Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Absolute pitch is the name given to the rare ability to identify a musical note in an automatic and effortless manner without the need for a reference tone. Those individuals with absolute pitch can, for example, name the note they hear, identify all of the tones of a given chord, and/or name the pitches of everyday sounds, such as car horns or sirens. Hence, absolute pitch can be seen as providing a rare example of absolute sensory judgment in audition. Surprisingly, however, the intriguing question of whether such an ability presents unique features in the domain of sensory perception, or whether instead similar perceptual skills also exist in other sensory domains, has not been explicitly addressed previously. In this paper, this question is addressed by systematically reviewing research on absolute pitch using the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) method. Thereafter, we compare absolute pitch with two rare types of sensory experience, namely synaesthesia and eidetic memory, to understand if and how these phenomena exhibit similar features to absolute pitch. Furthermore, a common absolute perceptual ability that has been often compared to absolute pitch, namely colour perception, is also discussed. Arguments are provided supporting the notion that none of the examined abilities can be considered like absolute pitch. Therefore, we conclude by suggesting that absolute pitch does indeed appear to constitute a unique kind of absolute sensory judgment in humans, and we discuss some open issues and novel directions for future research in absolute pitch.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





Auditory perception, Eidetic memory, Relative pitch, Savant syndrome, Sensory judgments