Modeling Timbre Similarity of Short Music Clips

Siedenburg, Kai and Müllensiefen, Daniel. 2017. Modeling Timbre Similarity of Short Music Clips. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 639. ISSN 1664-1078 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

There is evidence from a number of recent studies that most listeners are able to extract information related to song identity, emotion, or genre from music excerpts with durations in the range of tenths of seconds. Because of these very short durations, timbre as a multifaceted auditory attribute appears as a plausible candidate for the type of features that listeners make use of when processing short music excerpts. However, the importance of timbre in listening tasks that involve short excerpts has not yet been demonstrated empirically. Hence, the goal of this study was to develop a method that allows to explore to what degree similarity judgments of short music clips can be modeled with low-level acoustic features related to timbre. We utilized the similarity data from two large samples of participants: Sample I was obtained via an online survey, used 16 clips of 400 ms length, and contained responses of 137,339 participants. Sample II was collected in a lab environment, used 16 clips of 800 ms length, and contained responses from 648 participants. Our model used two sets of audio features which included commonly used timbre descriptors and the well known Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients as well as their temporal derivates. In order to predict pairwise similarities, the resulting distances between clips in terms of their audio features were used as predictor variables with partial least-squares regression. We found that a sparse selection of three to seven features from both descriptor sets—mainly encoding the coarse shape of the spectrum as well as spectrotemporal variability best predicted similarities across the two sets of sounds. Notably, the inclusion of non-acoustic predictors of musical genre and record release date allowed much better generalization performance and explained up to 50% of shared variance (R 2) between observations and model predictions. Overall, the results of this study empirically demonstrate that both acoustic features related to timbre as well as higher level categorical features such as musical genre play a major role in the perception of short music clips.

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short audio clips, music similarity, timbre, audio features, genre

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10 April 2017Accepted
26 April 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Jun 2017 14:34

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:03

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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