Perfect Pitch

The following is an excerpt from the book “Peak” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Poole. It illustrates the musical phenomenon known as “perfect pitch,” and explains the “critical developmental window” aspect of the childhood development of perfect pitch. By understanding the time-criticality of the learning of such skills, parents and coaches of Dangerous Children will have a much better idea of how to proceed from the beginning.

The term is “absolute pitch,” although it is better known as “perfect pitch.”

… Beethoven is thought to have had it; Brahms did not. Vladimir Horowitz had it; Igor Stravinsky did not. Frank Sinatra had it; Miles Davis did not.

It would seem, in short, to be an example of an innate talent that a few lucky people are born with and most are not. Indeed, this is what was widely believed for at least two hundred years. But over the past few decades a very different understanding of perfect pitch has emerged, one that points to an equally different vision of the sorts of gifts that life has to offer.

a good deal of research has shown that nearly everyone with perfect pitch began musical training at a very young age — generally around three to five years old. But if perfect pitch is an innate ability, something you are either born with or not, it shouldn’t make any difference whether you receive musical training as a child…

… perfect pitch is much more common among people who speak a tonal language such as Mandarin, Vietnamese, and several other Asian tongues in which the meaning of words is dependent on their pitch… people of Asian heritage who don’t grow up speaking a tonal language are no more likely than people of other ethnicities to have perfect pitch.

The true character of perfect pitch was revealed in 2014, thanks to a beautiful experiment carried out at the Ichionkai Music School in Tokyo and reported in the scientific journal Psychology of Music. The Japanese psychologist Ayako Sakakibara recruited twenty four children between the ages of two and six and put them through a months-long training course designed to teach them to identify, simply by their sound, various chords played on the piano… The children were given four or five training sessions per day, each lasting just a few minutes, until he or she could identify all fourteen of the target chords that Sakakibara had selected. Some of the children completed the training in less than a year, while others took as long as a year and a half.

Then, once a child had learned to identify the fourteen chords, Sakakibara tested that child to see if he or she could identify individual notes. After completing training, every one of the children had developed perfect pitch, and could identify individual notes played on the piano.

From “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Poole.

Mozart is famous for his “perfect pitch,” which doubtless assisted him in his lifelong work as composer and musician. By the time young Mozart reached the age of four, his father was already working with him intensively on the violin, keyboard, and other instruments. Wolfgang came from a family of musicians, so his genetic complement probably made him more receptive to this training than, say, the son of a chimney sweep would have been. But if started at an early age — and given the right kind of training for a long enough time — even the progeny of chimney sweeps now are thought to have had an excellent chance to develop perfect pitch.

The Book Goes On to Describe Other Unlikely Skills That Can Be Developed or Enhanced by Training

Humans are believed to be limited to about seven consecutive digits of recall, when remembering long numbers. But Anders Ericsson developed a method to extend that ability in college students up to 82 digits — eighty two! There is a big difference between memorising seven digits, and memorising eighty-two digits. The key was in the training that Ericsson had developed.

Proper and Deliberate Practise Transcends Plateaus

Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement. If anything, the doctor or the teacher or the driver who’s been at it for twenty years is likely to be a bit worse than the one who’s been doing it for only fife, and the reason is that these automated abilities gradually deteriorate in the absence of deliberate efforts to improve. __ Anders Ericsson, Robert Poole in “Peak”

Ericsson packs a lot of meaning into the word “deliberate.” Deliberate efforts to improve, or “deliberate practise,” is designed in a particular way to help you break through the barriers, and transcend the plateaus of learning on which you have been stuck. By learning deliberately you combat the natural degeneration of memory and expertise which tends to occur naturally with time.

Consider “Purposeful Practise”

Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal…

Purposeful practice is focused . . .

