A fruity note: crossmodal associations between odors and musical notes

Chem Senses. 2012 Feb;37(2):151-8. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjr085. Epub 2011 Aug 18.


Odors are notoriously difficult to describe, but they seem prone to a variety of crossmodal associations. In the present study, we generalize the previously-shown association between odors (from perfumery) and pitch (Belkin et al. 1997) to odors related to food and drink (in this case those associated with wine). We also demonstrate that, to a lesser extent (25% of the odor tested), participants preferentially match specific odors to certain types of instruments. The ratings of the odors along a number of dimensions are used in principal components analysis (PCA) to explore the psychological dimensions underlying the odor-pitch associations. The results demonstrate that both pleasantness and complexity, but not intensity, appear to play a role when choosing a pitch to match an odor. Our results suggest that these features of odor stimuli constitute psychological dimensions that can be consistently matched to auditory features.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Flavoring Agents / analysis
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Music / psychology*
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Wine / analysis


  • Flavoring Agents