The role of a motor strategy of pitch encoding in the processing of melodies was investigated. The encoding task involved finger-tapping analogous to that used in playing the piano. Twelve students highly trained in music made recognition judgments of melodies after a retention interval. Subjects were instructed to use tapping to memorize the pitches of the standard melody. The retention interval consisted of a blank interval, or was filled with an interfering melody, or a series of musical note names, in separate experiments. The findings suggest that (a) tapping can be an effective strategy for pitch encoding; (b) as melody length or duration of the retention interval increased, or when the retention interval was filled, subjects often tried to repeat the finger-tapping pattern in order to retain the standard melodies; (c) repeating the tapping pattern many times could elaborate the fingering of the tapping and consequently the encoding of the melodies; (d) some subjects used a dual encoding strategy, incorporating motor and verbal components.

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