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Re: Lower frequency limit for pitch perception

Hi Paul,

We have been doing some work in our lab on musical pitch perception of
low-frequency complex tones.

Here is a summary of findings that may be of interest:

The ability to perceive tonality (i.e., as assessed by recovery of tonal
hierarchy using a probe-tone methodology) is greatly attenuated for
melodic contexts composed of piano tones lower than A1 (f0 < 55 Hz).

However, some participants are able to reasonably recover tonality for
melodic contexts composed of piano tones that span Eb0-Bb0 (f0 = 19.4 -
29.15 Hz).  Hence, there seems to be some individual difference with
respect to the lower limit of musical pitch perception where piano tones
are concerned.

Consistent with the above findings, we have found that most participants
have difficulty matching the chroma of piano tones presented below A1 (f0
< 55 Hz) with piano tones presented in central octaves

We have repeated the above experiments using synthesized complex tones
that possess  strong fundamentals and in-phase harmonically related
partials.  Lower-limits observed using these synthetic tones are similar
to the lower-limits observed using piano tones.

Here is a list of related references that may also be of interest:

Bachem, A. (1948).  Chroma fixation at the ends of musical frequency
scale.  JASA, 20, 204-705.

Battistelli, Odoardi & Vicario (1988).  Melody recognition at the limits
of the tonal range.  Italian Journal of Psychology, 15, 235-248.

Guttman, N. & Pruzhansky, S. (1962).  Lower limits of pitch and musical
pitch.  Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 5, 207-214.

Zwicker, E. (1961).  Subdivisions of the audible frequency range into
critical bands.  JASA, 33, 248.



Frank A. Russo
Acoustics Lab, Department of Psychology
Queen's University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada
phone:  613-533-2490     fax:  613-533-2499