and shipping.

What if I have trouble filling in the survey or taking the test on the Web?

Simply email us or call us. We can provide you with the auditory test on a CD and a paper survey and test response sheet via the mail. We find that older subjects in particular are less familiar with the Web and benefit from this method of participation.

I know I have perfect pitch, but the tones come too fast on the auditory tone test. Won't you miss identifying people with absolute pitch using this test?

To facilitate genetic analysis of absolute pitch ability in humans, we have developed a very stringent set of criteria for inclusion in the study. Our criteria include an instantaneous identification of a tone, without a reference tone. This strategy will certainly reduce the number of participants in the study. However, behavioral traits can be difficult to study genetically if they are defined too broadly. We aim to obtain a sample population of absolute pitch possessors that will be more similar in their pitch discrimination ability than we could obtain if we were to relax the stringency of our auditory test criteria. By focusing our genetic analysis on subjects who share this strict requirement, we will likely increase our chances of finding the gene(s) that predispose an individual to developing absolute pitch ability.

I used to have absolute pitch, but as I've gotten older, I've noticed that my pitch perception is "off". Is this common?

Yes. Click here to see our findings on the effect of age on pitch perception. Even though our test may not place you in the "AP1" category, we still encourage your participation as it will allow us to learn more about changes in pitch perception with age.

If I participate in the study, how will my privacy be protected?

The information you provide us with is confidential and will be used only for the purposes of the University of California Genetics of Absolute Pitch Study. Information is held in a secure, password-protected database in our laboratory. Samples we might receive from you will be given an identifying number and handled anonymously after arrival in our laboratory. The results or sample material from any of our studies will be shared only with our collaborators; they will not be distributed to any other laboratories for research or commercial purposes.