The present study investigates the relationship between musical experience and subjects' conception of accurate tuning. In a paired comparisons experiment, 7 violinists, 7 pianists, and 10 nonmusicians evaluated the tuning of computer-generated, ascending and descending eight-tone diatonic scales of C major. Subjects were required to indicate which member of the pair was "most accurately tuned." The subjects were unaware that all scales were perfectly tuned in the Pythagorean, just, or equal-tempered intonation, respectively. Results showed that (1) violinists, as a group, preferred Pythagorean to equal-tempered scales more frequently than vice versa (p< .01), (2) pianists preferred equaltempered to Pythagorean scales more frequently than vice versa (p < .01), (3) violinists and pianists judged just intoned scales to be less accurately tuned than either Pythagorean or equal-tempered scales (p < .01), and (4) nonmusicians did not show any preference for any of the three intonation models. These findings confirm the claim that subjects' conception of accurate tuning is determined by musical experience rather than by characteristics of the auditory system. Relevance of the results to assessment of tonal perception is discussed.

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