Evidence for the absolute nature of long-term auditory memory is provided by analyzing the production of familiar melodies. Additionally, a two-component theory of absolute pitch is presented, in which this rare ability is conceived as consisting of a more common ability,pitch memory, and a separate, less common ability,pitch labeling. Forty-six subjects sang two different popular songs, and their productions were compared with the actual pitches used in recordings of those songs. Forty percent of the subjects sang the correct pitch on at least one trial; 12% of the subjects hit the correct pitch on both trials, and 44% came within two semitones of the correct pitch on both trials. The results show a convergence with previous studies on the stability of auditory imagery and latent absolute pitch ability; the results further suggest that individuals might possess representations of pitch that are more stable and accurate than previously recognized.
Attneave, F., &Olson, R. K. (1971). Pitch as a medium: A new approach to psychophysical scaling.American Journal of Psychology,84, 147–166.
Bachem, A. (1954). Time factors in relative and absolute pitch determination.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,26, 751–753.
Baggaley, J. (1974). Measurement of absolute pitch.Psychology of Music,2(2), 11–17.
Batschelet, E. (1981).Circular statistics for biology. London: Academic Press.
Bharucha, J. J. (1992). Tonality and learnability. In M. R. Jones & S. Holleran (Eds.),Cognitive bases of musical communication (pp. 213–223). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Bishop, Y. M. M., Fienberg, S. E., &Holland, P. W. (1975).Discrete multivariate analysis: Theory and practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Bower, G. H. (1967). A multicomponent theory of the memory trace. In K. W. Spence & J. T. Spence (Eds.),The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 1, pp. 229–325). New York: Academic Press.
Campbell, W. C., &Heller, J. (1979). Convergence procedures for investigating music listening tasks.Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education,59, 18–23.
Cook, P. R. (1991). Identification of control parameters in an articulator vocal tract model, with applications to the synthesis of singing (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University).Dissertation Abstracts International,52, 419B. (University Microfilms No. 91-15, 756)
Cook, P. R. (1992).Spectro [Freeware]. Stanford, CA: Stanford University. (Available by anonymous ftp from ccrma.stanford.edu)
Corliss, E. L. (1973). Remark on “fixed-scale mechanism of absolute pitch.”Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,53, 1737–1739.
Dennett, D. C. (1991).Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown.
Deutsch, D. (1969). Music recognition.Psychological Review,76, 300–307.
Deutsch, D. (1972). Octave generalization and tune recognition.Perception & Psychophysics,11, 411–412.
Deutsch, D. (1978). Octave generalization and melody identification.Perception & Psychophysics,23, 91–92.
Deutsch, D. (1991). The tritone paradox: An influence of language on music perception.Music Perception,8, 335–347.
Deutsch, D. (1992). The tritone paradox: Implications for the representation and communication of pitch structure. In M. R. Jones & S. Holleran (Eds.),Cognitive bases of musical communication (pp. 115–138). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Deutsch, D., Kuyper, W. L., &Fisher, Y. (1987). The tritone paradox: Its presence and form of distribution in a general population.Music Perception,5, 79–92.
Deutsch, D., Moore, F. R., &Dolson, M. (1986). The perceived height of octave-related complexes.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,80, 1346–1353.
Dowling, W. J. (1978). Scale and contour: Two components of a theory of memory for melodies.Psychological Review,85, 341–354.
Dowling, W. J. (1982). Melodic information processing and its development. In D. Deutsch (Ed.),The psychology of music (pp. 413–429). New York: Academic Press.
Dowling, W. J., &Bartlett, J. C. (1981). The importance of interval information in long-term memory for melodies.Psychomusicology,1, 30–49.
Fisher, N. I. (1993).Statistical analysis of circular data. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Halpern, A. R. (1988). Mental scanning in auditory imagery for songs.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,14, 434–443.
Halpern, A. R. (1989). Memory for the absolute pitch of familiar songs.Memory & Cognition,17, 572–581.
Handel, S. (1989).Listening: An introduction to the perception of auditory events. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hanson, H. M. (1959). Effects of discrimination training on stimulus generalization.Journal of Experimental Pscyhology,58, 321–334.
Hayman, C. A. G., &Tulving, E. (1989). Contingent dissociation between recognition and fragment completion: The method of triangulation.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,15, 228–240.
Idson, W. L., &Massaro, D. W. (1978). A bidimensional model of pitch in the recognition of melodies.Perception & Psychophysics,24, 551–565.
Kallman, H. J., &Massaro, D. W. (1979). Tone chroma is functional in melody recognition.Perception & Psychophysics,26, 32–36.
