Happy Mr. Bb

I like Bb. It’s a pretty note.

I was reading about Perfect Pitch this afternoon. Found a good study out of UC San Francisco cram-packed with all the expected conclusions — that it’s genetic, clusters in families, and usually emerges by age seven if you have musical training. They also discuss ongoing work to locate the gene sequence responsible. Wouldn’t it be nifty if it could be fabricated?

I don’t have this blessed affliction. But I can hum both an A and a Bb on command (if there’s no music playing). I can usually recognize them when played too. The reason is simple: repeat exposure to those pitches. In high school I played the Bb tuning note for the big band, five days a week for several years. And into college too. An A is the sound my metronome makes. Those pitches were imprinted early. The rest of it is just games. Ask me to hum any note, I’ll find my reference pitch (fingers stuffed in ears, eyes closed) and apply the interval difference.

I tried this on a perfect pitch test, cold, no notes beforehand. I scored 7 out of 12. A second try, I scored 6 out of 12. It’s certainly higher than one would score using purely random guesses, but a person with true perfect pitch should get all 12. My so-called reference tones obviously didn’t survive the onslaught of pitches as well as expected.

With all this in mind, I received a really interesting link from my friend (and fellow user) Chris Bakos today. For users that track favorites, you can do an analysis on those tracks and see the key distribution therein. Turns out of the 461 tunes I marked as favs in, the dominant key is, you guessed it: Bb.

Unrelated but interesting. That same analysis pointed out that 66% of those favorites are in major keys, something I found particularly surprisingly. Typically I like my music like my cologne: brutish. I guess deep down, I prefer happier sounds. And in the key of Bb.

Perfect Pitch Test: utility (for users)

The 461 (and counting) “loved” tracks of mine on

A related blog post o’ mine on