Nathan R. Carr, Kirk N. Olsen*, William Forde Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


TWO EXPERIMENTS INVESTIGATED PERCEPTUAL AND emotional consequences of note articulation in music by examining the degree to which participants perceived notes to be separated from each other in a musical phrase. Seven-note piano melodies were synthesized with staccato notes (short decay) or legato notes (gradual/sustained decay). Experiment 1 (n = 64) addressed the impact of articulation on perceived melodic cohesion and perceived emotion expressed through melodies. Participants rated melodic cohesion and perceived emotions conveyed by 32 legato and 32 staccato melodies. Legato melodies were rated more cohesive than staccato melodies and perceived as emotionally calmer and sadder than staccato melodies. Staccato melodies were perceived as having greater tension and energy. Experiment 2 (n = 60) addressed whether articulation is associated with humor and fear in music, and whether the impact of articulation depends on major vs. minor mode. For both modes, legato melodies were scarier than staccato melodies, whereas staccato melodies were more amusing and surprising. The effect of articulation on perceived happiness and sadness was dependent on mode: staccato enhanced perceived happiness for minor melodies; legato enhanced perceived sadness for minor melodies. Findings are discussed in relation to theories of music processing, with implications for music composition, performance, and pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-219
Number of pages18
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


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