Congenital amusia is a neurogenetic disorder of pitch perception that may also compromise pitch production. Despite amusics’ long documented difficulties with pitch, previous evidence suggests that familiar music may have an implicit facilitative effect on their performance. It remains, however, unknown whether vocal imitation of song in amusia is influenced by melody familiarity and the presence of lyrics. To address this issue, thirteen Mandarin speaking amusics and 13 matched controls imitated novel song segments with lyrics and on the syllable /la/. Eleven out of these participants in each group also imitated segments of a familiar song. Subsequent acoustic analysis was conducted to measure pitch and timing matching accuracy based on eight acoustic measures. While amusics showed worse imitation performance than controls across seven out of the eight pitch and timing measures, melody familiarity was found to have a favorable effect on their performance on three pitch-related acoustic measures. The presence of lyrics did not affect either group’s performance substantially. Correlations were observed between amusics’ performance on the Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia and imitation of the novel song. We discuss implications in terms of music familiarity, memory demands, the relevance of lexical information, and the link between perception and production.

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