Arthurs, Y, Beeston, A.V and Timmers, R (2017) 'Perception of isolated chords: examining frequency of occurrence, instrumental timbre, acoustic descriptors and musical training.' Psychology of Music. ISSN 1741-3087

Official URL:


This study investigated the perception of isolated chords using a combination of experimental manipulation and exploratory analysis. Twelve types of chord (five triads and seven tetrads) were presented in two instrumental timbres (piano and organ) to listeners who rated the chords for consonance, pleasantness, stability and relaxation. Listener ratings varied by chord, by timbre, and according to musical expertise, and revealed that musicians distinguished consonance from the other variables in a way that other listeners did not. To further explain the data, a principal component analysis and linear regression examined three potential predictors of the listener ratings. First, each chord’s frequency of occurrence was obtained by counting its appearances in selected works of music. Second, listeners rated their familiarity with the instrumental timbre in which the chord was played. Third, chords were described using a set of acoustic features derived using the Timbre Toolbox and MIR Toolbox. Results of the study indicated that listeners’ ratings of both consonance and stability were influenced by the degree of musical training and knowledge of tonal hierarchy. Listeners’ ratings of pleasantness and relaxation, on the other hand, depended more on the instrumental timbre and other acoustic descriptions of the chord.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: consonance, frequency of occurrence, musical chords, musical training, timbre familiarity
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2018 12:04
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2018 12:04
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)