Title

The effects of aging and musical experience on the representation of tonal hierarchies

Publication Date

1996

Journal

Psychology and Aging

Volume

11

Issue

2

First Page

235

Last Page

246

Abstract

Two experiments explored the representation of the tonal hierarchy in Western music among older (aged 60 to 80) and younger (aged 15 to 22) musicians and nonmusicians. A probe tone technique was used: 4 notes from the major triad were presented, followed by 1 note chosen from the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. Whereas musicians had a better sense of the tonal hierarchy than nonmusicians, older adults were no worse than younger adults in differentiating the notes according to musical principles. However, older adults were more prone than younger adults to classify the notes by frequency proximity (pitch height) when proximity was made more salient, as were nonmusicians compared with musicians. With notes having ambiguous pitch height, pitch height effects disappeared among older adults but not nonmusicians. Older adults seem to have internalized tonal structure, but they sometimes fail to inhibit less musically relevant information.

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