December 24, 2020 ~ 2 min read

How to teach your child absolute pitch

What is absolute pitch?

Absolute pitch, also known as perfect pitch, which is the ability to instantly recognize and identify any musical note. It differs from the more common relative pitch, which is the ability to identify or reproduce relative tones. Relative pitch is required to be able to sing or whistle in-key: if you can sing a song, you have it. Absolute pitch is a much more rare ability (4% of musicians have it), and is a radical change in how music is perceived.

If someone percieved color without "Absolute Color", they could tell you whether that a yellow car is redder than a blue car, but wouldn't be able to identify the color of either. To people with absolute pitch, the idea that someone wouldn't be able to immediately recognize the distenct F#-ness of the note F# is similarly absurd and hard to imagine. The distinct character of each note is ingrained into how they experience music, just as the ability to recognize color is integral to our ability to see.

Teaching absolute pitch.

Below the age of 4, kids can learn absolute pitch with little effort on behalf of the caretaker. The trick is to build an association between each note and a color, and to play games to build that association.


  1. Buy a cheap Yamaha or Casio keyboard, which can be had for 80-120 used. Leave it on the floor, plugged in and on them to play with at any time.
  2. Buy color stickers, like these ones and label each unique note in the twelve tone scale with a distinct color. The system I used was the one from cdefgab=red,yellow,green,orange,blue,gray,purple.
  3. Play games with the kid’s favorite toys and the notes.

Example: find a red and green toy. Introduce the red toy while singing red=C, like “this is the red truck/doll/fox/whatever”. Then do the same with the other color you picked. Have them show you a toy, then sing a story about that toy using only that color note.

Another game: point out the colors of things you see. Use a tuner app or piano app on your phone to generate tones for yourself. This requires that you memorize the note color system yourself, which will happen easily after about an hour of initial play.

Paul Hobbs

Hi, I'm Paul . I'm a software engineer, living in California.