Jacob Collier on exploring microtonality: “It’s almost like a deliberate effort to break my perfect pitch open”

Jacob Collier wants to encourage musicians to explore tonality far beyond 12 notes.


Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty Images

Jacob Collier has spoken out about his journey with perfect pitch and microtonality, and how it has allowed him to re-explore his favourite music.

The five-time Grammy-winning producer and musician has always been open about his experiences with perfect pitch and has reflected on how it has enabled him to explore microtonality in the latest episode of the My Forever Studio podcast. The multi-instrumentalist suggests that his perfect pitch allowed him to have an “inner geography” of notes and that the spectrum of different notes doesn’t stop at 12.

He went on to add, “in the past 10 years I’ve been really interested in digging between those 12 notes, or of the fretboard, and dividing these notes into other things. It’s almost like a deliberate effort to break my own perfect pitch open into an overly confounded form where there are all sorts of options and it’s very confusing and discombobulating but also extremely rich and exciting to me.”

Collier then notes that he uses microtonality to his advantage, allowing him to re-experience some of his favourite pieces of music by simply shifting them up 150 cents or one and a half semi-tones.

“When you would flip to that distance, I would be completely unable to perceive what was about to happen because it was completely untrodden snow in my brain. I would change the key and save these moments up to listen to them for the first time, and it would be breaking my mind apart. So I started to do this in my own songs.”

You can listen to the full podcast episode below:

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