Musical Rules and Pitch Judgement


  • Lola L. Cuddy Department of Psychology, Queen's University Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6


Observed psychoacoustic events are often incompatible with musical knowledge. The point has been made particularly in the realm of pitch theory. This paper will contend that it is not the case that musical knowledge does not apply to psychophysical tasks or that musical knowledge fails to correspond with musical practice. Rather, the judgment of pitch is the result of a complex decision involving both the identification of pitch pattern and the operation of a rule-based structural system assigning the functional values of pitches. Different tasks or task demands may assign different relative weights to the system's operators. Whatever the aesthetic merits of Western-European tonality, the experimental study of it uncovers a powerful system of pitch organization and reveals the delicate interplay between perception and cognition. Examples will be drawn from our work on interval and melody recognition.

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How to Cite

Cuddy LL. Musical Rules and Pitch Judgement. Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 1982 Apr. 1 [cited 2024 Jul. 17];10(2):40-8. Available from:



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