We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Register Impacts Perceptual Consonance through Roughness and Sharpness

Eerola, T. and Lahdelma, I. (2022) 'Register Impacts Perceptual Consonance through Roughness and Sharpness.', Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 29 (3). pp. 800-808.


The perception of consonance and dissonance in intervals and chords is influenced by psychoacoustic and cultural factors. Past research has provided conflicting observations about the role of frequency in assessing musical consonance that may stem from comparisons of limited frequency bands without much theorising or modelling. Here we examine the effect of register on perceptual consonance of chords. Based on two acoustic principles, we predict a decrease in consonance at low frequencies (roughness) and a decrease of consonance at high frequencies (sharpness). Due to these two separate principles, we hypothesize that frequency will have a curvilinear impact on consonance. A selection of tetrads varying in consonance were presented in seven registers spanning 30 to 2600 Hz. 55 participants rated the stimuli in an online experiment. The effect of register on consonance ratings was clear and largely according to the predictions; The low registers impacted consonance negatively and the highest two registers also received significantly lower consonance ratings than the middle registers. The impact of register on consonance could be accurately described with a cubic relationship. Overall, the influence of roughness was more pronounced on consonance ratings than sharpness. Together, these findings clarify previous empirical efforts to model the effect of frequency on consonance through basic acoustic principles. They further suggest that a credible account of consonance and dissonance in music needs to incorporate register.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:18 October 2021
Date deposited:05 October 2021
Date of first online publication:17 December 2021
Date first made open access:20 December 2021

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar