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Effects of Increasing Time Delays on Pitch-Matching

Accuracy in Trained Singers and Untrained Individuals


Julie M. Estis, Joana K. Coblentz, and Robert E. Moore, Mobile, Alabama
Summary: Trained singers (TS) generally demonstrate accurate pitch matching, but this ability varies within the gen-
eral population. Pitch-matching accuracy, given increasing silence intervals of 5, 15, and 25 seconds between target
tones and vocal matches, was investigated in TS and untrained individuals. A relationship between pitch discrimination
and pitch matching was also examined. Thirty-two females (2030 years) were grouped based on individual vocal train-
ing and performance in an immediate pitch-matching task. Participants matched target pitches following time delays,
and completed a pitch discrimination task, which required the classication of two tones as same or different. TS and
untrained accurate participants performed comparably on all pitch-matching tasks, while untrained inaccurate partici-
pants performed signicantly less accurately than the other two groups. Performances declined across groups as inter-
vals of silence increased, suggesting degradation of pitch matching as pitch memory was taxed. A signicant
relationship between pitch discrimination and pitch matching was revealed across participants.
Key Words: Pitch matchingPitch discriminationPitch memoryTime delay.
INTRODUCTION
Singing ability is highly variable among the general population.
Some individuals are able to produce melodious tones with
ease, while others encounter great difculty creating a pleasant
melody. It is likely that individuals, who display melodious
singing, either possess inherent abilities and/or they have con-
ditioned their voices through vocal training.
1
It is unclear
what neural or environmental factors may differentiate individ-
uals who lack this skill from others who have this ability with-
out the benet of formal vocal training.
To sing accurately, individuals must be capable of both dis-
criminating and matching target pitches. A relationship
between these abilities, wherein an individual who displays
accurate pitch discrimination skills typically expresses accurate
pitch-matching skills, has been identied in populations of
trained singers (TS).
2
Pitch discrimination is a judgment of per-
ceived frequency differences among sounds. To discriminate
pitch, one uses sensory abilities via the auditory mechanism
to perceive the sounds and uses working memory to recall ref-
erence sounds for comparison. To match pitch, an individual
must be able to perceive a pitch, retain the target sound in mem-
ory, plan motor coordination of respiratory, laryngeal, and res-
onating structures, and execute accurate motor movement. In
addition to posturing these mechanisms, an individual uses
internal and external feedback to control and maintain accurate
voice production.
1
Pitch memory is an important component of both pitch dis-
crimination and pitch matching. Reference sounds must be
stored in memory to discriminate and/or match target pitches.
Deutsch
3
proposed that memory for pitch is a function of
a specialized working memory system, while Salame and
Baddeley
4
proposed that tonal signals are maintained in work-
ing memory in a manner similar to speech signals. Interfer-
ence in the forms of silence, tonal stimuli, verbal stimuli,
and visual stimuli has been used in pitch discrimination para-
digms to explore its effects on memory
3,511
; however, there is
currently no empirical evidence reporting the effects of inter-
ference on pitch-matching performance. Moore et al
11
investi-
gated the role of pitch memory in pitch discrimination by
directly investigating the effects of interference on memory
for pitch during a pitch discrimination task. Participants,
who were all untrained individuals, were presented with two
complex tonal stimuli separated by an interval of interference
tones and asked to compare the rst and last tones. The inter-
ference tones caused a disruption in pitch memory resulting in
a decline in pitch discrimination performance. Based on the
previously established relationship between pitch discrimina-
tion and pitch-matching skills, the results of the investigation
were implied for pitch matching also.
The purpose of the present investigation was to directly
examine the role of pitch memory in pitch-matching abilities
for vocally trained and untrained individuals who demonstrated
accurate and inaccurate pitch-matching abilities. Specically,
pitch-matching accuracy given increasing intervals of silence
between stimuli and vocal-match responses was investigated
in TS and untrained individuals. The relationship between pitch
discrimination and pitch-matching abilities was also examined
in these populations.
The following research questions were proposed:
1. Are there differences in pitch-matching accuracy given
increasing stimulus-vocal production intervals (SVPIs)
among trained vocal musicians, untrained participants
with accurate immediate pitch-matching skills, and
untrained participants with inaccurate immediate pitch-
matching skills?
2. Is there an interaction among groups and SVPI conditions
during pitch matching?