Purposeful practice involves feedback…

Purposeful practice involves getting out of one’s comfort zone …

__ Ericsson and Poole in “Peak

Getting Started Early Makes a Difference

Children who began musical training early in life, had different patterns of brain development as adults than those who did not begin training so early. The age of development when purposeful and deliberate training is initiated and maintained, shapes later development of the brain for life. If the person later neglects his special skill, his brain will regress to an extent, but the traces of the earliest training will remain and will provide scaffolding for building skills if purposeful training is re-instituted.

What is true for music is also true for chess, mathematics, scientific reasoning, and many other skills — many of which are critical assets for success in a modern high-tech world.

Different skills are better learned at different ages, but for most basic skills such as music, foreign language, strategy & tactics, three-dimensional dynamic movement and visualisation, creativity and invention etc., sometime before the age of six, eight, or ten, is best, depending …

And we have known for a long time that the development of pre-frontal executive functions and character should be developed before the age of eight, and as early as the age of four. Executive functions are probably more important than IQ to a child’s ultimate life success.

Do Not Neglect This Time in A Child’s Life

If the development of the child’s mind is left to institutions and society in general, parents will get what they deserve — another groupthinking member of the herd. But if parents want something very special for their child, they will mind the brain calendar and begin playful but purposeful practise at very early ages, according to the skill being developed.

Always remember that each skill requires a foundation, and most early skills foundations are quite easy and fun to teach and learn. But if they are neglected, later training is more difficult and is likely to leave cracks and holes of weakness and vulnerability.

Bottlenecks to Learning: Spoken Language

Serial vs. Parallel http://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-supercomputers-work.html
Serial vs. Parallel
http://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-supercomputers-work.html
This is the first mistake people make with small kids. They try to teach them by TALKING to them as if small children can simply reason along with their TALKING and automatically see the adult’s intent and adopt the adult’s logic. But even young adult brains do not learn so well by the TALKING method — much less small children!

Verbal language is processed in a relatively “serial,” straight-line manner. Visual information is processed in a highly parallel manner. Large amounts of information can be transferred in a short amount of time via parallel pathways. The image to the right illustrates the “serial bottleneck” that verbal language suffers from. Never forget that each word is slippery beyond belief, and each thought accompanying a word is both highly viscous and subject to total fragmentation.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

In the learning pyramid below, we can see that humans retain far less from a lecture than they do from a demonstration. This is infinitely more true for toddlers and pre-schoolers than it is for university students — and it is true enough for them.

How People Learn
How People Learn

More on the “learning pyramid.”

For particular areas of special interest, many young children may be ready for self-directed learning practise by the age of 2 or 3, but most of the time — for most areas of learning — they will need careful guidance, with an emphasis on exploratory play, expanding movement skills, simple music appreciation and training, basic underpinnings of art, and creative story-telling.

Such young children are not ready for lectures, or even group discussions of any depth beyond a rudimentary analysis of characters in stories.

They need to be shown, encouraged, guided, and playfully cajoled, but always with a consistent end in mind. No lectures, no debates, no group discussions except in playful, creative mode.

Cognitive Pyramid of Learning
Cognitive Pyramid of Learning

The cognitive pyramid of learning by Williams and Schellenberger, demonstrates how academic learning depends upon a deep and broad set of nervous system functions. Most meaningful learning takes place automatically, well beneath the level of consciousness.

Many years of profound preparation are needed before children and youth will be able to easily and automatically adapt to the style of learning common to modern secondary schools and universities. Unfortunately, 90% of young students never receive the preparation they need, to achieve broad success and competency in the larger world beyond their parents’ homes.

Hierarchy of Skills https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skill
Hierarchy of Skills
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skill

The hierarchy of useful skills by Kokcharov is a useful concept. But it is meant to be applied much earlier in child development than is done in many societies. A large number of “children” reach university without having acquired more than a sprinkling of basic knowledge — the bottom-most layer of the skills hierarchy! One hates to tell the young darlings and their parents that they are starting too late to achieve anything close to their best.

