Why some harmonies sound better than others

WASHINGTON – New research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps to explain why some tones sound better than others.

Scientists suggest that the natural human aversion to dissonance – and preference for harmony – may be due to the structure of the ear and brain.

In the past, researchers thought this innate dislike was due to beating, a term used to describe the interference the ear has to process when hearing closely spaced notes.

Researchers compared people born with trouble distinguishing pitch and melody to others and found that harmony is not solely tied to beating.

In the study, researchers asked people born with amusia, an inability to recognize pitches and harmonies, to identify tones they liked and didn’t like.

The amusic subjects could not distinguish consonance from dissonance, but they disliked the beating sound just as much as the non-amusic control subjects.

Results from the study show that people are born to respond to harmonics, but it will take even more studies to find out exactly why.

WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report. Follow @amaxsmith and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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