This paper investigates the role of pitch in the extraction of timbre information by measuring listeners' ability to identify the timbre, the octave, and the pitch chroma of musical notes, as a function of the duration of the notes. The stimuli were produced by one of four instrument types ( brass, flute, harpsichord, or strings) in one of four octaves (centered at C₁, C₂, C₃, or C₄) on one of four notes (C, D, E, or F). The stimulus duration ranged from 1 to 64 cycles of the note. In any given session of the experiment, listeners were played all 64 notes associated with one duration in a random order and asked to identify the instrument, or the octave, or the note of each stimulus as it occurred. The results show that the timbre of the notes can be identified when the durations are too short to support pitch-chroma judgments, and so it is unlikely that pitch plays a key role in timbre identification at short durations. At these same durations, octave identification was better than pitch-chroma identification but worse than instrument identification.
Multiharmonic tones containing resolved harmonics (1–7) of a fundamental, unresolved harmonics (8–24) of a fundamental, or both resolved and unresolved harmonics (1–24) were presented to listeners at each of six octaves ranging from 32 to 1024 Hz. There also were modified versions of each stimulus in which alternate harmonics were either attenuated or phase shifted. Listeners were asked to judge the tone height of the sounds when presented in a musical context. The results show that all three manipulations can affect tone height and that stimuli with the same period produce tone-height perceptions that differ by more than an octave!