Preferences for melodic contours transcend pitch

Jackson Graves, Christophe Micheyl, Andrew J. Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The question of what makes a good melody has interested composers, music theorists, and psychologists alike. Many of the observed principles of good "melodic continuation" involve the melodic contour - the pattern of rising and falling pitch within a sequence. Recent work has shown that contour perception can extend beyond pitch to other auditory dimensions, such as timbre and loudness. Here we show that the generalization of contour perception to non-traditional dimensions also extends to melodic preferences and expectations. We find that subjective continuation ratings for sequences that vary in brightness or loudness generally conform to the same contour-based expectations as pitch sequences. The results support the hypothesis that contour perception is a general auditory phenomenon, and suggest that the well-known preference for narrow ranges and small intervals in melodies is not unique to the dimension of pitch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035031
JournalProceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
StatePublished - Jun 19 2013
Event21st International Congress on Acoustics, ICA 2013 - 165th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America - Montreal, QC, Canada
Duration: Jun 2 2013Jun 7 2013


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