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Re: effects of musical experience on pitch perception?

Robert, list

Anecdotal commentary only, having taught various types and levels of ear-training for 35 years.

(Apart from the idea that someone who is trained on an instrument being a 'musician', with which I have some difficulty ... ) I have found that individuals have a 'basic' level of discrimination, and it may be coarse ("tone deaf" -- my brother) to fine (I scored 139 / 140 on Seashore when I was 11). I have met people with absolute pitch whose resolution is only about 1/4 semitone.

From this my basic conclusion is that the limit (capacity) is innate, the degree of development is strongly related to environment and training. It is also my experience that those with "golden ears" (even without [traditional] music training) will work in / with sound, because that's what they can do so well.

It has become my thinking that to find out about sonic / musical capacity, researchers need to work with the best, not a general population. There is not much to be learned about running from the 1,200,000,000 people who can run a kilometer in 14 minutes, so I would propose that 'high end' auditory researchers work with those who are given 'the gift' (or whatever is an acceptable term these days).

This is not pc, but if you want to explore pitch and spectral interconnection, it may be more fruitful to work with a (carefully) selected population. This population would be such that when presented with a complex spectral sound would report that the sound segregates. Record a sequence of low C's on a piano, sustain pedal down, say 1 minute, mezzoforte, with one note every three seconds. How long does it take for the subject to report hearing the third and fifth partials? As a researcher, more information 'may' be gleaned from individuals who can hear (and report) this quickly, (or who hear formant frequencies in sustained vowels).

This may not be what you are looking for, but it's part of my experience.

Best wishes

Kevin Austin

Associate-Professor (Music) / (EuCuE)
Department of Music (Electroacoustic Studies)
Faculty of Fine Arts
Concordia University
7141, rue Sherbrooke o
Montreal, QC



Date:    Fri, 14 Jul 2006 09:26:16 -0400
From:   <Robert.Arrabito@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: effects of musical experience on pitch perception?

Dear list,

I am writing to get some input from the list that may help me
interpret my data. ...  I am thus wondering whether this
might be due to my training procedure or whether pitch/timbre is an
inherent "skill" regardless of any formal musical experience.

I found no statistical difference in performance between musicians and nonmusicians.



Robert Arrabito
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto
1133 Sheppard Avenue West
P.O. Box 2000
Toronto, ON  M3M 3B9

phone: (416) 635-2033
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e-mail: Robert.Arrabito@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx