Common Chord Progressions and Feelings of Remembering

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Music & Science Volume 3: 1–16 ª The Author(s) 2020 Article reuse guidelines: DOI: 10.1177/2059204320916849

Title: Common Chord Progressions and Feelings of Remembering
Author: Jimenez, Ivan; Kuusi, Tuire
Date: 2020
Abstract: Although Western tonal syntax can generate a very large number of chord successions of various lengths and degrees of complexity, some types of music, from Renaissance dances to recent pop, tend to rely more heavily on the repetition of relatively simple, short harmonic patterns. Doll recently identified short chord progressions commonly found in North American and British popular music and proposed that these chord progressions can be stored in long-term memory in the form of harmonic schemata that allow listeners to hear them as stereotypical chord progressions. However, considering the challenges that many listeners face when trying to consciously grasp harmony, it seems likely that the feelings of remembering chord progressions varies from listener to listener. To investigate these potential differences, we asked 231 listeners with various levels of musical training to rate their confidence on whether or not they had previously heard six diatonic four-chord progressions. To control for the effect of extra-harmonic features, we instantiated the chord progressions in a way that resembled the piano of a famous song and controlled for participants’ familiarity with that song and whether they had played its chords. We found that ratings correlated with typicality for the two groups of participants who had played an instrument for at least one year and to a lesser extent for the other participants. Additionally, all our players thought of specific songs more often and mentioned songs that better matched the stimuli in harmonic terms. What we did not find, however, was any effect associated to how long participants had played an instrument or the type of the instrument they had played. Our research supports the notion that both musical training and extra-harmonic features affect listeners’ feelings of remembering chord progressions.
Subject (lcsh): chord progressions
features memory
popular music
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