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   The Sound Journey of a Future Acoustician
Brooke Dougherty
     Figure 1. The author and her siblings: (left to right) Brooke, Ross, and Morgan Dougherty.
“C4...A#4...B3...D5” I replied as my 9th-grade choir teacher at Coronado High School in Henderson, Nevada, played each note on his old and rickety piano. The entire class went from stunned silence to an eruption of applause as I could only bring myself to laughter, realiz- ing that I have finally learned perfect pitch. It was at this moment that not only my love for music but my gratitude for sound in general truly held a place in my heart.
Although neither of my parents had musical backgrounds, my brother, sister, and I (Figure 1) were always sur- rounded with sound. Each of us loved having different instruments in our hands, from guitars to drums to even didgeridoos. The tones and melodies we would play for our family and friends always fascinated us and made us grateful that sound was such a staple in our daily lives. It was our shared dream as triplets growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, to be in a band together. I especially wanted to bring this vision to fruition, but my hearing wasn’t as great as my siblings and I didn’t know anything about the technicalities of sound. But, I did not let this little hurdle get in my way.
It was through rigorous training when I finally learned to jump the hurdle. Just a few months after my 12th birth- day, my dad and I drove to Trabuco Canyon, California, where we met my very first vocal coach. For three days, my coach began introducing me to the enchanting world of pitch, vocal texture, and music theory and enlighten- ing me about acoustics, sound manipulation, and musical production. Upon accepting our proposal for virtual les- sons via Skype, my dad and I headed back home to Las
Vegas. The next time I saw my vocal coach again was about a week later, this time over my computer screen.
This is when I had my first timed ear test. My coach played 12 random dyads, to which he told me to locate the octaves
to which each note belonged and their interval distance from one another, as well as to vocalize each note to its exact pitch. It took me 6 minutes 25 seconds and a lot of help, but I was able to do it. This ear test was followed by memorization drills for the circle of fifths (and fourths), note intervals, arpeggios, scales, and modes. After that came the application of all of these drills through intense vocal and pitch discernment exercises.
Every lesson from then on followed this kind of routine. Before I knew it, three years had gone by, and I had a four-and-a-half octave vocal range (C#3 to G#7), and hundreds of hours of ear tests and music theory knowl- edge under my belt. Hearing notes became almost effortless for me. I was able to identify 12 three- and four-note chords in as little as 56 seconds (which was my coach’s studio record!) Not only did notes but many other sounds as well became clearer for me. I was able to pay better attention to what I heard day-to-day as well as to how my surroundings affected how these sounds entered my ears. I knew I was definitely onto something and that I should continue harnessing what I had learned.
Although pitch made its way to the forefront of my acoustical journey, a related concept was not made as
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70 Acoustics Today • Winter 2021 | Volume 17, issue 4

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