Four experiments examined how people operate on memory representations of familiar songs. The tasks were similar to those used in studies of visual imagery. In one task, subjects saw a one-word lyric from a song and then saw a second lyric; then they had to say if the second lyric was from the same song as the first. In a second task, subjects mentally compared pitches of notes corresponding to song lyrics. In both tasks, reaction time increased as a function of the distance in beats between the two lyrics in the actual song, and in some conditions reaction time increased with the starting beat of the earlier lyric. Imagery instructions modified the main results somewhat in the first task, but not in the second, much harder task. The results suggest that song representations have temporal-like characteristics.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Halpern, Andrea R.. "Mental Scanning in Auditory Imagery for Songs." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition (1988) : 434-443.