Lay listeners can evaluate the pitch accuracy of operatic voices

Pauline Larrouy-Maestri, Dominique Morsomme, David Magis, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


LAY LISTENERS ARE RELIABLE JUDGES WHEN evaluating pitch accuracy of occasional singers, suggesting that enculturation and laypersons' perceptual abilities are sufficient to judge "simple" music material adequately. However, the definition of pitch accuracy in operatic performances is much more complex than in melodies performed by occasional singers. Furthermore, because listening to operatic performances is not a common activity, laypersons' experience with this complicated acoustic signal is more limited. To address the question of music expertise in evaluating operatic singing voices, listeners without music training were compared with the music experts examined in a recent study (Larrouy-Maestri, Magis, & Morsomme, 2014a) and their ratings weremodeled with regard to underlying acoustic variables of pitch accuracy. As expected, some participants lacked test-retest reliability in their judgments. However, listeners who used a consistent strategy relied on a definition of pitch accuracy that appears to overlap with the quantitative criteria used by music experts. Besides clarifying the role of music expertise in the evaluation of melodies, our findings show robust perceptual abilities in laypersons when listening to complex signals such as operatic performances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-495
Number of pages7
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Melodic Perception
  • Music expertise
  • Opera
  • Pitch accuracy
  • Singing voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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