Distortion and Western music chord processing : an ERP study of musicians and nonmusicians

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Virtala , P , Huotilainen , M , Lilja , E , Ojala , J & Tervaniemi , M 2018 , ' Distortion and Western music chord processing : an ERP study of musicians and nonmusicians ' , Music Perception , vol. 35 , no. 3 , pp. 315-331 . https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2018.35.3.315

Title: Distortion and Western music chord processing : an ERP study of musicians and nonmusicians
Author: Virtala, Paula; Huotilainen, Minna; Lilja, Esa; Ojala, Juha; Tervaniemi, Mari
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Medicum
University of Helsinki, Department of Education
University of Helsinki, Department of Philosophy, History and Art Studies
University of Helsinki, University of Oulu
University of Helsinki, CICERO Learning
Date: 2018-02
Language: eng
Number of pages: 17
Belongs to series: Music Perception
ISSN: 0730-7829
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/234214
Abstract: GUITAR DISTORTION USED IN ROCK MUSIC MODIFIES a chord so that new frequencies appear in its harmonic structure. A distorted dyad (power chord) has a special role in heavy metal music due to its harmonics that create a major third interval, making it similar to amajor chord. We investigated how distortion affects cortical auditory processing of chords in musicians and nonmusicians. Electric guitar chords with or without distortion and with or without the interval of the major third (i.e., triads or dyads) were presented in an oddball design where one of them served as a repeating standard stimulus and others served as occasional deviants. This enabled the recording of event-related potentials (ERPs) of the electroencephalogram (EEG) related to deviance processing (the mismatch negativity MMN and the attention-related P3a component) in an ignore condition. MMN and P3a responses were elicited in most paradigms. Distorted chords in a non-distorted context only elicited early P3a responses. However, the power chord did not demonstrate a special role in the level of the ERPs. Earlier and larger MMN and P3a responses were elicited when distortion was modified compared to when only harmony (triad vs. dyad) was modified between standards and deviants. The MMN responses were largest when distortion and harmony deviated simultaneously. Musicians demonstrated larger P3a responses than nonmusicians. The results suggest mostly independent cortical auditory processing of distortion and harmony in Western individuals, and facilitated chord change processing in musicians compared to nonmusicians. While distortion has been used in heavy rock music for decades, this study is among the first ones to shed light on its cortical basis.
Subject: chord
cortical auditory processing
515 Psychology
6162 Cognitive science
516 Educational sciences

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