What makes certain musical notes pleasant or unpleasant

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Washington, May 21 (ANI): Ever thought why you like one genre of music and dislike another? Well, scientists at University of Minnesota have delved deeper into the question to find out what makes a particular type of music pleasant or unpleasant.

Researchers have got closer to the answer by studying the preferences of more than 250 college students from Minnesota to a variety of musical and nonmusical sounds.

"The question is, what makes certain combinations of musical notes pleasant or unpleasant? There have been a lot of claims. It might be one of the oldest questions in perception," said Josh McDermott, who conducted the studies at the University of Minnesota before moving to New York University.

The researchers could independently manipulate both the harmonic frequency relations of the sounds and another quality known as beating.

Harmonic frequencies are all multiples of the same fundamental frequency, McDermott explains. For example, notes at frequencies of 200, 300, and 400 hertz are all multiples of 100. Beating occurs when two sounds are close but not identical in frequency. Over time, the frequencies shift in and out of phase with each other, causing the sound to wax and wane in amplitude and producing an audible "wobbling" quality.

The results showed that musical chords sound good or bad mostly depending on whether the notes being played produce frequencies that are harmonically related or not. eating didn't turn out to be as important.

Surprisingly, the preference for harmonic frequencies was stronger in people with experience playing musical instruments.

This means that learning plays a role-perhaps even a primary one, argued McDermott.

He said that whether you would get the same result in people from other parts of the world remains to be seen, but the effect of musical experience on the results suggests otherwise.

"It suggests that Westerners learn to like the sound of harmonic frequencies because of their importance in Western music. Listeners with different experience might well have different preferences," he said.

The diversity of music from other cultures is consistent with this.

"Intervals and chords that are dissonant by Western standards are fairly common in some cultures. Diversity is the rule, not the exception," he added.

That's something that is increasingly easy to lose sight of as Western music has come to dominate radio waves all across the globe.

"When all the kids in Indonesia are listening to Eminem, it becomes hard to get a true sense," said McDermott.

The study has been published in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. (ANI)

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