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Globally, songs and instrumental melodies are slower and higher and use more stable pitches than speech: A Registered Report

Ozaki, Yuto, Tierney, Adam, Pfordresher, Peter Q., McBride, John M., Benetos, Emmanouil, Proutskova, Polina, Chiba, Gakuto, Liu, Fang, Jacoby, Nori, Purdy, Suzanne C., and others. (2024) Globally, songs and instrumental melodies are slower and higher and use more stable pitches than speech: A Registered Report. Science Advances, 10 (20). Article Number eadm9797. ISSN 2375-2548. (doi:10.1126/sciadv.adm9797) (KAR id:106068)


Both music and language are found in all known human societies, yet no studies have compared similarities and differences between song, speech, and instrumental music on a global scale. In this Registered Report, we analyzed two global datasets: (i) 300 annotated audio recordings representing matched sets of traditional songs, recited lyrics, conversational speech, and instrumental melodies from our 75 coauthors speaking 55 languages; and (ii) 418 previously published adult-directed song and speech recordings from 209 individuals speaking 16 languages. Of our six preregistered predictions, five were strongly supported: Relative to speech, songs use (i) higher pitch, (ii) slower temporal rate, and (iii) more stable pitches, while both songs and speech used similar (iv) pitch interval size and (v) timbral brightness. Exploratory analyses suggest that features vary along a “musi-linguistic” continuum when including instrumental melodies and recited lyrics. Our study provides strong empirical evidence of cross-cultural regularities in music and speech.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1126/sciadv.adm9797
Uncontrolled keywords: Humans, Adult, Pitch Perception - physiology, Male, Music, Language, Pre-Registration Publication, Female, Speech - physiology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Funders: European Research Council (
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 24 May 2024 10:36 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2024 14:49 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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