Keep in mind that where the term “knowledge” is used in the above pyramid, non-verbal knowledge will be key during the early years, and will serve as a foundation for later learning. An early mastery of many non-verbal skills will put the child at an early advantage in Dangerous Child training — particularly in areas of movement, art, basic mechanisms and forces, music, and the non-verbal aspects of language.

Very young children should be exposed to a wide range of situations where they must develop problem-solving skills. In fact, besides executive functions (including basic social skills), the love of difficult problem solving is at the top of vital childhood lessons to be learned.

Again, these vital early lessons are largely learned on a non-verbal level, by observing and by doing — and by creatively varying the basic approach.

Prism of Competence Clinical Medical Competence Used as an Example
Prism of Competence
Clinical Medical Competence Used as an Example

The image above illustrates development of competence in the field of clinical medicine, for medical students and doctors in training. Going from novice level to the level of mastery requires many years of training. By this time in a person’s education, he is expected to have mastered verbal knowledge acquisition, which involves a great deal of reading, testing — written and verbal — and little by little, practical hands-on skills training. The old saying in medical training is: “See one, do one, teach one.” And in basic terms, that is how medical and surgical skills propagate in training.

But a medical student, resident, or fellow will not reach his optimal levels of competence if he has not built a solid foundation of basic skills, competencies, executive functions, and a love for problem-solving, in his early years. These basic skills and competencies need to be mastered to the point of “conscious automaticity.” More on that seeming contradiction later.

OODA Loop John Boyd
OODA Loop Col. John Boyd

The OODA Loop pictured above was developed by USAF Col. John Boyd, several decades ago. It was used to help fighter pilots to gain the advantage in dogfights against enemy fighters. But over time, it has been seen to be useful in a much wider range of situations.

Here are the four steps:

  1. O…bserve
  2. O…rient
  3. D…ecide
  4. A…ct

It is called an “OODA Loop” because it should be running constantly, feeding back into itself at different points, as the situation changes.

But . . . humans should not have to wait until they train to be fighter pilots to learn this basic concept of moment to moment interaction with their environment. We have talked about “situational awareness” and “mindfulness,” but the OODA Loop gives tangible and actionable bones and structure to those verbal concepts, once it is mastered and applied to daily living.

How old do children need to be before they can learn the OODA Loop? If taught properly (nonverbally through play), children as young as 3 can learn to apply the OODA Loop automatically and unconsciously — long before they would be able to learn the concepts verbally. And to be sure, one never knows when his own life may balance on the ability of his child to act automatically with wisdom beyond his years.

More on OODA and John Boyd:

Human reaction time is defined as the time elapsing between the onset of a stimulus and the onset of a response to that stimulus. The O.O.D.A. Loop, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, is Boyd’s way of explaining how we go through the process of reacting to stimulus. First we Observe, and keep in mind that although we process approximately 80% of the information we receive with our sense of sight, we can and do make observations with our other senses. For instance you might hear a gunshot and not see the person who fired it. Once you look and see the source of the gunfire you are now in the Orient stage of the process. In the Orient stage you are now focusing your attention on what you have just observed. The next step is the Decide step in which you have to make a decision on what to do about what you have just observed and focused your attention on. Finally you have made your decision and the last step is to Act upon that decision. Keep in mind that the O.O.D.A loop is what happens between the onset of a stimulus and the onset of a reaction to that stimulus.

https://tacticalresponse.com/blogs/library/18649427-boyd-s-o-o-d-a-loop-and-how-we-use-it

The ideas are there, but the way it is presented above is not truly practical, in action. Going through the OODA Loop step by step in a conscious, “check-list” manner is a good way of getting yourself and others you care about, killed.

