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Preference for Harmonic Intervals Based on Overtone Content of Complex Tones

This study investigated whether or not overtone structure generated preferential differences for harmonic intervals. The purpose of this study was to determine if the structure of a complex tone affects the perception of consonance in harmonic intervals. Prior studies suggest harmonicity as the basis for so-called “consonance” while others suggest exact ratios are not necessary. This test examined listener responses across three tonal “types” through a randomized double-blind trinomial forced-choice format. Stimuli types used full, odd, and even overtone series at three relative-magnitude loudness levels. Results revealed no effect of loudness and a generalized but highly variable trend for the even overtone series. However, some subjects exhibited a very strong preference for certain overtone combinations, while others demonstrated no preference.

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