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June 2023

Pitch interactions in the perception of isolated musical triads

Author(s): Racine, R. J., Stark, M., Weiser, M.

Journal/Book: Percept Psychophys. 1990; 48: 59-67.

Abstract: In previous work done in our laboratory, we have investigated the perceived pitch class of isolated musical triads. We have found that as the amount of musical training increased, listeners perceptions progress, from very confused percepts of pitch class, to analytic percepts corresponding to the pitch class of the highest note in the triad, and finally to synthetic percepts corresponding to the root note for the more harmonic triad types. In the present work, we used a pitch matching technique to determine the actual pitch, rather than merely the pitch class, perceived when listeners analytically "hear out" a particular note in a major triad. There was a strong tendency for the pitch of the analytically perceived note to be displaced by as much as 60 cents in the direction of the other notes in the triad. The magnitude of this effect decreased as musical training increased, and it was also affected by the relative salience of the individual triad notes. These results have implications for the mechanism of triad perception, and for claims regarding the harmonic equivalence of triad inversions.

Keyword(s): Adolescence ; Adult ; Psychoacoustics Attention ; Music ; Pitch Discrimination Female; Human; Male; Support, Non U.S. Gov't

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