The role of carrier spectral composition in the perception of musical pitch

Chao Yin Kuo, Jia Wei Liu, Chih Hung Wang, Chi Hung Juan, I. Hui Hsieh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temporal envelope fluctuations of natural sounds convey critical information to speech and music processing. In particular, musical pitch perception is assumed to be primarily underlined by temporal envelope encoding. While increasing evidence demonstrates the importance of carrier fine structure to complex pitch perception, how carrier spectral information affects musical pitch perception is less clear. Here, transposed tones designed to convey identical envelope information across different carriers were used to assess the effects of carrier spectral composition to pitch discrimination and musical-interval and melody identifications. Results showed that pitch discrimination thresholds became lower (better) with increasing carrier frequencies from 1k to 10k Hz, with performance comparable to that of pure sinusoids. Musical interval and melody defined by the periodicity of sine- or harmonic complex envelopes across carriers were identified with greater than 85% accuracy even on a 10k-Hz carrier. Moreover, enhanced interval and melody identification performance was observed with increasing carrier frequency up to 6k Hz. Findings suggest a perceptual enhancement of temporal envelope information with increasing carrier spectral region in musical pitch processing, at least for frequencies up to 6k Hz. For carriers in the extended high-frequency region (8–20k Hz), the use of temporal envelope information to music pitch processing may vary depending on task requirement. Collectively, these results implicate the fidelity of temporal envelope information to musical pitch perception is more pronounced than previously considered, with ecological implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2083-2099
Number of pages17
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Carrier
  • Melody identification
  • Musical pitch perception
  • Pitch interval
  • Temporal envelope
  • Transposed tone


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