Kohler, W. (1938). Simple structural function in the chimpanzee and the chicken. In W. D. Ellis (Ed.),A sourcebook of Gestalt psychology (pp. 217–227). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. (Original work published 1918)
Kolb, B., &Whishaw, I. Q. (1990).Fundamentals of human neuropsychology (3rd ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman.
Krumhansl, C. L. (1990).Cognitive foundations of musical pitch. New York: Oxford University Press.
Levitin, D. J. (1994).Limitations of the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test: The need for circular statistics in psychology. (Tech. Rep. No 94-7). Eugene, OR: University of Oregon, Institute of Cognitive & Decision Sciences.
Lockhead, G. R., &Byrd, R. (1981). Practically perfect pitch.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,70, 387–389.
Luria, A. R. (1968).The mind of a mnemonist. New York: Basic Books.
Massaro, D. W. (1972). Perceptual images, processing time, and perceptual units in auditory perception.Psychological Review,79, 124–145.
Miyazaki, K. (1988). Musical pitch identification by absolute pitch possessors.Perception & Psychophysics,44, 501–512.
Miyazaki, K. (1990). The speed of musical pitch identification by absolute pitch possessors.Music Perception,8, 177–188.
Miyazaki, K. (1993). Absolute pitch as an inability: Identification of musical intervals in a tonal context.Music Perception,11, 55–72.
Moore, B. C. J. (1989).An introduction to the psychology of hearing (3rd ed.). London: Academic Press.
Murry, T. (1990). Pitch-matching accuracy in singers and nonsingers.Journal of Voice,4, 317–321.
Nelson, T. O. (1984). A comparison of current measures of the accuracy of feeling-of-knowing predictions.Psychological Bulletin,95, 109–133.
Pierce, J. R. (1983).The science of musical sound. New York: W. H. Freeman.
Profita, J., &Bidder, T. G. (1988). Perfect pitch.American Journal of Medical Genetics,29, 763–771.
Rakowski, A., &Morawska-Büngeler, M. (1987). In search of the criteria for absolute pitch.Archives of Acoustics,12, 75–87.
Reese, H. W. (1968).The perception of stimulus relations. New York: Academic Press.
Shepard, R. N. (1964). Circularity in judgments of relative pitch.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,36, 2346–2353.
Shonle, J. I., &Horan, K. E. (1980). The pitch of vibrato tones.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,67, 246–252.
Spence, K. W. (1937). The differential response in animals to stimuli varying within a single dimension.Psychological Review,44, 430–444.
Stern, A. W. (1993).Natural pitch and the A440 scale. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford, CA.
Stromeyer, C. F., III (1970, November). Eidetikers.Psychology Today, pp. 76–80.
Sundberg, J. (1987).The science of the singing voice. Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.
Takeuchi, A. H., &Hulse, S. H. (1993). Absolute pitch.Psychological Bulletin,113, 345–361.
Terhardt, E., &Seewan, M. (1983). Aural key identification and its relationship to absolute pitch.Music Perception,1, 63–83.
Terhardt, E., &Ward, W. D. (1982). Recognition of musical key: Exploratory study.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,72, 26–33.
Tsuzaki, M. (1992, February).Interference of preceding scales on absolute pitch judgment. Paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Los Angeles.
Ward, W. D. (1990, May).Relative versus absolute pitch and the key of auralized melodies. Paper presented at the von Karajan Symposium, Vienna.
Ward, W. D., &Burns, E. M. (1978). Singing without auditory feedback.Journal of Research in Singing & Applied Vocal Pedagogy,1, 24–44.
Ward, W. D., &Burns, E. M. (1982). Absolute pitch. In D. Deutsch (Ed.),The psychology of music (pp. 431–451). New York: Academic Press.
Zatorre, R. J., &Beckett, C. (1989). Multiple coding strategies in the retention of musical tones by possessors of absolute pitch.Memory & Cognition,17, 582–589.
This research was supported by NSF Research Grant BNS 85-11685 to R. N. Shepard, by ONR Grant N-00014-89-J-3186 to the author, while the author held a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, and by ONR Grant N-00014-89-3013 to M. I. Posner. The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford and the Department of Music at the University of Oregon generously provided essential equipment for the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Levitin, D.J. Absolute memory for musical pitch: Evidence from the production of learned melodies. Perception & Psychophysics 56, 414–423 (1994). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03206733
- Acoustical Society ofAmerica
- Music Perception
- Absolute Pitch
- Target Tone
- Auditory Imagery