The relationship between pitch discrimination and vocal production: comparison of vocal and instrumental musicians

J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 Jan;125(1):328-38. doi: 10.1121/1.3021309.


Auditory pitch discrimination and vocal pitch accuracy are fundamental abilities and essential skills of a professional singer; yet, the relationship between these abilities, particularly in trained vocal musicians, has not been the subject of much research. Difference limens for frequency (DLFs) and pitch production accuracy (PPA) were examined among 20 vocalists, 21 instrumentalists, and 21 nonmusicians. All were right-handed young adult females with normal hearing. Stimuli were harmonic tone complexes simulating piano tones and represented the mid-frequency of the untrained female vocal range, F0=261.63-392 Hz (C4-G4). DLFs were obtained by an adaptive psychophysical paradigm. Vocal pitch recordings were analyzed to determine PPA. Musicians demonstrated superior pitch discrimination and production accuracy compared to nonmusicians. These abilities did not distinguish instrumentalists and vocalists. DLF and PPA were significantly correlated with each other only for musicians with instrumental training; however, PPA was most consistent with minimal variance for vocalists. It would appear that a relationship between DLF and PPA develops with musical training, and these abilities can be differentially influenced by the type of specialty training.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics / instrumentation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Occupations*
  • Phonation / physiology*
  • Pitch Perception*
  • Vocal Cords / physiology*
  • Young Adult