Perceived Key Movement in Four-Voice Harmony and Single Voices

William F. Thompson*, Lola L. Cuddy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Listeners with a moderate amount of musical training rated the distance between the first and final key of short chorale excerpts under one of four presentation conditions. The distance between keys, or modulation distance, was either zero, one, or two steps in either the clockwise or counterclockwise direction on the cycle of fifths. Presentation conditions were four-voice harmonic sequences excerpted from the complete set of Bach chorales, single voices of the latter sequences, four-voice harmonic sequences simplified to block chords, and single voices of the latter sequences. Consistent with earlier findings (Thompson &c Cuddy, 1989), judgments for both four-voice harmonic presentations and single-voice presentations revealed a close correspondence between modulation distance and judged distance. Ratings for harmonic sequences within a given key distance, however, showed influences of direction of modulation and of harmonic progression that were not reflected in ratings for single voices. The findings suggest that harmony and melody follow somewhat different principles in the process of identifying key change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-438
Number of pages12
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


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