Virtual Pitch and Pitch Shifts in Church Bells

Hibbert, William A.; Taherzadeh, Shahram and Sharp, David B. (2017). Virtual Pitch and Pitch Shifts in Church Bells. Open Journal of Acoustics, 7(3) pp. 52–68.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4236/oja.2017.73006

Abstract

It is well established that musical sounds comprising multiple partials with frequencies approximately in the ratio of small integers give rise to a strong sensation of pitch even if the lowest or fundamental partial is missing—the so-called virtual pitch effect. Experiments on thirty test subjects demonstrate that this virtual pitch is shifted significantly by changes in the spacing of the constituent partials. The experiments measured pitch by comparison of sounds of similar timbre and were automated so that they could be performed remotely across the Internet. Analysis of the test sounds used shows that the pitch shifts are not predicted by Terhardt’s classic model of virtual pitch. The test sounds used were modelled on the sounds of church bells, but a further experiment on seventeen test subjects showed that changes in partial amplitude only had a minor effect on the pitch shifts observed, and that a pitch shift was still observed when two of the lowest frequency partials were removed, so that the effects reported are of general interest.

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