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Pitch Perception

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Areas of Science
Time Required
Long (2-4 weeks)
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Do violin students have better relative pitch than piano students? Since the violin requires the player to choose the correct location to stop the string in order to sound the proper note, you might think that violin players would, as a result of practice, have better ear training than piano students. On the other hand, you could argue the opposite viewpoint, since piano students would have the benefit of hearing correct intervals (assuming that the piano is in tune). Which hypothesis do you think is correct? Or perhaps you have yet another hypothesis of your own. To investigate, make recordings of different pairs of notes, played sequentially, with a brief pause in between. Randomize the order of the note pairs and include at least three examples of each interval that you test. Recruit volunteers to take a relative pitch test. One third of your volunteers should be violinists, one third pianists, and one third non-musicians. Ideally, you should have 50–100 volunteers per group (the more the better; see the Science Buddies resource: How Many Participants Do I Need?). Test the volunteers individually. After listening to each note pair, each subject should report whether the second note was higher, lower, or the same as the first note. You may also want to see if your test subjects can identify the interval (this is much harder). Analyze the scores for each group. Which group has the best score? Are some intervals easier than others? (Barca-Hall, 2005) If you're interested in doing a related Science Buddies project about how we hear, see Measuring Your Threshold of Hearing for Sounds of Different Pitches.


Barca-Hall, S.L., 2005. "Battle for Tonal Domination: Do Violin Students Have Better Relative Pitch than Piano Students?" California State Science Fair Abstract [accessed August 22, 2006] http://cssf.usc.edu/History/2005/Projects/J0302.pdf.
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General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Pitch Perception." Science Buddies, 28 July 2017, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Music_p002/music/pitch-perception. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2017, July 28). Pitch Perception. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Music_p002/music/pitch-perception

Last edit date: 2017-07-28
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