Is the bandwidth for timbre invariance only one octave?

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kenneth M. Steele Ph.D., Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Timbre invariance refers to the ability to determine whether two notes at different pitches were played or sung by the same instrument or voice. Handel and Erickson (2001) reported that nonmusician listeners heard pairs of notes as coming uniformly from different instruments when the pitches were separated by an octave or more; they concluded that the bandwidth of timbre invariance was only one octave. Here we replicate that study with methodological refinements and include musicians as well as nonmusicians. We presented listeners with pairs of notes from two instruments (horn and bassoon) spanning a 2.5 octave range, and listeners judged whether two notes were the same pitch and produced by the same instrument. Nonmusicians replicated Handel and Erickson’s result of a decline in timbre invariance beyond 1.0 octave, whereas musicians’ performance declined less—to about 80% correct at 2.5 octave. Pitch judgments did not vary across the range and were more accurate for musicians than for nonmusicians. The difference between musicians and nonmusicians in timbre judgments suggests caution in stating a range for the operation of timbre invariance.

Additional Information

Steele, K. M., & Williams, A. K. (2006). Is the bandwidth for timbre invariance only one octave? Music Perception, 23(3): 215-220. Published by the University of California Press (ISSN: 0730-7829).
Language: English
Date: 2006

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