3. Is there a relationship between the ability to discriminate
between pitches and the ability to match pitches?
Accepted for publication October 1, 2007.
From the Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology, University of South Alabama,
Mobile, Alabama.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Julie M. Estis, Department of Speech
Pathology & Audiology, University of South Alabama, UCOM 2000, Mobile, AL
36688-0002. E-mail: jestis@usouthal.edu
Journal of Voice, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 439-445
0892-1997/$36.00
2009 The Voice Foundation
doi:10.1016/j.jvoice.2007.10.001
METHODS
Participants
Participants were 32 females between the ages of 20 and 30
years (M23.06 years, SD2.6 years). Due to differences
in vocal ranges of males and females, males were not included
in the current study. Eligible participants were native speakers
of English; had no signicant history of voice pathology or
voice treatment; demonstrated adequate vocal function as evi-
denced by jitter (frequency perturbation), shimmer (amplitude
perturbation), and noise-to-harmonic ratio (amount of noise
in the signal) within one standard deviation of the mean as cal-
culated by multi-dimensional voice prole-advanced (MDVP-
A) voicing analysis software Version 2.7.0 and compared to
MDVP-A database means and standard deviations; and passed
an audiometric hearing screening.
Participants were divided into three groups based on vocal
training and pitch-matching accuracy in an immediate condi-
tion. Ten vocally TS between the ages of 20 and 30 years
(M22.7 years, SD2.95 years) participated. In addition to
meeting general inclusion criteria, TS had completed a mini-
mum of 3 years of individual vocal training (M6.15 years,
SD2.87 years) with a professional vocal instructor. TS also
exhibited a wide variety of other musical and/or instrumental
training as well, such as chorus and band (M11.7 years,
SD5.25 years). Twenty-two participants, labeled as
untrained, had never received individual training from a pro-
fessional vocal instructor. Untrained participants were between
the ages of 20 and 30 years (M23.23 years, SD2.5 years).
Based on performance on an immediate pitch-matching task
described below, 17 participants were considered accurate pitch
matchers with average semitone differences ranging from0.051
to 0.430 semitones and ve were considered inaccurate pitch
matchers with average semitone differences ranging from
0.718 to 2.032. The resulting three groups for this study were
10 TS, 17 untrained accurate participants (UA), and ve
untrained inaccurate participants (UI).
Instrumentation and stimuli
Five complex tones were used for pitch discrimination and
pitch-matching tasks. These tones were created with Adobe
Audition sound-editing software (version 1.5) and had a total
duration of 1500 milliseconds, gated on and off with 10-milli-
second linear amplitude ramps. These complex tones were
composed of four equal amplitude harmonics, which were
added in phase. The frequencies of these tones were within
the normal singing range for females,
12,13
and were set at 50-
cent intervals. The resulting stimuli were complex tones with
fundamental frequencies (F
0
s) of 200, 206, 212, 218, and
224 Hz. ECos/Win Stimulus presentation software Version 2
developed by AVAAZ Innovations, Inc. (AVAAZ Innovations,
Inc., Ontario, Canada) was used to randomize and present tonal
stimuli for all experimental tasks. Each stimulus was presented
via a Tucker-Davis System 3 psychoacoustic workstation
(Tucker-Davis Technologies, Alachua, FL) through a Fostex
7301B3E amplied speaker (Taiwan) at 75 dB sound pressure
level (SPL) in sound eld. Before and after data collection,
sound level measurements were taken of the output from the
external speaker at a distance of 1 m.
For the pitch discrimination task, each stimulus tone was
paired with the same tone and each of the four other tones,
such that a total of 25 stimulus pairs were created (eg, 200/
200, 200/206, 200/212, 200/218, 200/224). The 1500-millisec-
ond tones were separated by a 1500-millisecond period of
silence. The 25 stimulus pairs were randomly presented using
ECos/Win stimulus presentation software. In addition, ECos/
Win software was used along with a computer and mouse to
record participant responses.
The stimulus tones were edited for the pitch memory task by
adding increasing intervals of silence at the end of each tone to
create three conditions: tone + 5 seconds of silence, tone + 15
seconds of silence, and tone + 25 seconds of silence. Anontonal
transient was added to the end of each interval of silence, sig-
naling the participant to vocally match the pitch of the target
tone. ECos/Win stimulus presentation software was used to ran-
domize and present all pitch-matching stimuli. Participant
responses during pitch-matching tasks were recorded via
a head-mounted microphone and MDVP-A software of the
Computerized Speech Laboratory (CSL), Model 4300B (Kay
Elemetrics Corporation, Lincoln Park, NJ).
