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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Imre Lahdelma

Lahdelma, I. & Eerola, T. (2016). Mild dissonance preferred over consonance in single chord perception. i-Perception 7(3): 2041669516655812

Author(s) from Durham


Previous research on harmony perception has mainly been concerned with horizontal aspects of harmony, turning less attention to how listeners perceive psychoacoustic qualities and emotions in single isolated chords. A recent study found mild dissonances to be more preferred than consonances in single chord perception, although the authors did not systematically vary register and consonance in their study; these omissions were explored here. An online empirical experiment was conducted where participants (N = 410) evaluated chords on the dimensions of Valence, Tension, Energy, Consonance, and Preference; 15 different chords were played with piano timbre across two octaves. The results suggest significant differences on all dimensions across chord types, and a strong correlation between perceived dissonance and tension. The register and inversions contributed to the evaluations significantly, nonmusicians distinguishing between triadic inversions similarly to musicians. The mildly dissonant minor ninth, major ninth, and minor seventh chords were rated highest for preference, regardless of musical sophistication. The role of theoretical explanations such as aggregate dyadic consonance, the inverted-U hypothesis, and psychoacoustic roughness, harmonicity, and sharpness will be discussed to account for the preference of mild dissonance over consonance in single chord perception.