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Musical notes related to frequencies...

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Posted (edited)


This could be in biology, in physics, in other places.  Please move as deserved.

A proper musical sound is related to a frequency, sometimes called 'on pitch' or 'on tone' or 'tuned'.   Do birds  'singing'  have a discernible correspondence to the musical frequencies we refer as 'proper pitch' as in human-tuned musical instruments ?  Certainly birds may sound melodious and sometimes pleasant, but do their 'musical' notes follow our or any definitions, logic, standards, spacing ?

Is there a study if birds have/follow their own fixed scales ?

If a species of bird emits an A4 440Hz note right on pitch; do other notes from the same bird obey to the musical scales we may refer as standard melodic , like a A6 then emitted at 1760Hz ?   What about other species of birds, do they have a 'standard'  ? 😲  Most birds of the same species seem all to be exactly in their pitch.   A canary that has never been exposed to the songs of other canaries nor heard/learned from their parents may 'sing' exactly on pitch of a canary from half the globe away... Yes, morphology may be involved too.

-Personally, I attribute the singing of birds more actually as a 'barking' territorial/call behavior that happens to coincide near 'our' musical sounds-

Edited- added To say it in other words, can a particular melodious and pleasant 'song' from a bird be accurately played by a normally tuned human musical instrument ?


Edited by Externet

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What a great question. And the answer is:



Emily Doolittle, a composer at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and her colleague Tecumseh Fitch, a biologist at the University of Vienna, did just that. They published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documenting the pitches of 114 different song types from 14 male hermit thrushes. After isolating the frequencies corresponding to each note and calculating the mathematical relationships between the pitches, they were surprised to find that the notes in the birds’ songs fit into the harmonic series , a sequence of notes based on multiples of a baseline pitch.


And nohttps://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/08/birdsong-not-music-after-all


The study, published in this month’s issue of Animal Behavior, shows that the resemblance between a nightingale wren's song and music is nothing more than a coincidence. Out of the 243 comparisons Araya-Salas made between nightingale wrens' songs and musical scales, only six matched harmonic intervals. Despite the beauty of birdsong, he says, when we call it music we’re projecting our own biases.


That might be because they looked at different species. Or that one or other of the methodologies was flawed. 

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