Decoding time for the identification of musical key

Morwaread M. Farbood, Jess Rowland, Gary Marcus, Oded Ghitza, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the decoding times at which the brain processes structural information in music and compares them to timescales implicated in recent work on speech. Combining an experimental paradigm based on Ghitza and Greenberg (Phonetica, 66(1-2), 113–126, 2009) for speech with the approach of Farbood et al. (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39(4), 911–918, 2013) for musical key-finding, listeners were asked to judge the key of short melodic sequences that were presented at a highly a compressed rate with varying durations of silence inserted in a periodic manner in the audio signal. The distorted audio signals comprised signal-silence alternations showing error rate curves that identify peak performance centered around an event rate of 5–7 Hz (143–200 ms interonset interval; 300–420 beats/min), where event rate is defined as the average rate of pitch change. The data support the hypothesis that the perceptual analysis of music entails the processes of parsing the signal into chunks of the appropriate temporal granularity and decoding the signal for recognition. The music-speech comparison points to similarities in how auditory processing builds on the specific temporal structure of the input, and how that structure interacts with the internal temporal dynamics of the neural mechanisms underpinning perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Brain rhythms
  • Key finding
  • Music structure
  • Neuronal oscillations
  • Speech rate
  • Tonal induction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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