Sensitivity to tonality across the pitch range

Frank A. Russo*, Lola L. Cuddy, Alexander Galembo, William Forde Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Striking changes in sensitivity to tonality across the pitch range are reported. Participants were presented a key-defining context (do-mi-do-sol) followed by one of the 12 chromatic tones of the octave, and rated the goodness of fit of the probe tone to the context. The set of ratings, called the probe-tone profile, was compared to an established standardised profile for the Western tonal hierarchy. The presentation of context and probe tones at low and high pitch registers resulted in significantly reduced sensitivity to tonality. Sensitivity was especially poor for presentations in the lowest octaves where inharmonicity levels were substantially above the threshold for detection. We propose that sensitivity to tonality may be influenced by pitch salience (or a co-varying factor such as exposure to pitch distributional information) as well as suprathreshold inharmonicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-790
Number of pages10
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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