Playing an ascending or descending diatonic scale establishes a "tonal hierarchy" in which the major-mode tonic is judged by listeners as being in a tonal sense more stable than other notes (Krumhansl, 1983). This article describes a study in which listeners were asked to rate probe tones for suitability as tonics after presentation of a variety of "random" orderings of all seven notes of a given scale. The results indicate that even musically trained listeners do not differentiate the major-mode tonic as uniquely suitable as the tonal center. In fact the major-mode tonic, the mediant, the dominant, and the subdominant were considered equally suitable as tonics and together were given higher ratings than other notes from the scale, including what would be the tonic for the natural minor mode. Nonmusicians showed the same profile of responses as musicians. The results indicate that the time-order of notes is important to the perception of tonal hierarchy.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| April 01 1990
Ratings of Suitability of Probe Tones as Tonics after Random Orderings of Notes of the Diatonic Scale
Music Perception (1990) 7 (3): 253–258.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Robert J. West, Roz Fryer; Ratings of Suitability of Probe Tones as Tonics after Random Orderings of Notes of the Diatonic Scale. Music Perception 1 April 1990; 7 (3): 253–258. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/40285463
Download citation file: