Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 24 October 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00768

The musical environment and auditory plasticity: hearing the pitch of percussion

  • Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

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.

Keywords: inharmonic, pitch, recognition, plasticity, percussion, instrument

Citation: Mclachlan NM, Marco DJT and Wilson SJ (2013) The musical environment and auditory plasticity: hearing the pitch of percussion. Front. Psychol. 4:768. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00768

Received: 16 May 2013; Accepted: 30 September 2013;
Published online: 24 October 2013.

Edited by:

Claude Alain, Rotman Research Institute, Canada

Reviewed by:

Patricia E. G. Bestelmeyer, Bangor University, UK
Robert J. Ellis, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, USA

Copyright © 2013 Mclachlan, Marco and Wilson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Neil M. McLachlan, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Redmond Barry Building, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia e-mail: mcln@unimelb.edu.au