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Is Musical Talent Hereditary?

Food For Thought ->

Question: If the piano was invented in 1700 by Bartolomeo Cristofori how can people be born with the ability to play the piano without a lesson, or a savant’s ability to play difficult numbers?

– Neil (Kingman, Arizona, USA)

Is Perfect Pitch Genetic?

Perfect pitch – the ability to name exact pitches upon hearing them – is a learned skill, albeit it is one that most musicians never learn.

A researcher, Dr. Joseph Profita, has devised a test he says can detect perfect pitch even in people with no musical training. Using the test and analyzing family trees, he has found evidence that perfect pitch follows what geneticists call an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern.

Autosomal Dominant Inheritance Pattern

Most genes come in pairs. One is inherited from the mother and the other from the father.

Genes inherited from our biological parents are expressed in specific ways. One of these basic patterns is called autosomal dominant inheritance.


Dr. Profita, who studied the piano and violin at the Juilliard School before turning to medicine, realized he had perfect pitch at age 6.

"The minute I hear a note, I know it," he said. "A single note takes on a real nature, like an object. An A is an A just the way a table is a table."

Hard work In Practice

Perfect pitch, therefore, could develop over time with extensive musical training and memory skills to intentionally memorize the tonality of each note– simply as a memory of pitch.

Findings show that

"Perfect pitch is associated with an unusually large memory span for speech sounds, which in turn could facilitate the development of associations between pitches and their spoken languages early in life,"

- Diana Deutsch, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, said in an American Institute of Physics news release.

So do YOU think musical talent is hereditary? Or do we need to put in hard work in order to be successful? Stay tune to the next blog post where we will explore the area of "hard work in practice".

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