A Study to determine the effectiveness of the David L. Burge technique for development of perfect pitch

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Perfect or absolute pitch, the ability to recognize any pitch heard or to sing any pitch named with no previous reference, has been a source of wonderment for centuries. Only in the past one hundred and fifty years has the ability been subject to scientific scrutiny. Much controversy has existed as to whether the ability is innate or acquired, and if it is acquired, whether anyone can acquire it or just those who are so predisposed. Many believe the ability to be a product of heredity and not of environment, available to only a select few. In 1983 David L. Burge marketed an ear training course for developing perfect pitch called "The David L. Burge Perfect Pitch Ear-Training Course." Burge claims that the ability is innate and can be acquired by anyone who diligently and consistently follows his technique. This research seeks to test Burge's course to see if perfect pitch can indeed be acquired or significantly improved through training in his technique. In the Fall Semester of 1988 at the University of Calgary, seventy-eight music students in Years One, Two, and Three/Four of the Bachelor of Music Program took part in an experiment of quasiexperimental design to see if pitch discrimination ability could be improved using the Burge method. The sample consisted of forty-five experimental group subjects and thirty-three control group subjects. All students were pretested at three levels of the Burge course: Color Discrimination--naming of pitches played on one's familiar instrument; Universal Color Discrimination--naming of pitches played on a number of different timbres; Aural Recall--singing of requested pitches. Experimental subjects trained in the Burge technique for twenty to thirty minutes each day while control students had regular class ear-training exercises which did not include perfect pitch exercises. At the end of the semester all students were posttested with the same exam as the pretest. Experimental students showed statistically significant improvement in Color Discrimination, Aural Recall and on one method of scoring for Universal Color Discrimination. In other words they showed significant improvement at all levels with the exception of one method of scoring for Universal Color Discrimination. In spite of the time period of one semester, a relatively short time in which to endeavour to learn a complicated skill such as perfect pitch, experimental subjects improved from pretest to posttest on every test, and showed greater gains than control subjects on every test. Control subjects showed no statistically significant improvement at any of the three levels. This research shows that Burge's course is indeed effective in improving pitch discriminating ability on one's familiar musical instrument, on various instruments of different timbres and in improving ability to sing requested pitches.
Bibliography: p. 360-363.
Nering, M. E. (1991). A Study to determine the effectiveness of the David L. Burge technique for development of perfect pitch (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca. doi:10.11575/PRISM/16932