Experimental procedures
All procedures were conducted during a 1-hour session in a dou-
ble-walled sound-attenuated booth. Pre-experimental tasks
were completed rst, followed by pitch discrimination and
pitch-matching tasks. After signing a Statement of Informed
Consent, a bilateral pure tone hearing screening was conducted
in a sound-attenuated booth using a (Grason-Stadler, Inc., Mil-
ford, NH) GSI-17 portable audiometer, calibrated in compli-
ance with American National Standards Institute standards.
14
Pure tones at 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz were presented at
20 dB hearing level (HL) via TDH 50 supra-aural headphones.
Avoicing analysis was then completed using MDVP-A to as-
sure that no current voice problems existed that might adversely
affect performance on pitch-matching tasks. A head-mounted
microphone was placed at approximately two-nger width
from the left corner of each participants mouth for recording
responses. Participants sustained the vowel /a/ at a comfortable
loudness for 4 seconds. Vocalizations were analyzed using the
CSL and MDVP-A software to determine if jitter, shimmer,
and noise-to-harmonic ratio values were within one standard
deviation of the mean based on the MDVP-A database.
For the pitch discrimination task, participants were seated in
front of a computer monitor approximately 1 m away from
a Fostex 7301B3E amplied speaker, fromwhich, pairs of com-
plex stimulus tones with F
0
s of 200, 206, 212, 218, and 224 Hz
were presented randomly at 75 dB SPL. Stimulus pairs were
presented one at a time. Participants were instructed to judge
whether the tones presented were the same in pitch or if they
were different in pitch by selecting with the mouse same or dif-
ferent on the computer screen. Each tone was randomly refer-
enced with all other tones once for completion of one pitch
discrimination block. The same pairs were presented randomly
again in a second block immediately after the rst for reliability
Journal of Voice, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2009 440
comparisons. Percent correct scores were obtained by averag-
ing the percent correct of both pitch discrimination trials for
each participant.
For the immediate pitch-matching task, stimulus tones with
F
0
s of 200, 206, 212, 218, and 224 Hz were presented at
75 dB SPL, one at a time. Participants heard each stimulus
tone, and then attempted to vocally match the pitch of each tar-
get tone immediately after presentation of the stimulus. Partic-
ipants were instructed to sustain the vowel /a/ to match the pitch
of each stimulus for 4 seconds. Responses were timed using the
MDVP-A software. Participants pitch-matching responses
were recorded via the head-mounted microphone placed ap-
proximately 34 cmfromthe left corner of their mouth and dig-
itized at a 48.8-kHz sampling rate by the CSL. Each tone was
presented twice randomly for reliability comparisons.
For the pitch matching with SVPI task, a training block was
completed to ensure participants understood the task and recog-
nized the nontonal transient, which signaled participants to
attempt vocal responses to match the target tone. During this
task, three of the ve complex tonal stimuli were presented ran-
domly with an added interval of silence. Intervals for the train-
ing block differed from those used during the actual
experimental task. The resulting stimuli for the training block
were the following: 200-Hz tone + 3 seconds; 212-Hz
tone + 10 seconds; and 224-Hz tone + 18 seconds.
After completion of the practice task, the experimental task
was conducted. Participants listened to each stimulus tone fol-
lowed by an interval of 5, 15, or 25 seconds. The amount of
silence after the tone was not disclosed to participants. Once
the interval passed, participants heard a nontonal click. Par-
ticipants were instructed to produce the vowel /a/ at a comfort-
able loudness for 4 seconds to respond. The MDVP-A software
was used to time and record all participant responses, which
were saved to the CSL hard drive for analysis. Stimuli were ran-
domly presented twice.
After data collection, pitch-matching responses were
trimmed and analyzed via the CSL and MDVP-A software. Spe-
cically, the rst and last 1-second of each 4-second vocal
response was removed, resulting in 2-second samples. The F
0
was calculated by the MDVP-A for each sample, and the two
productions for each stimulus tone in the four conditions
were averaged for each participant resulting in 20 F
0
values.
