Psychological Research

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 285–292 | Cite as

Does expressive timing in music performance scale proportionally with tempo?

  • Peter DesainEmail author
  • Henkjan HoningEmail author


Evidence is presented that expressive timing in music is not relationally invariant with global tempo. Our results stem from an analysis of repeated performances of Beethoven's variations on a Paisiello theme. Recordings were made of two pianists playing the pieces at three tempi. In contrast with the relational-invariance hypothesis (see Repp, 1994), between-tempo correlations were in general lower than within-tempo correlations. Analyses of variance of log-transformed inter-onset intervals (IOIs) showed significant interactions between tempo and IOI, i. e., evidence against a proportional relation between timing and tempo. Complex, but consistent, nonproportional patterns were shown in the analyses of the timing of the grace notes in the piece. The analysis suggests that timing aspects of music are closely linked to the musical structure and can be studied and manipulated only respecting this relation — not as a global timing pattern or tempo curve. Finally, it is shown that methodological issues of data collection and analysis had a significant influence on the results.


Data Collection Significant Interaction Significant Influence Proportional Relation Methodological Issue 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NICINijmegen UniversityHE NijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Computational Linguistics, Faculty of ArtsUniversity of AmsterdamVB AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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