Only one in 1200 people have perfect pitch, the ability to identify exactly what a particular note should sound like without reference to any other notes. Not surprisingly, a disproportionate share of sharp ears belong to those who make music for a living: About 15% of musicians have the ability, also known as absolute pitch. Are you one of the lucky few? A dead giveaway is whether you know right away that your fluorescent light is buzzing along at a steady B flat.
More perfect pitch lore awaits at sites listed at Perfect Pitch on the Internet. By searching a bibliographic database called the Music and Science Information Archive, for example, you can learn about a 1995 German study showing that the ability may reside in the planum temporale, a brain region that processes sound signals. That brain area is far larger on the left side than on the right in professional musicians--especially in those with perfect pitch. Another link takes you to a study by a University of California, San Francisco, team that's collecting blood from hundreds of people with absolute pitch in hope of finding the genetic basis for the ability. There you can take a sound test to see if you've got a Mozartian ear. Or to find out whether a favorite musician has the gift, check out Famous People With Perfect Pitch, which lists 65-and-counting musicians ranging from Beethoven to Yanni.