These values were then converted to absolute semitone differ-
ence scores (sds), or the number of semitones between the stim-
ulus tone and the F
0
of the participants productions. The sds of
each attempted frequency were then averaged to calculate an
overall sds for each condition.
RESULTS
Descriptive and statistical analyses were used to measure
outcomes for each research question. The rst two research
questions proposed in this investigation addressed group differ-
ences among TS, UA, and UI in pitch matching across four
SVPI conditions: immediate (0 seconds), 5, 15, and 25 seconds.
Throughout analysis, an alpha level of .05 was set to test for sig-
nicance. Pitch-matching accuracy, the dependent variable,
was measured by calculating semitone differences between tar-
get tones and vocal-match responses. sds were calculated using
the following formula:
sds
12

log
10
f
2
log
10
f
1

log
10
2
where sds is semitone difference scores, f
1
is F
0
of the target
tone, and f
2
is the average F
0
of trial #1 and trial #2.
15
The third
research question addressed the relationship between pitch dis-
crimination and pitch-matching abilities. Pitch discrimination
accuracy, the second dependent variable, was measured by
calculating percent correct scores on the pitch discrimination
task. Individual and group differences were examined for
each research question.
Descriptive and statistical analyses addressing pitch
matching
Mean sds and standard deviations were calculated for each par-
ticipant and for each group across SVPI conditions. Individual
differences in pitch-matching accuracy for each condition are
presented in Figures 14. Mean sds and standard deviations
for each group across SVPI conditions are presented in Figure 5.
As indicated by mean sds in this gure, TS and UA displayed
better pitch-matching skills across SVPI conditions than UI. Al-
though TS and UA presented with similar patterns of pitch-
matching accuracy, TS exhibited slightly more accurate pitch
matching across SVPI conditions than UA.
An omnibus, 3 (groups) 34 (SVPI conditions) repeated
measures ANOVA with group as the between-subjects factor
and SVPI condition as the within-subjects factor was calculated
to determine if signicant differences in pitch-matching accu-
racy existed among groups for each SVPI condition. Mauchlys
Test of Sphericity was signicant, indicating that sphericity
could not be assumed (w0.395, P < 0.001); therefore,
Huynh-Feldt corrections were used. A signicant main effect
for SVPI condition was found, F(2.212,64.139) 9.821,
P < 0.001, h
p
2
0.253. Also, there was a signicant main effect
FIGURE 1. Individual mean semitone difference scores in the im-
mediate pitch-matching condition.
Julie M. Estis, et al Effects of Increasing Time Delays on Pitch Matching 441
for group, F(2,29) 49.619, P < 0.001, h
p
2
0.774. There was
no signicant interaction among group and SVPI condition.
A series of 1(SVPI condition) 33 (groups) ANOVAs were
performed to further explore differences between groups for
each SVPI condition. Differences among groups were sig-
nicant in the immediate condition, F(2,29) 40.508,
P < 0.001, h
p
2
0.736; in the 5-second-interval condition,
F(2,29) 18.782, P < 0.001, h
p
2
0.564; in the 15-second-in-
terval condition, F(2,29) 37.054, P < 0.001, h
p
2
0.719; and
in the 25-second-interval condition, F(2,29) 23.866,
P < 0.001, h
p
2
0.622. A series of post hoc pairwise compari-
sons using Tukey honestly signicant difference (HSD) correc-
tions revealed a similar pattern across SVPI conditions. No
signicant differences between TS and UAwere revealed, while
TS and UAwere signicantly more accurate than UI across con-
ditions (Table 1).
A series of 1 (group) 34 (SVPI conditions) repeated mea-
sures ANOVAs were calculated to determine if signicant dif-
ferences existed within each group across SVPI conditions. For
TS, there was a signicant difference in pitch-matching accu-
racy across SVPI conditions, F(3,27) 5.090, P 0.006,
h
p
2
0.361. There was also a signicant difference in perfor-
mance across SVPI conditions for UA, F(3,48) 3.119,
P 0.035, h
p
2
0.163. For UI, there were no signicant differ-
ences among SVPI conditions.
Post hoc pairwise comparisons for TS and for UA revealed
the same patterns of performance across conditions for both
groups (Table 2). There were no signicant differences between
the 0-second SVPI condition and 5-second SVPI condition.
