Medical Mysteries of MusicOngoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: The problem with perfect rhythm

You’ve probably heard about people who have perfect pitch.  This means they have an innate, instinctive ability to recognize and re-create any given musical note without any help. They hear a note and can immediately say “That’s D#” or whatever. People have been studying perfect pitch for centuries. What’s less understood is perfect rhythm.

Scientists have been looking at people who can keep a steady beat. They’ve found drummers who can keep a rhythm going within a tolerance of ten milliseconds.  But they’ve also discovered a downside. Just like people with perfect pitch can be annoyed by notes that are slightly off–like, say, a car horn–those with perfect rhythm are distracted by rhythms in everyday life that just aren’t quite right.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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