Dynamic Cues in Key Perception

  •  Rie Matsunaga    
  •  Jun-ichi Abe    


The traditional idea of pitch full-set alone cannot explain different key perceptions for melodies that consist of the same pitch full-set but differ in pitch sequence. Three experiments, in which presentation styles, participant groups, and stimulus sets were manipulated independently, traced the process of key development back from a final stage of key identification to earlier stages of listening to a melody. In all the experiments, two results were confirmed: First, key responses in earlier stages influenced those in later stages to the extent that subsequent tones correspond to scale tones of a previously interpreted key, revealing a phenomenon termed perceptual inertia. Second, when multiple keys were possible, listeners tended to perceive the diatonic key that can contain more pitch classes within a pitch set given at the point of time as stable scale tones of that key (i.e., tonic triad).

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