The Timbre Perception Test (TPT): A new interactive musical assessment tool to measure timbre perception ability


To date, tests that measure individual differences in the ability to perceive musical timbre are scarce in the published literature. The lack of such tool limits research on how timbre, a primary attribute of sound, is perceived and processed among individuals. The current paper describes the development of the Timbre Perception Test (TPT), in which participants use a slider to reproduce heard auditory stimuli that vary along three important dimensions of timbre: envelope, spectral flux, and spectral centroid. With a sample of 95 participants, the TPT was calibrated and validated against measures of related abilities and examined for its reliability. The results indicate that a short-version (8 minutes) of the TPT has good explanatory support from a factor analysis model, acceptable internal reliability (α = .69, ωt = .70), good test–retest reliability (r = .79) and substantial correlations with self-reported general musical sophistication (ρ = .63) and pitch discrimination (ρ = .56), as well as somewhat lower correlations with duration discrimination (ρ = .27), and musical instrument discrimination abilities (ρ = .33). Overall, the TPT represents a robust tool to measure an individual’s timbre perception ability. Furthermore, the use of sliders to perform a reproductive task has shown to be an effective approach in threshold testing. The current version of the TPT is openly available for research purposes.

Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics