Austin Academic Centre - Research Publications

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    The musical environment and auditory plasticity: hearing the pitch of percussion
    McLachlan, NM ; Marco, DJT ; Wilson, SJ (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2013-10-24)
    Although musical skills clearly improve with training, pitch processing has generally been believed to be biologically determined by the behavior of brain stem neural mechanisms. Two main classes of pitch models have emerged over the last 50 years. Harmonic template models have been used to explain cross-channel integration of frequency information, and waveform periodicity models have been used to explain pitch discrimination that is much finer than the resolution of the auditory nerve. It has been proposed that harmonic templates are learnt from repeated exposure to voice, and so it may also be possible to learn inharmonic templates from repeated exposure to inharmonic music instruments. This study investigated whether pitch-matching accuracy for inharmonic percussion instruments was better in people who have trained on these instruments and could reliably recognize their timbre. We found that adults who had trained with Indonesian gamelan instruments were better at recognizing and pitch-matching gamelan instruments than people with similar levels of music training, but no prior exposure to these instruments. These findings suggest that gamelan musicians were able to use inharmonic templates to support accurate pitch processing for these instruments. We suggest that recognition mechanisms based on spectrotemporal patterns of afferent auditory excitation in the early stages of pitch processing allow rapid priming of the lowest frequency partial of inharmonic timbres, explaining how music training can adapt pitch processing to different musical genres and instruments.
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    Pitch Enumeration: Failure to Subitize in Audition
    McLachlan, NM ; Marco, DJT ; Wilson, SJ ; Samuel, A (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-04-02)
    BACKGROUND: Subitizing involves recognition mechanisms that allow effortless enumeration of up to four visual objects, however despite ample resolution experimental data suggest that only one pitch can be reliably enumerated. This may be due to the grouping of tones according to harmonic relationships by recognition mechanisms prior to fine pitch processing. Poorer frequency resolution of auditory information available to recognition mechanisms may lead to unrelated tones being grouped, resulting in underestimation of pitch number. METHODS, RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: We tested whether pitch enumeration is better for chords of full harmonic complex tones, where grouping errors are less likely, than for complexes with fewer and less accurately tuned harmonics. Chords of low familiarity were used to mitigate the possibility that participants would recognize the chord itself and simply recall the number of pitches. We found that accuracy of pitch enumeration was less than the visual system overall, and underestimation of pitch number increased for stimuli containing fewer harmonics. We conclude that harmonically related tones are first grouped at the poorer frequency resolution of the auditory nerve, leading to poor enumeration of more than one pitch.