Harmonic structure as a determinant of melodic organization

Norma Tan, Rita Aiello, Thomas G. Bever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Musicians and nonmusicians indicated whether a two-note probe following a tonally structured melody occurred in the melody. The critical probes were taken from one of three locations in the melody: the two notes (1) ending the first phrase, (2) straddling the phrase boundary, and (3) beginning the second phrase. As predicted, the probe that straddled the phrase boundary was more difficult to recognize than either of the within-phrase probes. These findings suggest that knowledge of harmonic structure influences perceptual organization of melodies in ways analogous to the influence of clause relations on the perceptual organization of sentences. They also provide evidence that training plays an important role in refining listeners' sensitivity to harmonic variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-539
Number of pages7
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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