Absolute-pitch possessors have been reported to identify black-key pitches less quickly and accurately than they identify white-key pitches. However, it is possible in these experiments that the greater speed of identifying white-compared with black-key pitches was due to a motor response bias because the motor requirements for indicating a black-key pitch were more difficult than those for indicating a white-key pitch. The greater accuracy in identifying white-compared with black-key pitches may have been due to a choice response bias favoring white-key pitch responses. We compared absolute- pitch judgments of black-and white-key pitches in a task free of motor response biases. Subjects compared the pitch of an auditory tone with a visually presented pitch name and responded Same or Different. The absolute- pitch possessors responded significantly more slowly to black- key auditory pitches, and to black- key visual pitch names, than to white-key pitches and pitch names. These differences may have been due to perceptual and retrieval processes associated with the frequencies with which black-and white-key pitches and pitch names occur in music literature. Another possible explanation is that absolute-pitch possessors may learn absolute pitch for only white-key pitches in development and may interpolate blackkey pitches from neighboring white-key pitches. Experiments to test these alternative accounts are proposed.


Baird, J. W. Memory for absolute pitch. In E. C. Sanford (Ed.), Studies in psychology, Titchener commemorative volume. Worcester, MA: Wilson, 1917, pp. 43-78.
Besner, D., & McCann, R. S. Word frequency and pattern distortion in visual word identification and production: An examination of four classes of models. In M. Colt- heart (Ed.), Attention and performance XII: The psychology of reading. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1987, pp. 201-219.
Carroll, J. B. Speed and accuracy of absolute pitch judgments: Some latter-day results. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service Bulletin, RB-75-35, 1975.
Chowning, J. M. The synthesis of complex audio spectra by means of frequency mod- ulation. Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, 1973, 21, 526-534.
Copp, E. F. Musical ability. Journal of Heredity, 1916, 7, 297-305.
Costall, A. P. The relativity of absolute pitch. In P. Howell, I. Cross, & R. West (Eds.), Musical structure and cognition. London: Academic Press, 1985, pp. 189-208.
Harris, G., & Siegel, J. A. Categorical perception and absolute pitch. Journal of the Acous- tical Society of America, 1975, 57, S11.
Jeffress, L. A. Absolute pitch. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1962, 34, 987.
Jeffries, T. B. Relationship of interval frequency count to ratings of melodic intervals. Journal of Experimental Psychology' 1974, 102, 903-905.
Miyazaki, K. Musical pitch identification by absolute pitch possessors. Perception & Psychophysics, 1988, 44, 501-512.
Miyazaki, K. Absolute pitch identification: Effects of timbre and pitch region. Music Perception, 1989a, 7, 1-14.
Miyazaki, K. The speed of musical pitch identification by absolute pitch processors. Pro- ceedings of the First International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, 1989b, 1, 415-420.
Siegel, J. A., & Siegel, W. Absolute identification of notes and intervals by musicians. Perception and Psychophysics, 1977, 21, 143-152.
Simonton, D. K. Melodic structure and note transition probabilities: A content analysis of 15,618 classical themes. Psychology of Music, 1984, 12, 3-6.
Sergeant, D. C., & Roche, S. Perceptual shifts in the auditory information processing of young children. Psychology of Music, 1973, 1, 39-48.
Takeuchi, A. H., & Hulse, S. H. Absolute pitch. Manuscript submitted for publication, 1991.
Vos, P. G., & Troost, J. M. Ascending and descending melodic intervals: Statistical findings and their perceptual relevance. Music Perception, 1989, 6, 383-396.
Ward, W.D. Absolute pitch, Part II. Sound, 1963, 2(4), 33-41.
Youngblood, J. E. Style as information. Journal of Music Theory, 1958, 2, 24-35.
This content is only available via PDF.