Only one in 10,000 people can instantaneously identify or sing any given musical note without help. And almost always, people with perfect pitch had musical training before age 7. But not every young musician ends up with the skill - because it may be genetic. Musicians with perfect pitch include Mozart, Jimi Hendrix and Mariah Carey, while those who don't include Tchaikovsky, Julie Andrews, and many others.
Scientists have long suspected that perfect pitch runs in families, and ongoing research supports that hypothesis. For example, a person with a sibling who has perfect pitch, as well as early musical training, is 15 times more likely to possess perfect pitch than someone with just musical training.
A recent study used DNA from 73 families to identify what areas of the human genome are related to the inheritance of perfect pitch. They were actually able to link a region on chromosome 8 to perfect pitch. but surprisingly, only in families of Mixed European heritage. In families of East Asian descent as well as Ashkenazi Jewish families the genetic information is located on a completely different chromosome. What seems clear is that the trait involves different genes and scientists are now sequencing those identified in these families to understand how they work.
But some people still think perfect pitch can be learned because they believe it�s a form of speech rather than a musical ability. One study found people with perfect pitch were better at recalling speech sounds read to them.
For more information…
Is Perfect Pitch Genetic?
Healthfinder.gov — "Having perfect pitch may have as much to do with your genes as with early and extensive musical training, according to a new study."
University of California Genetics of Absolute Pitch Study
UCSF — "Absolute pitch, commonly referred to as perfect pitch, is an intriguing cognitive trait involved in music perception and is defined as the ability to identify the pitch of a musical tone without an external reference pitch."
The Biology of... Perfect Pitch
Discover — "Composers such as Chopin, Bach, Handel, Beethoven, and Mozart, and performers such as Heifetz, Horowitz, Segovia, and Rubinstein have all had perfect pitch. But only one in 10,000 Americans shares their gift."
How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene?
NIH — "Geneticists use maps to describe the location of a particular gene on a chromosome. One type of map uses the cytogenetic location to describe a gene�s position..."