The Open UniversitySkip to content

Spectral pitch distance and microtonal melodies

Milne, Andrew J.; Prechtl, Anthony; Laney, Robin and Sharp, David B. (2010). Spectral pitch distance and microtonal melodies. In: Proceedings of the International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition 2010 (ICMPC 11), 23-27 Aug 2010, Seattle, USA.

Full text available as:
PDF (Version of Record) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (180kB)
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


We present an experiment designed to test the effectiveness of spectral pitch distance at modeling the degree of “affinity” or “fit” of pairs of successively played tones or chords (spectral pitch distance is the cosine distance between salience-weighted, Gaussian-smoothed, pitch domain embeddings of spectral pitches—typically the first eight to ten partials of a tone). The results of a previously conducted experiment, which collected ratings of the perceived similarity and fit of root-position major and minor triads, suggest the model works well for pairs of triads in standard 12-tone equal temperament tunings.

The new experiment has been designed to test the effectiveness of spectral pitch distance at modeling the affinity of tones in microtonal melodies where the partials of the tones can be variably tempered between being perfectly harmonic and perfectly matched to the underlying microtonal tuning. The use of microtonal tunings helps to disambiguate innate perceptual (psychoacoustical) responses from learned (cultural) responses.

Participants are presented with a software synthesizer containing two unlabeled controls: one adjusts the precise tuning of the tones; the other adjusts the extent to which the spectrum is tempered to match the tuning (as set by the first control). A selection of microtonal melodies are played in different tunings, and the participants adjust one, or both, controls until they find a “sweet spot” at which the music sounds most “in-tune” and the notes best “fit” together. The results of these experiments will be presented and discussed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2010 Andrew Milne
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Computing and Communications
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Engineering and Innovation
Research Group: Centre for Research in Computing (CRC)
Item ID: 27040
Depositing User: Andrew Milne
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2011 09:21
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2020 18:25
Share this page:

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU