Timbre Specificity

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Musicians’ sensitivity towards timbre—Previous studies suggested that the brain attributes in musicians may rely upon neurotransmitting mechanisms that enhance synaptic connections(Edeline,1999) and or neural growth processes after years of musical practice, hence strengthen the representation of sensory input experienced during making music. Pantev et al. (2001) underwent a neural imaging study to test musicians’ timbre enhancement represented in auditory cortex. He and his colleagues tried to find out if differences in cortical representations exist in violinists and trumpeters, when musical notes of different timbres are presented compared to sine tones. In the study, timbre specificity is the focus as researchers predicted that it is closely…show more content…
Timbre is the sound quality which differentiates musical notes of identical pitch, loudness and duration played by different instruments. Instruments have their own acoustic properties which generate the differences in listeners’ perceived timbres, and the key to it is the spectral and temporal features of the sound. In the aspect of spectra, most instruments generate harmonic resonances in which they produce energy at multiple numbers of fundamental frequency. These harmonic resonances are very similar to the speech produced by the vibration of vocal chords. Just like the varied vowels, the differed energy patterns across different harmonics determine distinct instrument properties. Take an example of three instruments violin, accordion and piano, while the violin and accordion have energy dispersed across many harmonics, piano has sustained energy only in the fundamental. Some instruments, such as the clarinet, have restricted energy patterns in odd harmonics, while trombone players could only generate energy patterns in the first and second harmonics. Another essential determining factor of timbre in music is its temporal properties. This is particular in the case of plucked string instruments and piano, where the notes they produced are not static at all. Hence, in this scenario, in order to perceive tone quality accurately, the shape of the amplitude envelope at the beginning of the sound has to be carefully determined. Grey (1977) used multidimensional techniques to investigate the psychoacoustic characteristics of musical timbre. This technique can allow researchers to construct a timbre space and to calculate the varied perceptual dimensions related to the acoustic characteristics of instrument sounds. Importantly, spectral shape of instrument sounds and attack time are essential constituents of timbre spaces (Lakatos, 2000; Caclin et al., 2005). In addition, sound onsets which are

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