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What is pitch

Started by yaami 7 November 15, 2010
Hi all,

I've seen pitch being defined as the perceived fundamental frequency. I
could not get anything from this single statement. When I start to read in
depth most talk using the musical lingo. I hardly understand anything when
it comes to music. My question is when we listen to some speech and it has
some fundamental frequency, why is it that we perceive a different
frequency. say a 1kHz we listen it as a 1kHz (unless we consider Doppler).
So what is special about "perceive".

Thanks.
An excellent question!

When working with terms like pitch, you start to venture into an area
called psychoacoustics - it has everything to do with human perception,
or hearing. And as you might have gathered so far, what you perceive and
what is reality are not necessarily one and the same. Pitch is related
to frequency, but it is not quite the same thing.

It be way too hard to even begin to summarize it here.

Your best bets are to do searches on terms like psychoacoustics,
audiology, loudness, etc.

There are a lot of interesting materials on psychoacoustics and the
physiology of hearing. A good book that I had been reading lately is
"Fundamentals of Hearing", by William Yost (2000).

Hope this helps,
g.

On 11/14/2010 10:40 AM, yaami 7 wrote:
>
> Hi all,
> I've seen pitch being defined as the perceived fundamental frequency.
> I could not get anything from this single statement. When I start to
> read in depth most talk using the musical lingo. I hardly understand
> anything when it comes to music. My question is when we listen to some
> speech and it has some fundamental frequency, why is it that we
> perceive a different frequency. say a 1kHz we listen it as a 1kHz
> (unless we consider Doppler). So what is special about "perceive".
>
> Thanks.
>
Yaami-

> I've seen pitch being defined as the perceived fundamental frequency. I
> could not get anything from this single statement. When I start to read in
> depth most talk using the musical lingo. I hardly understand anything when
> it comes to music. My question is when we listen to some speech and it has
> some fundamental frequency, why is it that we perceive a different
> frequency. say a 1kHz we listen it as a 1kHz (unless we consider Doppler).
> So what is special about "perceive".

As another reply mentioned, there is a lot of material out there for you to study about this.

One starting point might be to think about a perfect sine wave. It has only a fundamental frequency -- and I think
safe to say the vast majority of people would perceive its "pitch" the same way. If you start to distort the wave
(for example, introduce "harmonics"), the people might say it sounds "buzzy" or "metallic" or something similar, and
you'd start to encounter differences of opinion (perception). As you apply more advanced techniques to shape the wave
(for example musical instruments, or human vocal tract), then perception becomes a larger issue. Is the sound used to
carry information? Is it for entertainment purposes?

But, in this example, the fundamental frequency remains. It might no longer be the main feature of the sound (as with
speech), but nevertheless it's still there and can be determined/measured using signal processing analysis software.

-Jeff
Thanks for your replies. I'll look into the references provided and try to dive deeper.