Elsevier · Deutsch, D: The Psychology of Music, 3rd Edition · Chapter 07

Chapter 07

Chapter 7 Diana Deutsch

II C. Melody recognition with tones placed haphazardly in different octaves.

1. A well-known melody is played such that all the note names (C, C#, D, and so on) are correct, but the tones are placed haphazardly in three different octaves. Although the melody is well-known, the octave displacements of the tones make it difficult to recognize. [mm_scrambled.mp3]

2. The same melody is played, with the tones correctly placed in the same octave. The melody is now easy to recognize. [mm_unscrambled.mp3]

Deutsch, D. Octave generalization and tune recognition. Perception and Psychophysics, 1972, 11, 411-412.


© 1995 Diana Deutsch

III D. Effects of temporal gaps on perception of a pitch pattern.

1. A passage is played that consists of a three-tone pattern presented times at different pitch levels (Figure 13a). The tones are equally spaced in time, and the passage is easy to perceive. [proc_a.mp3]

2. The same sequence of tones is played, with pauses placed between the successive presentations of the three-tone sequence (Figure 13b). The pitch structure is, if anything, even easier to perceive.[proc_b.mp3]

3. The same sequence of tones is played, but with pauses placed between every fourth tone, so breaking up the pitch structure (Figure 13c). Listeners form groupings based on these pauses, so that the pattern becomes difficult to perceive.

(refs) [proc_c.mp3]

Deutsch, D. (1980). The processing of structured and unstructured tonal sequences.

Perception & Psychophysics, 28, 381_389.

IV. A. Short term memory for pitch.

  1. In each of these two examples, a tone is played, followed by a pause, and then by another tone that is either the same in pitch as the first or a semitone removed. Listeners find it easy to judge whether the tones are the same or different in pitch.


  1. In each of these two examples, the task is the same, except that six tones intervene between the two to be compared. Judging whether the test tones are the same or different becomes much more difficult, even though the intervening tones can be ignored.


  1. In each of these two examples, the task is the same, except that instead of six tones, six spoken numbers intervene between the tones to be compared. It is now again easy to tell whether the tones are the same or different. This shows that the pitch of a tone is held in a specialized memory store, and that interference effects take place between pitches inside this store.
  2. [stm_int_speech.mp3]


Deutsch, D. Tones and numbers: Specificity of interference in immediate memory. Science, 1970, 168, 1604-1605,


© 2003 Diana Deutsch

V. A. The tritone paradox.

The basic pattern that produces the tritone paradox consists of two successively presented tones that are related by a half-octave. (This interval is called a tritone). The tones are so constructed that their note names (C, C#, D, and so on) are clearly defined, but they are ambiguous with respect to which octave they are in. When one tone of a pair is played, followed by the second, some people hear an ascending pattern. But other people, on listening to the identical pair of tones, hear a descending  pattern instead. Furthermore, different people hear these patterns in different ways. When one of these tone pairs is played a listener might hear a descending pattern. Yet when a different tone pair is played, the same listener hears an ascending pattern instead.  Yet another listener might hear the first pattern as ascending and the second pattern as descending. The present demonstration presents six such tone pairs. This effect is best heard in a group situation with listeners providing feedback, so that they can observe the striking individual differences in how this pattern is perceived.


Deutsch, D. The tritone paradox: An influence of language on music perception. Music Perception, 1991, 8, 335-347

Deutsch, D. A musical paradox. Music Perception, 1986, 3, 275-280

Deutsch, D. Some new pitch paradoxes and their implications. In Auditory Processing of Complex Sounds. Philosphical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, 1992, 336, 391-397


© 1995 Diana Deutsch

VI. The speech-to-song illusion

In this demonstration,  speech is made to be heard as song, simply by repeating a phrase several times over.  This shows that the boundary between speech and song is very fragile. The demonstration consists of three parts:

1. The original sentence, followed by a spoken phrase that was embedded in it, repeated ten times. After  several repetitions, the phrase appears to sound like song, with the pitches as in Demonstration 2. [sometimes_w_repetition.mp3]

2. Piano rendition of the melody that is heard after several repetitions. [sometimes_piano.mp3]

3. The original sentence presented again. May people find that it begins to sound as speech, but when it arrives at the phrase that has been repeated, it appears suddenly to change into song. [sometimes_sentence_only.mp3]

Deutsch, D., Henthorn, T., and Lapidis, R. Illusory transformation from speech to song. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2011, 129, 2245-2252,

Deutsch, D., Lapidis, R., and Henthorn, T. The Speech-to-Song Illusion. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2008, November, 124, 2471,


© 2003 Diana Deutsch