Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 69, Issue 5, pp 699-708

First online:

Sensorimotor synchronization with chords containing tone-onset asynchronies

  • Michael J. HoveAffiliated withCornell University Email author 
  • , Peter E. KellerAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
  • , Carol L. KrumhanslAffiliated withCornell University


Musical ensemble performance requires the synchronization of multiple performers, resulting in sequences of chords containing multiple tones with multiple onsets. Experiments 1 and 2 investigate whether sensorimotor synchronization with chord sequences containing tone-onset asynchronies is affected by (1) the magnitude of these asynchronies (25, 30, or 50 msec) and (2) the pitch of the leading tone (high vs. low). Participants tapped a finger in synchrony with different types of chord sequences created by crossing these variables, as well as with sequences of chords containing simultaneous onsets. Results indicate that taps were drawn toward the second onset, when present, especially when it was lower in pitch than the first. Additionally, chords with nonsimultaneous onsets increased tapping variability for nonmusicians, but decreased variability for musicians. Experiment 3 measured the perceptual centers of the chords from Experiment 2, and yielded results suggesting that subjective onsets determine the temporal placement of taps during synchronization.