Harmonic pitch: Dependence on resolved partials, spectral edges, and combination tones

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Perceptual weights were estimated in a pitch-comparison experiment to assess the relative influences of individual partial tones on listeners' pitch judgments. The stimuli were harmonic sounds (F0=200Hz) with partials up to the 12th. Low-numbered partials were removed step-by-step, so that the remaining higher-numbered partials would have a better chance of showing any effect. The individual frequencies of the partials were perturbed randomly on each stimulus presentation, and weights were estimated as the correlation coefficients between the frequency perturbations and the listeners' responses. When the harmonic sounds contained all twelve partials, the listeners depended mostly on the low-numbered, resolved partials within the well-established dominance region. As the low-numbered partials were taken out of the dominance region, the listeners mostly listened to the lowest and highest partials at the spectral edges. For one listener, such an edge-listening strategy took the form of relying on nonlinear combination tones. Overall, there was no indication of any influence on pitch from unresolved partials, thus no evidence of contribution to pitch from temporal cues carried by this group of partials. The estimated patterns of weights were well described by the predictions of Goldstein's optimal-processor model. The predicted weights were inversely proportional to the amount of error for estimating the individual frequencies of the partials. The agreement between the predicted and measured weights suggests that, for harmonic sounds, partials whose frequencies are perceived with the best precision will likely have the greatest influence on perceived pitch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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