Expert and Non-expert Judgments of Musical Instruments: Subjective Evaluation vs Acoustical Characteristics of Musical Sound

Anna Preis, Marta Chudzicka
17 violins from violin school of Michal Groblicz (17th and 18th centuries), were evaluated by musicians and non-musicians. On all instruments the 15s excerpt of J. S. Bach's "Partita d-moll" was performed and recorded. The original recordings of 15s duration were subject to acoustical analyses and evaluated by musical experts and laymen. The differences in calculated psychoacoustic characteristics of sound were identified [1]. These differences-in total loudness and the 1/3 octave band
more » ... ctave band spectra-matched the expert and non-expert ranking of the violins. Subjective ranking of the instruments was based on two psychoacoustic experiments. In the first one the subjects (52 musicians and 48 non-musicians) made the preference judgments of all 136 pairs of sounds played on the 17 examined violins. In the second experiment 5 subjects made the preference judgments of 28 pairs of sounds performed on 8 violins chosen from the first experiment. In the second experiment the sounds played back to the subjects were of equal total loudness. The subjective rankings of the instruments obtained in both psychoacoustic experiments were identical. Since in the second experiment the loudness cue was eliminated, the identical rankings in both experiments can be accounted for by the subjects' ability to discriminate subtle differences in the spectrum and time pattern of sounds [2]. The present study proposes certain measure of the differences in time pattern that allows objective ranking of musical instruments.