Electronic instruments and music synthesizers have been criticized as being unnatural because the notes are uniform without natural variations. When a musician plays a sequence of “identical” notes, each one is in fact somewhat different from the others. In this study, eight sustained musical instrument sounds were randomly altered by a time-invariant process to determine the degree to which spectral alterations could be detected with repeated notes. Listeners were asked to discriminate each randomly altered repeated note sequence from an original unaltered sequence. The results showed that spectrally altered repeated note sequences were significantly more discriminable than single tones of the same duration. Correlation analysis confirmed that spectral incoherence correlated significantly for three alteration factors in the single-note stimuli and two alteration factors in the repeated note sequences.
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