The subjective size of melodic intervals over a two-octave range

Frank A. Russo*, William Forde Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Citations (Scopus)


Musically trained and untrained participants provided magnitude estimates of the size of melodic intervals. Each interval was formed by a sequence of two pitches that differed by between 50 cents (one half of a semitone) and 2,400 cents (two octaves) and was presented in a high or a low pitch register and in an ascending or a descending direction. Estimates were larger for intervals in the high pitch register than for those in the low pitch register and for descending intervals than for ascending intervals. Ascending intervals were perceived as larger than descending intervals when presented in a high pitch register, but descending intervals were perceived as larger than ascending intervals when presented in a low pitch register. For intervals up to an octave in size, differentiation of intervals was greater for trained listeners than for untrained listeners. We discuss the implications for psychophysical pitch scales and models of music perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1068-1075
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


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