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Articulatory motor planning and timbral idiosyncrasies as underlying mechanisms of instrument-specific absolute pitch in expert musicians

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The study of musical expertise illustrates how intense training in a specialized domain may instigate development of implicit skills. While absolute pitch, or the ability to identify musical pitches without external reference, is rare even in professional musicians and is understood to have a genetic component, anecdotal evidence and pilot data suggest that some musicians without traditional absolute pitch are nonetheless better able to name notes played on their musical instrument of expertise than notes played on less familiar instruments. We have previously termed this particular gain in absolute pitch identification ability “instrument-specific absolute pitch” (ISAP) and have proposed that this skill is related to learned instrument type-specific timbral and intonational idiosyncrasies and articulatory motor planning activated by the timbre of the instrument. In this Registered Report Protocol, we describe two experiments designed to investigate ISAP in professional oboists. Experiment 1 tests for ISAP ability by comparing oboists' pitch identification accuracies for notes played on the oboe and on the piano. A subset of the participants from Experiment 1 who demonstrate this ability will be recruited for Experiment 2; the purpose of Experiment 2 is to test hypotheses concerning a mechanistic explanation for ISAP. The outcome of these experiments may provide support for the theory that some individuals have ISAP and that the underlying mechanisms of this ability may rely on the perception of subtle timbral/intonational idiosyncrasies and on articulatory motor planning developed through intensive long-term training. In general, this work will contribute to the understanding of specialized expertise, specifically of implicit abilities and biases that are not addressed directly in training, but that may yet develop through practice of a related skill set.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0247136
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2021 Hansen, Reymore. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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