However, there were signicant differences in pitch-matching
accuracy between 0-second and 15-second SVPI conditions
and between 0-second and 25-second SVPI conditions. There
were no signicant differences among SVPI conditions of 5,
15, and 25 seconds.
FIGURE 2. Individual mean semitone difference scores in the 5-sec-
ond SVPI condition.
FIGURE 3. Individual mean semitone difference scores in the 15-
second SVPI condition.
FIGURE 4. Individual mean semitone difference scores in the 25-
second SVPI condition.
FIGURE 5. Mean semitone difference scores for TS, UA, and UI,
across SVPI conditions. Note: SVPI indicates the number of seconds
between presentation of target stimuli and vocal production responses
(0 seconds immediate pitch-matching condition).
Journal of Voice, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2009 442
Descriptive and statistical analyses addressing pitch
discrimination
The third research question for the current study addressed the re-
lationship between pitch discrimination and pitch-matching
skills. To examine this relationship, the dependent variable, pitch
discrimination accuracy (measured in percent correct scores),
was examined through descriptive and statistical analyses.
Mean percent correct scores and standard deviations were calcu-
lated for individual (Figure 6) and group performances on the
pitch discrimination task (TS: M94.4%, SD7.1678; UA:
M85.6%, SD15.1861; UI: M72.8%, SD5.2154).
Differences existed among groups for pitch discrimination.
TS exhibited most accurate pitch discrimination of the three
groups. UA were slightly less accurate than TS, and UI were
the least accurate group. A 1 (pitch discrimination accu-
racy) 33 (groups) ANOVA revealed signicant differences in
pitch discrimination scores among groups, F(2,29) 5.358,
P 0.010, h
p
2
0.270. A Pearson-Product Moment correla-
tion revealed a signicant negative correlation between pitch
discrimination scores and immediate pitch-matching accuracy
(r 0.491, P 0.004). The shared variance between pitch
discrimination scores and immediate pitch-matching scores
was 24% (r
2
0.24).
DISCUSSION
Summary of research objectives and results
The primary objectives of this investigation were to examine
the effects of increasing intervals of silence (5, 15, and 25 sec-
onds) on pitch-matching accuracy in TS, UA, and UI and inves-
tigate an interaction among groups and SVPI conditions
(research questions 1 and 2). It was proposed that TS would ex-
hibit accurate pitch-matching skills across increasing SVPI
conditions; however, it was also proposed that accuracy would
decline as these intervals increased past 10 seconds.
7
In fact, the
TS group demonstrated exceptionally accurate pitch matching
in the immediate condition, with sds ranging between 0.0927
and 0.2682. This accuracy declined signicantly as SVPI in-
creased to 15 and 25 seconds. A pattern similar to that of the
TS was hypothesized for pitch-matching accuracy in UA. How-
ever, it was expected that pitch-matching accuracy in UAwould
decline further than for TS as SVPI conditions increased past 10
seconds, indicating the role in vocal training for improving the
robustness of pitch-matching accuracy in conditions which
require extended storage of the tone in memory. While TS
were more accurate than UA across SVPI conditions, these dif-
ferences were not signicant. As expected, UI participants
showed poor pitch matching across all SVPI conditions. Possi-
ble explanations for the patterns discovered among groups with
regard to increasing SVPI conditions are discussed below.
Another objective was to consider the relationship between
pitch discrimination abilities and immediate pitch-matching
abilities. To examine this relationship, results from a pitch dis-
crimination task, wherein participants judged whether two
complex tones were same or different in pitch, were
compared to results in the immediate pitch-matching task. It
was expected that TS and UAwould display comparably accu-
rate performances in both tasks. A direct relationship between
pitch discrimination and pitch-matching abilities was also pro-
posed for all groups. Hypotheses were conrmed, and results
indicated a relationship between pitch discrimination and pitch
matching for each group. Individual and group differences
regarding the relationship between pitch discrimination skills
and immediate pitch-matching skills for participants in this
study are addressed below.
Group differences in pitch-matching tasks
There were no signicant differences in immediate pitch-
matching accuracy between TS and UA. These results support
previous ndings that minimal differences in immediate pitch-
matching accuracy exist between musically trained individuals
and some individuals with little or no musical experience.