Ideally, Observe and Orient should be combined and Decide and Act fused together by practice, so the opponent’s action triggers your automatic reaction, without your needing to decide. Even below such a level of automatization, not having to think about your movements improves your reaction time because reaction time is shorter when set on “signal” than when set on “action.” (For example, if you are in a car stopped at a red light and you are thinking “green,” you will move faster than if you are thinking “green: press the gas pedal.”)

http://real-self-defense.com/free-self-defense-tips/self-defense-tip-76-ooda-loop/

Intro to John Boyd’s Strategic Thinking

John Boyd Compendium

Strategy books by and about John Boyd

Strategic Theory of John Boyd 349 PDF free download by Frans Osinga

Thesis on Air Power Strategies of John Boyd and John Warden

Children will go much farther in life if they are provided with useful and productive strategies along with a broad range of skills, competencies, and real world experiential knowledge of how people, groups, and institutions behave.

The foundations for all of this are built of non-verbal material. Sure, one should always talk to the child on a child-appropriate level (each child is unique). But in the early years, non-verbal forms of communication are much more potent than any semantic meaning of the words themselves. Even the “non-verbal” aspects of language itself exercise far more influence on the young child than the word or phrase meanings: Tone and speed of speech, prosody, speech melody and inflection, as well as facial expressions and body language that accompany the speech.

Dangerous Children master at least 3 different ways of supporting themselves financially by the age of 18. But as we have said, that is the easy part — and only the beginning.

Free Range Learning: Another Name for “Unschooling”

Very young children are filled with a thirst for learning all the skills they think they need to become a full player in the adult world they see around them. They are too young to know what they are letting themselves in for, but that eager thirst for learning will help them build useful foundations for further learning and development.

A rich environment of learning opportunities should be provided, with close attention paid to the child’s developing interests and abilities. Early learning should contain an element of play. Learning should not be associated in the child’s mind with compulsion or forced limitation of movement.

Structured education is actually very new to the human experience. Worse, it actually undermines the way children are primed to advance their abilities and mature into capable adults. __Laura Grace Weldon

Modern factory-style mass-production education is a significant impediment to childhood learning and maturation. This “Prussian style” of education should have been written off as a failed experiment decades ago. Instead, it is shoved down the throats of every child whose parents are unable to provide an alternative.

Here is how children are raised in hunter-gatherer societies:

… Play fosters learning in realms such as language, social skills, and spatial relations. It teaches a child to adapt, innovate, handle stress, and think independently. Even attention span increases in direct correlation to play.

Playfulness can’t be separated from learning. Children watch and imitate the people around them. The child’s natural desire to build his or her capabilities doesn’t have to be enforced. Instruction happens when the child seeks it. The learning environment is particularly rich when young people are surrounded by adults performing the tasks necessary to maintain their way of life. Children naturally learn as they playfully repeat what they see and begin to take part in these real life tasks. Mastering all the skills for self-reliance isn’t easy. Hunger-gatherer children must recognize thousands of species of plants and animals as well as how to best obtain, use, and store them. They must know how to make necessary items such as nets, baskets, darts, carrying devices, clothing, and shelter. They need to learn the lore of their people and pass along wisdom through story, ritual, and art. And perhaps most importantly, they need to be able to cooperate and share in ways that have allowed humanity to thrive. In such cultures, children learn on their own timetables in ways that best use their abilities.

… We don’t have to live as hunter-gatherers do to restore natural learning to children’s lives. Homeschoolers and unschoolers have been doing this, quite easily, for a very long time. Our children learn as they are ready and in ways that augment strong selfhood. They stay up late to stargaze or make music or design video games, knowing they can sleep late the next morning. They may fill an afternoon reading or actively contribute to the community. They have time to delve into topics of interest to them, often in much greater depth and breadth than any curriculum might demand. They explore, ask questions, volunteer, hang out with friends of all ages, take on household responsibilities, daydream, seek challenges, make mistakes and start over. They’re accustomed to thinking for themselves and pursuing their own interests, so they’re more likely to define success on their own terms. Because homeschooing/unschooling gives them the freedom to be who they already are, it pushes back against a world relentlessly promoting narrow definitions of success.

