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Better Ears

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

Every musician will tell you that there are some musicians who just seem to have better ears than others do. We’re really talking about the brain, rather than the actual organ of hearing, but in any case from the same sounds others hear, some people are able to extract more information, and they’re able both to process and to store that information faster, more accurately, and more efficiently. 

I've talked about ear training courses for musicians, and rigorous training can certainly lead to the development of great skills in hearing, great refinements. But individual differences do  remain. Take perfect pitch, for example, also called absolute pitch. Play any note on the piano for a person with perfect pitch and he can tell you what note it is. Ask a person with perfect pitch to sing a B-flat, or a C-sharp, and he can do it. Some have it, some don’t. And training has never been able to fully explain it.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.