Today I would like to conduct an informal poll of sorts.
I have really good relative pitch. Once during my college music theory class I was the only person who took down a dictation correctly because I recognized a tricky note as a sharp instead of a whole step. But whoopie for me — perfect pitch is where it’s at. When you can identify a note out of the air without scale context, you’ve got it made, right? If you haven’t got that, well, you’re hardly screwed, but you’ll never be… perfect.
Or is perfect pitch the x factor after all? I ask because of something my mother has said. My brother has perfect pitch, so dictation tests are easy as hell for him — he doesn’t need a base note to work from or even to pay attention to anything but an individual note at a time. And that, says my mother, is precisely the problem with perfect pitch: because he doesn’t need to make the connections between notes to arrive at the correct answer, he has never had to recognize the sinew that holds them together, never had to weigh notes against each other to see how they fall together on a given scale. Being forced to work relatively also forces you to find the thread that runs through a piece; notes are never lonely floaters.
So… what say you, musicians? What say you, music teachers? Does perfect pitch have a crack in its flawless armor after all? Or is this a debatable, even laughable point invented by us relative pitchers (like relief pitchers but with multiple innings) to feel better about ourselves?