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December 2022

Quantification of the hierarchy of tonal functions within a diatonic context

Author(s): Shepard, R. N.

Journal/Book: J Exp Psychol [Hum Percept]. 1979; 5: 579-94.

Abstract: Listeners rated test tones falling in the octave range from middle to high C according to how well each completed a diatonic C major scale played in an adjacent octave just before the final test tone. Ratings were well explained in terms of three factors. The factors were distance in pitch height from the context tones, octave equivalence, and the following hierarchy of tonal functions: tonic tone, other tones of the major triad chord, other tones of a diatonic scale, and the nondiatonic tones. In these ratings, pitch height was more prominent for less musical listeners or with less musical (sinusoidal) tones, whereas octave equivalence and the tonal hierarchy prevailed for musical listeners, especially with harmonically richer tones. Ratings for quarter tones interpolated halfway between the halftone steps of the standard chromatic scale were approximately the averages of ratings for adjacent chromatic tones, suggesting failure to discriminate tones at this fine level of division.

Keyword(s): Music|. Pitch Discrimination|

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