[Dixielandjazz] Perfect pitch

Bill Gunter jazzboard at hotmail.com
Sun Jun 5 15:20:39 PDT 2005

Hi all . . .

Some talk recently about the "perfect pitch" phenomenon. Made me recall a 
column Dave Barry wrote some time ago which is related to this subject.

Basically, Barry was fascinated by a chant at the basketball games. It seems 
that in Miami, whenever there was a home game and the opposing team 
attempted a basket and for some reason the ball missed the basket 
completely, the crowd would start chanting spontaneously and they would 
chant the words "air ball" over and over so it sounded like "air ball air 
ball air ball air ball air ball air ball air ball" etc.

It was a sing-songy kind of chant and Barry noticed something he felt was 
unusual. It seemed to him that the crowd would ALWAYS do this chant in the 
same key (one flat). He took a tape recorder to a game and recorded the 
chant and when he got it home he played it and checked it against the notes 
on his piano. Behold . . . the notes were F and D (the key being D minor). 
On further checking he repeated the experiment and it was always the same! 
"Air ball air ball" was always chanted on the notes F and D!

This chant was always spontaneous and there was no musical instrument in 
play to provide the pitch to sing this chant on. So why was it always in the 
key of one flat? Does the crowd at a basketball game have "perfect pitch" or 

I've tried the same experiment myself. Sometimes at a gig when the band is 
setting up I'll start chanting "air ball" to myself and then ask the piano 
player to hit a "F" - Virtually everytime it's "Bingo" -- I was right on the 
note!  I've even impressed some others by announcing "Listen, I'll sing an 
"F" (and I go through the routine) and the piano player then verifies that I 
was indeed singing an "F."

To be honest, I've also missed a few of these experiments and hit some other 
note. But that's probably because I was influenced by other axes tuning up 
or something. But most of the time I've been right on.

Anyone care to comment about this . . . you might try the experiment 
yourself and see what happens.

Respectfully submitted,

Bill "air ball air ball air ball" Gunter
jazzboard at hotmail.com

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