The impact John Lennon made on the music world is evidenced by the 350+ songs that he wrote and recorded during his career. There is no question that he was an incredible musician, but Did John Lennon have perfect pitch?
Here’s what I know from being a long-time Beatles fan:
John Lennon did not have perfect pitch, which allows a performer to instantly recognize any note that is played. John Lennon simply had extraordinary talent & creativity and the capacity to learn.
It is not obvious if a person has perfect pitch, but it is pretty apparent when they do not. So, what is perfect pitch anyways?
And is it really that important?
In this article, we’ll explore the world of John Lennon specifically and perfect pitch in a more general sense.
Let’s get going!
What Does Perfect Pitch Mean?
Perfect pitch is sometimes referred to as ‘absolute pitch’. Simply put, perfect pitch is the innate capacity that some people have to sing a note perfectly in tune, without having to hear a reference note to base off of.
They can simply sing a G without having to hear an F first. And contrary to what many people think, it actually has nothing to do with the ability to hold a tune.
Maybe you’ve noticed a musician will strum a few notes on their guitar before they start singing a song that otherwise has no intro?
That’s because they are finding their pitch. A person with perfect pitch can skip this step and just start singing.
It is estimated that only about 1 in 10 people (at least in the western world) have perfect pitch. Everybody else has to study, practice, and fine-tune their capabilities.
If you have any musical training, and you have perfect pitch, you should be able to
- Identify a musical tone with no effort.
- Identify individual chords or the key a song is played in.
- Can name the pitches of common sounds like sirens.
- Reproduce a named pitch through singing or playing an instrument without a reference tone.
John Lennon could not naturally do any of these things because he did not have the gift of perfect pitch. He spent his lifetime and entire musical career training his ear.
Now playing: Stand By Me – John Lennon Listen now at https://t.co/xbHSHG1LmH! pic.twitter.com/Auz0oSFErJ
— GrooveTunesRadio.com (@GrooveTunes7777) April 3, 2021
What Kind of Voice Does John Lennon Have?
John Lennon had a baritone voice that could be described as nasal. He also occasionally would scream into the tenor range. He had what is known as relative pitch. The term basically refers to a musician’s ability to identify a note, a key, a chord, etc. by referencing another familiar note.
This is, by far, more typical among musicians, even those who are highly experienced.
A person who has relative pitch can learn the different sounds and tones on the musical spectrum to a point of precision that mimics absolute pitch.
This can take years of study and ear training, though, with absolute pitch being difficult to achieve.
Interestingly, research has shown that the younger a person is when they start training their ear, the more likely they are to master perfect pitch.
John Lennon was famously given a banjo by his mother when he was just a young boy. She painstakingly taught him how to play his first chords. It was then that he started training his ear and developing the natural talent he had for interpreting and interacting with the sound spectrum.
John Lennon’s collaborators reflect on “Imagine” sessions & why “he hated his voice” https://t.co/pd210Vxvcd pic.twitter.com/e6sOMyPWFx
— billboard (@billboard) October 4, 2018
Did John Lennon Hate His Voice?
John Lennon never liked his own voice and was never confident about his own singing, often describing it as gravely, nasal, smokey, sharp, or smooth.
John Lennon’s voice was undeniably distinctive.
His voice was a defining element in every song he wrote. Often, he would switch from one ‘voice’ to another in the same song, creating an expressiveness in his music that is nearly unrivaled even today. It is what defined him as a singer.
It’s pretty well known that he would often sing the lower parts of the harmonies that defined the Beatles’ sound.
He was particularly fond of using double-tracking on his solo albums.
Despite years of ear training and hands-on music-making, he always struggled to accept what he heard when his voice was played back to him.
Which Beatle Had The Best Voice?
Most people feel that of all the Beatles, Paul McCartney had the best voice, considering that he had a broader range and a more refined sound.
But it is hard to compare John Lennon to the rest of the Beatles in terms of their vocal qualities. Which Beatle had the best voice is a nearly impossible question to answer.
Not one of them had perfect pitch, and they were all self-taught.
George Harrison made up the third part of the distinctive Beatles harmonies, so it can’t be said that he didn’t have a good voice. Generally, his voice was regarded as heavy with melancholy and more solemn in style.
Ringo Starr, well, they didn’t let him sing too often for a reason.
He could carry a tune but had a very limited range, and he just kind of sounded goofy. Even still, he has his fans who swear he was the best singer in the Beatles.
John, on the other hand, had a more limited range than Paul but had an amazing expressiveness that could convey the whole range of human emotions.
So which Beatle had the best voice? That, dear reader, is up to you to decide.
“You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one”
Happy 80th John Lennon.
We could use your voice right now. pic.twitter.com/KahL8SSiRB
— We Are Stars 🏳️🌈🌊 (@wearestarsnyc) October 9, 2020
Which Famous Singers Have Perfect Pitch?
Two of the most famous singers with absolute pitch are Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. Also, famous singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and even Elton John reportedly have perfect pitch.
If you are still under the impression that having a perfect pitch is a prerequisite for being considered a great singer, you are wrong.
The vast majority of musicians out there have relative pitch and have had to work hard to hone their voices.
But there are a select few famous musicians that did have perfect pitch. A modern superstar with perfect pitch is Charlie Puth.
In this article, we looked at John Lennon.
Undeniably talented whose life was cut short way too soon. But as good as he was, he did NOT have a perfect pitch. And in fact, he hated the sound of his own voice.
Having a perfect pitch is not a requirement to be an excellent singer.
And if it was, most singers you know would be washing dishes or doing accounting work. Sure, it helps, but many vocalists achieve amazing things despite not having this innate capability.
In the case of John Lennon, he was able to develop his musical curiosity into one of the biggest musical talents in all of rock music history.
His powerful ear for music allowed him to literally change the world through the power of his voice.
Photo which requires attribution:
John Lennon Mural, Camden Town London by Loco Steve is licensed under CC2.0 and was stretched and had a text overlay added.