Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 57, Issue 7, pp 962-970

First online:

Perception of relative pitch with different references: Some absolute-pitch listeners can’t tell musical interval names

  • Ken’Ichi MiyazakiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Niigata University Email author 


Two experiments were conducted to examine the effect of absolute-pitch possession on relativepitch processing. Listeners attempted to identify melodic intervals ranging from a semitone to an octave with different reference tones. Listeners with absolute pitch showed declined performance when the reference was out-of-tune C, out-of-tune E, or F#, relative to when the reference was C. In contrast, listeners who had no absolute pitch maintained relatively high performance in all reference conditions. These results suggest that absolute-pitch listeners are weak in relative-pitch processing and show a tendency to rely on absolute pitch in relative-pitch tasks.