This kind of natural learning isn’t just an antidote to the soul crushing pressure of test-happy schools. It’s the way young people have learned throughout time.

Let children sleep in. Let them dream. Let them wake to their own possibilities. _Excerpts from Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon

Free range learning is about learning through experiencing life naturally. It is often referred to as “unschooling.” Some parents may take the idea too far and neglect the instilling of good habits of responsibility and ambition. But if contact with the child has been closely maintained throughout childhood, and is of an honest, open, and loving nature, a parent should be able to determine the sort of encouragement and life exposure which should be most helpful.

Parents who believe in self-directed learning allow children of all ages to continue learning naturally and at their own pace. For example, the parent of a child who is interested in birds might buy him a new pair of binoculars and a bird-watching guide. The parent may help the child construct a birdfeeder so there will be more opportunities to observe birds in the backyard. With help, the child may do research online about birds they’ve encountered in addition to picking up additional books on the topic at the local library. These activities may serve as a springboard for creating a book or project about what they’ve learned, and the parent will once again be there to support, encourage, and yes, teach. Traditionally schooled children typically play a more passive role in the learning process while unschoolers are actively engaged throughout the day.

… Autonomous children are empowered children—empowered to make choices and to evaluate the consequences of their choices within real contexts rather than going through life believing that they have no choices. __ Free Range Learning FAQs

The above example illustrates how unschooling encourages the child to develop initiative and internal resources for teaching himself to learn for the love of learning.

This style of education may very well not work for all children. It should be obvious early on whether unschooling will be workable for the parent-child ensemble in question. Children must demonstrate learning in various areas. But most critically, the child should be learning to think for himself and to teach himself to learn from as full a range of materials and experiences as life offers — and parents allow.

A child who “knows” a lot of facts on an exam — but who does not have the ability to solve real world problems or to teach himself to understand new topics of interest — is at a serious disadvantage when at the end of his education he is regurgitated by the system out into an unsympathetic “real world.”

Here are a number of “curricula choices” recommended by the author of freerangelearning.com blog. It is not an exhaustive list of homeschooling curricula or aids, but it is a good place to look for ideas.

The Dangerous Child curriculum is an adaptation of the “free range” approach, in the sense that it is closely adapted to the individual child’s nature and abilities. Dangerous Children learn to work and think resourcefully — both alone and in groups of mixed age. Every Dangerous Child must master at least three ways to support himself financially by the age of 18, and every DC must learn survival, evasion, rescue, and defence skills of various sorts.

Self-teaching is an important part of the process. But in addition, children can work together in a group to develop teamwork, problem-solving skills, and workable methods of social interaction. Dangerous skills — such as using power tools and metal fabrication methods to construct boats, shelters, sleds, and other devices and machines — work best when a team of Dangerous Children has learned to trust each other by working together on earlier projects. As they go on to learn to navigate cross country, on the water, and in the air, these teamworking skills will prove even more valuable.

There are things that every young child needs to learn, including self-control and self-discipline, to pave the way to a Dangerous Childhood. These are part of executive function, which should ideally be learned by the age of seven years. If for some reason the child is unable to develop self-control or self-discipline, his ability to self-teach is likely to be impaired. Further, if the child remains without self-control to the age of 10 or 12, it is unlikely that parents will want to teach the child the many dangerous and potentially lethal disciplines that are integral to the Dangerous Child Method.

In the future we will be looking at some milestones of progress that parents should be looking for. Each phase of learning fits into the next phase, at the proper time for each child. Multiple threads of development and learning should be ongoing at any given time. A child may be relatively advanced in music and reading, but somewhat slower in maths or in the workshop. As long as he displays self-discipline, resourceful thinking, and the ability to self-teach, he should be allowed to develop at his own pace, without undue pressure to perform.