Striking changes in sensitivity to tonality across the pitch range are reported. Participants were presented a key-defining context (do-mi-do-sol) followed by one of the 12 chromatic tones of the octave, and rated the goodness of fit of the probe tone to the context. The set of ratings, called the probe-tone profile, was compared to an established standardised profile for the Western tonal hierarchy. The presentation of context and probe tones at low and high pitch registers resulted in significantly reduced sensitivity to tonality. Sensitivity was especially poor for presentations in the lowest octaves where inharmonicity levels were substantially above the threshold for detection. We propose that sensitivity to tonality may be influenced by pitch salience (or a co-varying factor such as exposure to pitch distributional information) as well as suprathreshold inharmonicity.
Russo, Frank A.; Cuddy, Lola L.; Galembo, Alexander; and Thompson, William F., "Sensitivity to tonality across the piano range" (2007). Psychology Publications and Research. Paper 11.