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Communication Acoustics: An Introduction to Speech, Audio and Psychoacoustics by Matti Karjalainen, Ville Pulkki

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10 Basic Psychoacoustic Quantities

As seen in the earlier chapters, the basic functioning of hearing can be characterized as a kind of time–frequency analysis of the ear canal pressure signals resembling a bank of band-pass filters. This chapter describes the psychoacoustic quantities at the lowest level of analysis: pitch, loudness, timbre, and duration, which are more or less related to the physical quantities frequency, level, magnitude spectrum, and time.

10.1 Pitch

Pitch is defined by the American National Standards Institute as ‘that auditory attribute of sound according to which sounds can be ordered on a scale from low to high’ (ANSI-S1.1, 2013). Pitch is perceived from many types of sounds, such as sinusoids, vocals, instrument sounds, and noisy sounds (Fastl and Zwicker, 2007; Hartmann, 1996). However, the definition is problematic in the sense that not all sounds have clear pitch, and some of them have more than one pitch. However, in the context of the basic properties of hearing, it is meaningful to restrict the discussion to relatively simple sounds producing a single, more or less salient pitch. The nearest counterpart of pitch in the physical world is the frequency of repetition of a signal portion, even though pitch depends on some other parameters as well.

Pitch is a relevant cue in speech communication. It is the primary cue that distinguishes between male, female, and child speakers. The prosody of speech is also perceived as pitch changes during spoken ...

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