Vocal similarity predicts the relative attraction of musical chords.


Journal Article

Musical chords are combinations of two or more tones played together. While many different chords are used in music, some are heard as more attractive (consonant) than others. We have previously suggested that, for reasons of biological advantage, human tonal preferences can be understood in terms of the spectral similarity of tone combinations to harmonic human vocalizations. Using the chromatic scale, we tested this theory further by assessing the perceived consonance of all possible dyads, triads, and tetrads within a single octave. Our results show that the consonance of chords is predicted by their relative similarity to voiced speech sounds. These observations support the hypothesis that the relative attraction of musical tone combinations is due, at least in part, to the biological advantages that accrue from recognizing and responding to conspecific vocal stimuli.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bowling, DL; Purves, D; Gill, KZ

Published Date

  • January 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 115 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 216 - 221

PubMed ID

  • 29255031

Pubmed Central ID

  • 29255031

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1091-6490

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.1713206115


  • eng