Coincidence theory: Seeking a perceptual preference for just intonation, equal temperament, and Pythagorean intonation in excerpts for wind instruments

Derle Ray Long


Coincidence theory states that when the components of harmony are in enhanced alignment the sound will be more consonant to the human auditory system. An objective method of examining the components of harmony is by investigating alignment of the mathematics of a particular sound or harmony. The study examined preference responses to excerpts tuned in just intonation, Pythagorean intonation, and equal temperament. Musical excerpts were presented in pairs and study subjects simply picked one version from the pair that they perceived as the most consonant. Results of the study revealed an overall preference for equal temperament in contradiction to coincidence theory. Several additional areas for research are suggested to further investigate the results of this study.