When identifying musical intervals, most musicians appear to use only one strategy: they directly evaluate the musical interval between two notes (relative-pitch strategy). Musicians with absolute pitch (AP) seem to have two strategies available for identifying intervals: they can either use the relative-pitch strategy, or they can first identify the two pitches and then infer the musical interval between them (AP strategy). This study investigates the perception of sequential musical intervals by two groups of musicians, one group with AP and the other without AP. Most subjects in either group were able to name standard sequential musical intervals based on the equal-tempered scale accurately. Most subjects in the AP group were able to name notes of the equal-tempered scale accurately and consistently, whereas subjects without AP were not. Subjects with AP identified, with varying degrees of accuracy and consistency, single notes spaced in 20-cent increments over a 9.4- semitone range, using the standard musical note names. In the main experiment, subjects identified sequential musical intervals ranging in 20- cent steps from 260 to 540 cents, using the standard musical interval names. On the basis of their identification errors, subjects, both with and without AP, appeared to identify the intervals using the RP strategy rather than the AP strategy. It seems that musicians with AP do not use this ability in the identification of sequential musical intervals, relying instead on their sense of relative pitch.
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Research Article| October 01 1991
Absolute Pitch and the Perception of Sequential Musical Intervals
Music Perception (1991) 9 (1): 105–119.
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André-Pierre Benguerel, Carol Westdal; Absolute Pitch and the Perception of Sequential Musical Intervals. Music Perception 1 October 1991; 9 (1): 105–119. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/40286161
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