10,16
Although TS performed with slightly higher levels of accuracy,
both TS and UAexhibited mean sds within one-half semitone of
target frequencies across SVPI conditions. Also, some individ-
uals within TS and UA proved consistently accurate across
SVPI conditions; however, the UA and the UI showed greater
variability than the TS overall (Figures 15). Results indicated
signicant differences in immediate pitch-matching accuracy
between UI and TS and between UI and UA. UI presented
with mean sds greater than one-half semitone. These ndings
TABLE 1.
Signicant Differences Among Groups: TS, UA, and UI
Across SVPI Conditions
SVPI Condition (s) TSUA TSUI UAUI
0 0.068 <0.001 <0.001
5 0.887 <0.001 <0.001
15 0.699 <0.001 <0.001
25 0.780 <0.001 <0.001
Note: Differences expressed in P values.
TABLE 2.
Differences Within TS and UA Across SVPIs Conditions
Group
SVPI Condition
0 and 5 s 0 and 15 s 0 and 25 s 5 and 15 s 5 and 25 s 15 and 25 s
TS (n 10) 0.198 0.012 0.001 0.139 0.130 0.041
UA (n 17) 0.315 0.009 0.003 0.091 0.080 0.399
Note: Differences expressed in P values.
Julie M. Estis, et al Effects of Increasing Time Delays on Pitch Matching 443
support previous literature regarding pitch matching in these
populations.
2,10,16
Results revealed signicant differences among groups and
across SVPI conditions of 5, 15, and 25 seconds. No signicant
differences were found between TS and UA across SVPI condi-
tions. In fact, TS and UA remained highly accurate in all pitch-
matching conditions, with mean sds remaining within one-half
semitone from target frequencies. Interestingly, differences
between TS and UA were not signicant as SVPIs increased
to 15 and 25 seconds, as it was believed that vocal training
might assist TS in such a task. It was noted, however, that sds
were slightly better for TS than for UA. Differences between
UI and TS and between UI and UA were signicant, in that
both TS and UAwere signicantly more accurate than UI across
SVPI conditions (Figures 14). Higher degrees of variability in
pitch-matching accuracy for TS and UA were revealed across
SVPI conditions as compared to the immediate pitch-matching
condition. These ndings indicate that some participants
remained highly accurate while others were more affected by
the increasing intervals of silence.
Although mean sds remained within one-half semitone of the
target frequency for TS and UA across SVPI conditions, mean
sds worsened as SVPI conditions increased. Specically, signif-
icant differences in performance were determined between
0 and 15 seconds and between 0 and 25 seconds. However,
no signicant differences were found between 0 and 5 seconds
or among 5, 15, and 25 seconds. This suggests that pitch-match-
ing accuracy is compromised in TS and UA after 15 seconds.
These results would be in agreement with Deutsch and Feroe,
7
wherein it was suggested that retention of pitch is compromised
after 10 seconds. As expected, participants in the UI group ex-
hibited sds higher than one semitone across increasing SVPI
conditions. Mean sds increased as SVPI conditions increased.
However, no signicant differences were revealed between im-
mediate pitch matching and pitch matching in the SVPI condi-
tions. Also, differences were not signicant among 5-, 15-, and
25-second intervals. Interpretation of these ndings suggests
that individuals, who are inaccurate at immediate pitch match-
ing, remain comparably inaccurate when pitch memory is
taxed. Note that mean sds for TS and UA degraded more
abruptly than for UI as SVPI conditions increased (Figure 5).
The experimental task of pitch matching given increasing
SVPIs incorporated the concept of pitch memory degradation
into pitch matching, whereas earlier investigations of pitch
memory used pitch discrimination paradigms. Researchers con-
tinue to report opposing results for where and/or how pitch is
stored in the brain. Although, specic investigation into the
mechanisms underlying pitch memory in pitch matching was
not directly investigated, it was revealed in this study that
pitch-matching performance declines when pitch memory is
taxed by increasing the time interval between target tone pre-
sentation and vocal match. Because ndings have indicated
that pitch-matching accuracy is not solely related to vocal train-
ing, it might suggest that more inherent abilities are involved.
However, the theoretical construct of memory for pitch remains
uncertain. That is, pitch may be processed in a specialized
working memory system
3
or in general retention loop similar
to speech.
