What Musical Properties Pertain To Our Perception Of Beat?

8 Nov

What properties of music affect how we perceive beats? Computational research on beat induction is typically demarcated into two areas of study.  The first, attempts to understand how acoustic properties are used to determine beat induction.  This involves note duration, pitch leaps, changes in dynamics and timbre, and other intra-musical characteristics.  The second, investigates periodicity and any relevant temporal fluctuations.  Many features have been identified to affect beat induction, but Fabien Gouyon, Gerhard Widmer, Xavier Serra, and Arthur Flexer, wondered what low level features of acoustic music influence the discernment of beat.

A total of 1,360 audio samples containing 90,643 beats and covering a wide range of music styles (acoustic, sambra, rock/pop, jazz, electronic, etc.) were used as stimuli for this experiment.  The researchers selected multiple categories of acoustic features (energy features, on-set detection features, spectral features, and ceptral features) to be analyzed with relation to beat induction.  No human participants were used for this experiment.

After immense analysis, the results showed that “energy features” are highly relevant to beat induction.  Particularly, energy features that appear below 500 Hz and above 5 kHz. Analogous with previous research, certain frequency bands were shown to be more important for beat induction than the entire frequency spectrum.  Several new features were found to affect beat induction, specifically the change of timbre over time and temporal deviations in the dB level of the audio signal.  Despite these notable results, the magnitude of influence on beat induction was shown to correspond to styles of music.  While change of timbre and temporal deviations were prominent components in in one musical category, they were shown to have little influence in another.  The researchers conclude that to further understand the relationship between musical style and beat induction, research will need to account for these features in different musical contexts.  For example, what features are important for beat induction in folk music?  How about Irish jigs?  Finally, the researchers suggest using human participants for future studies and perhaps brain-imaging equipment would  further help to understand which musical features pertain to beat induction.

Gouyon, F., Widmer, G., Serra, X., & Flexer, A. (2006). Cues to beat induction: a machine learning perspective. Music Perception, 24(2), 177-187.


One Response to “What Musical Properties Pertain To Our Perception Of Beat?”


  1. Tweets that mention What Musical Properties Pertain To Our Percetion Of Beat? « parker tichko -- Topsy.com - November 8, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Torrey, Parker Tichko. Parker Tichko said: New blog post: What music properties pertain to our perception of beat? http://bit.ly/aV2VQV #psychology #perception #cognition […]

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