Scientists refute Pythagoras' view on music after 2,500 years

So happy with this quote :sweat_smile:
“We prefer slight amounts of deviation. We like a little imperfection because this gives life to the sounds, and that is attractive to us,”


I always like little imperfections… they somehow make music feel more alive :slightly_smiling_face:

Interesting article, though I doubt that I understood every detail. Could the main findings of the study be amateurishly summarised as something like the following: Slight amounts of deviations preferred if music is played with instruments it is written for, since intuition tends to win cold theoretical logic?

To anyone clicking the play-link in the article: Caution advised, somewhat… hmm… challenging sound(s) :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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Hi Nicole,
Ha ha Thanks for the warning I see that you read it better than I did :blush:… after the headline of the article my eye immediately fell on what I quoted … and I saw among 4000 participants …
The main finding is … Pythagoras was … silly :joy:

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Hmm… was P wrong, bringing these harmonies to our attention?
… or are we just celebrating that we all love a little ‘deviance’? :smiling_imp:

“We prefer slight amounts of deviation. We like a little imperfection because this gives life to the sounds, and that is attractive to us,”

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I think Piet was right and that “we” are too lazy … or who were the respondents actually, that makes quite a difference … maybe I should look into it completely … O no, I’d rather practice the guitar now and wait until someone else explains it in detail :blush:

Quite possibly the reason Toto never moved me. Excellent musicians but the music produced was always too perfect to my ears. :crazy_face: :star_struck:


Pythagoras ? Was he the geezer who played the triangle ? :triangular_ruler:

Perfection is overrated, a little deviation ain’t a bad thing. :sunglasses:


What’s Euclidean geometry got to do with music anyway? :joy:

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GEE! OH! ME! TRY! to play that!!!
I love that song!
Or alternatively:
GEE! OH! ME! TRY to write an original song!!!

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This cracked me up!!! You’re a funny man Toby!!!



oh boy! something to get all nerdy over!

I appreciate the jokes (cough… Toby…) but I actually intend to give this a good read. I have been trying to figure out why we like what we like and maybe there is inspiration in this.

Thanks Rogier!

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Somehow I’m getting the feeling that I’m the only one, who actually read the article :joy: :rofl: :innocent:

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Nicole @JokuMuu
You are not the only one, I read it but didn’t take much of it in.
Michael :notes:


In any case, the article in Dutch is very clear: ‘sometimes we like imperfections in sound and sometimes we don’t’ (really :grin:)

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I read it and I want to defend poor Pythogoras! “Refute” my ar$e. The dude was mostly right, which you can see from this plot:

Those peaks are where people thought two tones (dyad) sounded “most pleasant”, in terms of number of semitones between the two tones. See the peak around 7 semitones? That’s a perfect fifth interval. 12 semitones is the octave. Four is the major third, etc. Note that the famously dissonant tritone (6 semitones) is not considered pleasant.

The peaks falling on the various integer semitones is what Pythagoras was saying and he was mostly right. I guess the 3-semitone peak (this is a minor third) is not exactly on 3, but shifted slightly higher. (Actually, now that I look closer, the octave is also slightly shifted).

Still, Pythag was mostly right about harmony and he lived almost 3000 years ago. That’s not too shabby.


O John ,
Even translated into Dutch, I have a hard time following you… probably because I’m sitting in the sun :joy:
Succes Nicole :grin:

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This is whatI have generally found without knowing about Pythagoras’ work. I’ve been interested in the WHY we like it.

Also, Pythagoras did this long before we cleaned up the note intervals. The cleanup happened (i think) in the late 17th century. I’ve been meaning to go dig for the history of that and what our scale looked like before they nudged it.


Help. I feel like I’m back at school. Reminds me of sitting bored rigid listening to a lecture about some Russian guy called Pavlov who discovered social conditioning. Stupid dogs we all thought. Then the bell rang and we all went for lunch.


Same here … The why is really what is interesting. If course, everything is measurable and explainable with logic… But why do certain imperfections sound good or at least acceptable in people’s ears? Is it cultural conditioning? The tone of certain instruments? The correct instruments used to play something which actually wouldn’t sound good when played with most other instruments ? Fascinating :slightly_smiling_face:

But you haven’t been drooling in anticipation hopefully? :grinning: