Can Most People Recognize Tonal Differences?

3.6 based on 16 ratings

Updated on Aug 31, 2012

Grade Level: 7th-9th; Type: Physical Science


Find out if most people can distinguish the difference between tones on a piano, a violin, and a guitar.

Research Questions:

Can you name the notes on the musical scale?

Musical instruments, like the name suggests, produce music. All objects emit some sort of sound when hit, but musical instruments have controlled sounds on a scale that can be played to produce pleasing sounds rather than just noise.


  • Piano
  • Violin
  • Guitar
  • Test Subjects (at least 10)
  • Someone who has some knowledge on musical scales
  • Pen/paper for notes

Experimental Procedure

  1. If you cannot distinguish notes by ear, you should have a trained musician help you.
  2. Ask your test subject to sit down and listen carefully.
  3. Press one key on the piano and ask your test subject to try to remember how that key sounds.
  4. Now switch to the violin and play another key. Ask your test subject if this key you played is the same as the first key on the piano. Record the answer.
  5. Now play the same note on the guitar as you did on the piano. Ask your test subject if this note is the same as the note on the piano, the note on the violin, or both.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 in different variations for at least 3 times.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 for all your test subjects.
  8. Evaluate your results.

Terms/Concepts: Sounds; Musical Instruments; Frequency; Tone; Musical Scale


Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.

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