4
Group differences in pitch discrimination
As anticipated, there were between-group differences in pitch
discrimination accuracy. It was hypothesized that TS would
exhibit pitch discrimination skills superior to all untrained indi-
viduals, suggesting the role of vocal training in developing this
skill. This hypothesis was based on ndings by Amir et al,
2
which suggested that TS exhibit superior auditory skills as com-
pared to untrained counterparts. TS exhibited a mean percent
correct score of 94.4%, UA a mean percent correct score of
85.6%, and UI a mean percent correct score of 72.8%. Results
indicated differences among groups in pitch discrimination
accuracy were signicant. A minimal degree of individual var-
iability existed within each group, although standard deviations
were broadest for UA.
Relationship between pitch discrimination and pitch
matching
There was a signicant negative correlation between pitch
discrimination scores and immediate pitch-matching scores.
Most participants with high pitch discrimination scores were
able tomatchpitchveryaccurately. Pitchdiscriminationaccuracy
explained 24%of the variance in pitch-matching accuracy. While
other factors, such as motor control and vocal accuracy, are
involved, these results suggest that the ability to discriminate
pitch has aninuence onthe ability to match pitch. These ndings
alsosupport hypotheses of the current studyand conclusions from
several previous investigations.
2,10,11
Bradshaw and McHenry
9
concluded that a direct relationship between pitch discrimination
and pitch-matching skills did not exist in individuals with no
training who expressed inaccurate vocal production skills. It
was suggested that some individuals with accurate pitch discrim-
ination were unable to produce accurate vocal-match productions
due to an inability to control the vocal mechanism. Their investi-
gation focused on known poor singers, as vocal inaccuracy was
the primary inclusion criterion. This was not the case in the cur-
rent study. Untrained participants were recruited regardless of
FIGURE 6. Individual percent correct scores in the pitch discrimina-
tion task.
Journal of Voice, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2009 444
perceived singing accuracy, and individuals who were inaccurate
at pitch matching were grouped accordingly. Results indicated
that participants exhibiting inaccurate immediate pitch-matching
skills also displayed inaccurate pitch discrimination skills, and
viceversa, suggestinga direct relationshipbetweenpitchdiscrim-
ination and pitch matching. In the current study, only ve
participants displayed inaccurate pitch-matching abilities. With
a larger sample of this population, increased variation in individ-
ual pitch discrimination abilities amongthis groupmay have been
observed.
IMPLICATIONS
In previous pitch memory research, pitch discrimination tasks
using various conditions that challenged pitch memory, such
as silence, interfering tones, and speech, were used. This study
is the rst to use a pitch-matching paradigm to report the effects
of lengthening time intervals between the production of the tar-
get tone and the pitch-matching response. This study also pro-
vides additional support for the relationship between pitch
discrimination and pitch-matching abilities. Further research
exploring the effect of other types of interference (both musical
and nonmusical) on pitch-matching performance in various
populations, including children, are underway.
The results of this investigation are applicable to the elds of
Vocal Performance and Speech-Language Pathology. Further
insight into aspects underlying pitch discrimination and pitch
matching in TS and untrained individuals has been provided.
Specically, the results of this investigation suggest that
pitch-matching performance is not signicantly affected by
vocal training for tasks in which pitch memory is challenged.
That is, some untrained individuals are able to match pitches
and singers with years of training. For the vocal instructor, these
results imply that memory for pitch might not need teaching,
but rather, enhancing. TS evidenced less variability as a group,
suggesting the likelihood of increasing the precision of this
skill. However, further research is needed to determine if indi-
viduals who demonstrate poor pitch-matching abilities show
improved pitch-matching accuracy after vocal training. In addi-
tion to implications for singing, this investigation proposes clin-
ical implications for Speech-Language Pathology. Tasks
involving pitch matching are used in voice treatment tech-
niques, such as Vocal Function Exercises and Boones Facilitat-
ing Approaches.
17,18
The knowledge that some individuals are
incapable of accurately matching target pitches could lead cli-
nicians to develop other support for these individuals, such as
using visual feedback in addition to auditory feedback during
treatment sessions and performing tasks in therapy to enhance
pitch-matching abilities. In addition, the results of this investi-
gation have provided further support for the proposition that the
abilities to discriminate and match pitches are related. This
implication suggests that one could infer accurate pitch-
matching skills if accurate pitch discrimination skills are noted,
and vice versa.
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