2pMUb5. Instrument-specific constraints on musical performance: Playing the piano and the guitar.

Session: Tuesday Afternoon, May 14

Time: 3:10

Author: Timothy M. Walker
Location: Dept. of Psych., Ohio State Univ., Neil Ave., Columbus, OH 43201


Kendall and Carterette (1990) propose a chain of musical communication similar to linguistic communication, whereby composers, performers, and listeners all share some amount of musical knowledge. Although the authors emphasize the extent to which information is communicated, there are also important transformations which take place. The physical constraints of an instrument may play a significant role in the interpretive process by operating as musical filters. Improvisation is considered as a task in which all three links in the communicative chain (composer, performer, and listener) are simultaneously represented by a single musician. An experiment was conducted in which participants were asked to perform improvisations on a guitar or piano, each of which functioned as an MIDI instrument. The sounded timbre was independently varied, to produce either a guitar or a piano sound. Participants displayed different patterns of key choice and note usage depending upon which instrument they were playing, suggesting that the physical constraints of the instrument influenced their performance. Participants also employed expressive guitar pitch bends only in the guitar timbre, suggesting that higher-level knowledge of instrument characteristics, as well as external physical constraints, can influence musical performance. [Work supported by NIMH grant R29-MH45764.]

from ASA 131st Meeting, Indianapolis, May 1996