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The Emotional Characteristics of Piano Sounds with Different Pitch and Dynamics

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Previous research has shown that both sustained and nonsustained musical instrument sounds have strong emotional characteristics. This report explores how the effects of pitch and dynamics influence the emotional characteristics of isolated one-second piano sounds. Listeners compared the sounds pairwise over ten emotion categories. The results showed that all ten emotional categories were significantly affected by pitch and nine of them by dynamics. In particular, the emotional characteristics Happy, Romantic, Comic, Calm, Mysterious, and Shy generally increased with pitch, but sometimes decreased at the highest pitches. The characteristics Heroic, Angry, and Sad generally decreased with pitch. Scary was strong in the extreme low and high registers. With regard to dynamics, the results showed that the characteristics Heroic, Comic, Angry, and Scary were stronger for loud notes, while Romantic, Calm, Mysterious, Shy, and Sad were stronger for soft notes. Surprisingly, Happy was not affected by dynamics. These results help quantify the emotional characteristics of piano sounds.

Open Access


JAES Volume 64 Issue 11 pp. 918-932; November 2016
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