The dependency of timbre on fundamental frequency

Jeremy Marozeau, A. de Cheveigne, S. McAdams, S. Winsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The dependency of the timbre of musical sounds on their fundamental frequency (F-0) was examined in three experiments. In experiment I subjects compared the timbres of stimuli produced by a set of 12 musical instruments with equal F-0, duration, and loudness. There were three sessions, each at a different F-0. In experiment II the same stimuli were rearranged in pairs, each with the same difference in F-0, and subjects had to ignore the constant difference in pitch. In experiment III, instruments were paired both with and without an F-0 difference within the same session, and subjects had to ignore the variable differences in pitch. Experiment I yielded dissimilarity matrices that were similar at different F-0's, suggesting that instruments kept their relative positions within timbre space. Experiment II found that subjects were able to ignore the salient pitch difference while rating timbre dissimilarity. Dissimilarity matrices were symmetrical, suggesting further that the absolute displacement of the set of instruments within timbre space was small. Experiment III extended this result to the case where the pitch difference varied from trial to trial. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) of dissimilarity scores produced solutions (timbre spaces) that varied little across conditions and experiments. MDS solutions were used to test the validity of signal-based predictors of timbre, and in particular their stability as a function of F-0. Taken together, the results suggest that timbre differences are perceived independently from differences of pitch, at least for F-0 differences smaller than an octave. Timbre differences can be measured between stimuli with different F-0's.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)2946-2957
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pitch Perception
  • Acoustic signal processing
  • Acoustic waves
  • Matrix algebra
  • Musical instruments
  • Acoustics
  • acoustics
  • adult
  • algorithm
  • auditory stimulation
  • calculation
  • clinical article
  • conference paper
  • female
  • frequency analysis
  • human
  • loudness
  • male
  • measurement
  • priority journal
  • sampling
  • sound transmission
  • stimulus response
  • Multidimensional scaling (MDS)
  • T
  • X

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