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LEARN: Review of Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism

Blog post written by Sanja Cajic (Sydney Representative)

Kupferstein and Rancer (2016) Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism: A Guide for Educators, Parents, and the Musically Gifted


This book combines the knowledge, research, and experience of two researchers and professionals, Susan Rancer and Henny Kupferstein. Rancer and Kupferstein propose a theory that individuals with autism and individuals gifted with musical potential, are wired to process musical information in a unique way, therefore requiring an adapted teaching approach that takes their unique learning style into account.

The authors describe a common trait of individuals with autism/individuals gifted with musical potential, namely Absolute Pitch (AP) - an ability to identify a tone by name without an external reference pitch. The presence of AP in a student calls for a different approach to learning notation, requiring teachers to use various techniques to help students link notation presented visually to the pitch the student can hear. The authors argue, that using a traditional music teaching approach with a student with AP can have detrimental effects, leading the student to feel incapable.

The authors’ adapted music teaching approach for students with AP is called the Rancer Method, and is an innovation in the music teaching field. Chapter 6 of the book outlines the Rancer Method fully, illustrating lesson set-up and discussing lesson materials required. Since the method focuses on the ‘process’ of learning music, the book is user-friendly, giving music teachers the knowledge required to test for AP and to use the adapted teaching techniques with their students.

In addition to outlining the Rancer Method, the book also provides general music lesson tips and ideas when teaching students with autism. The book is also filled with interesting material, including how to identify whether students are left-brain or right-brain learners using student behaviours and presentation, and what this means in terms of their learning style and preferences. Finally, the book also outlines some common traits for people with autism which might require further awareness and training for teachers, including synaesthesia, sensory challenges, and reading and memory differences.

What are the key topics covered?

  • Identifying and testing for Absolute Pitch (AP)

  • Understanding left and right-brain learning traits

  • Piano teaching ideas and lesson set-up

  • Music therapy tips

  • The Rancer Method – an outline of the method and how it can be used with students

  • Identifying features and traits of students with autism

Which art forms are discussed?

Piano teaching, music theory teaching, and music therapy.

What disciplines are involved?

Music education, music therapy, and psychology - particularly neuropsychology.

Who is it aimed at?

This book is highly suitable for music teachers wishing to incorporate music education for students with autism in their music studios. This book is also suitable for music therapists, parents of children with autism, and anyone interested in finding more about an adaptive music teaching approach.

Thank you so much to Sanja for taking the time to write this book review. If you are interested in reviewing a book for the blog, please get in touch with Robyn our Blog Editor.

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