Cross-modal melodic contour similarity


  • Jon B. Prince Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Canada
  • Mark A. Schmuckler Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Canada
  • William Forde Thompson Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


Fourier analysis, Surface structure, Auditory visuals, Contour models, Cross modals, Line drawings, Phase spectrum, Relative positions


In two experiments participants rated the similarity of melodic contours presented as auditory (melodies) and visual (line drawings) stimuli. Longer melodies were assessed in Experiment 1 (M = 35 notes); shorter melodies were assessed in Experiment 2 (M = 17 notes). Ratings for matched auditory and visual contours exceeded ratings for mismatched contours, confirming cross-modal sensitivity to contour. The degree of overlap of the surface structure (the relative position of peaks and troughs), and the strength and timing of the cyclical information (the amplitude and phase spectra produced by a Fourier analysis) in the contours predicted cross-modal similarity ratings. Factors such as the order of stimulus presentation (auditory-visual or visual-auditory), melody length (long versus short), and musical experience also affected the perceived similarity of contours. Results validate the applicability of existing contour models to cross-modal contexts and reveal additional factors that contribute to cross-modal contour similarity.

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How to Cite

Prince JB, Schmuckler MA, Thompson WF. Cross-modal melodic contour similarity. Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 2009 Mar. 1 [cited 2024 May 27];37(1):35-49. Available from:



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