The Effect of Source Timbre on Pitch Reproduction

Dec 2012


PsychoPy, MATLAB, Audacity


  • To investigate the effect of source timbre, namely sine (pure) tone and vocal, on the accuracy of pitch reproduction.
  • Furthermore, to question whether musical experience bears influence on this ability.


  • Pitch reproduction is to match the fundamental frequency of a sound. Pitch and timbre are building blocks of music, both are perceived differently, but are tightly interlinked.
  • 24 Stanford University students participated in this study, and were categorized into non-musicians, musicians (but non-singers), and singers.
  • 20 stimuli were presented as 1-second long sine and vocal tones in matched pitch pairs (identical fundamental frequency), see samples below.
  • Responses were processed using pitch extraction algorithms in MATLAB and Audacity, to measure mean pitch inaccuracy (or deviation from stimulus pitch).
  • Results strongly conveyed that vocal tones better facilitate accurate pitch reproduction as compared to sine tones.

Future Work

  • Results showed some indication that a higher level of musical experience led to less dependence on timbre for accurate reproduction. However, more samples are required across these categories to confidently test this.

Stimulus Samples

Presentation Deck

Final Report

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