Groove is a sensation of movement or wanting to move when we listen to certain types of music; it is central to the appreciation of many styles such as Jazz, Funk, Latin, and many more. To better understand the mechanisms that lead to the sensation of groove, we explore the relationship between groove and systematic microtiming deviations. Manifested as small, intentional deviations in timing, systematic microtiming is widely considered within the music community to be a critical component of music performances that groove. To investigate the effect of microtiming on the perception of groove we synthesized typical rhythm patterns for Jazz, Funk, and Samba with idiomatic microtiming deviation patterns for each style. The magnitude of the deviations was parametrically varied from nil to about double the natural level. In two experiments, untrained listeners and experts listened to all combinations of same and different music and microtiming style and magnitude combinations, and rated liking, groove, naturalness, and speed. Contrary to a common and frequently expressed belief in the literature, systematic microtiming led to decreased groove ratings, as well as liking and naturalness, with the exception of the simple short-long shuffle Jazz pattern. A comparison of the ratings between the two listener groups revealed this effect to be stronger for the expert listener group than for the untrained listeners, suggesting that musical expertise plays an important role in the perception and appreciation of microtiming in rhythmic patterns.

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