Second ISCA/DEGA Tutorial and Research Workshop on Perceptual Quality of Systems

Berlin, Germany
September 4-6, 2006

Subjective Evaluation of Musical Instruments on the Basis of Solo Pieces of Music

Sebastian Merchel, Rüdiger Hoffmann

Institut für Akustik und Sprachkommunikation, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany

This study examines the human quality perception of musical instruments. It provides the background for future development of objective algorithms ([1],[2]) to distinguish between musical instruments on a quality basis. Previous studies showed that evaluation using single tones is not sufficient ([3],[4],[5],[6]), thus tone sequences will be used. This corresponds also more to the natural situation where a guitar is played. Three listening tests have been developed, using two different methods (serial and block by block presentation of stimuli). They have been realized and evaluated. It was asked to judge the acoustical overall quality of selected classical guitars by listening to recorded tone sequences (scale and melody). The selected binaural technology in combination with headphone compensation seemed to achieve good results. Not only the attributes of the instrument itself affect the perceived quality, also other factors (independent variables) might influence. Parameters like the playing musician, the room in which the instrument is played, the played sequence and the repetition of the same sequence by the musician have been included into the experimental design. The listeners were divided into two groups, those who play guitar themselves and those who do not.

The complexity of human quality perception can be seen from a multitude of interactions between the mentioned factors. It was concluded, that hierarchical plans, which would reduce the necessary effort in listening experiments, can only be applied very restricted. To present stimuli in blocks gave no benefits, because of difficult comparison between blocks. There was no significant difference between the quality judgment of guitarists and non guitarists.


  1. Eichner, M., Wolff, M., Hoffmann, R. Instrument classification using HMMs (to appear at 7th International Conference on Music Information Retrieval 2006, Canada)
  2. Löschke, H. Differenzierbarkeit von Musikinstrumenten (2006, Fortschritte der Akustik - DAGA)
  3. Krishna, A. G., Screenivas, T. V. Music instrument recognition: From isolated notes to solo phrases (Proc. ICASSP 2004, Montreal, IV-265-IV-268)
  4. Fasold, W., Kraak, W., Schirmer, W. Taschenbuch Akustik, Teil 2 (1984, Verlag Technik, Berlin, S. 1106 - 1110)
  5. Meinel, E., Boehm, T., Miklaszewski, K., Blutner, F. Estimation of guitar sound quality (1986, Archives of Acoustics 11 (3), 203-229)
  6. Valenzuela, M. N. Subjektive Beurteilung der Qualität und Ähnlichkeit von Flügelklängen (1995, Fortschritte der Akustik - DAGA 95, S. 587-590)

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Merchel, Sebastian / Hoffmann, Rüdiger (2006): "Subjective evaluation of musical instruments on the basis of solo pieces of music", In PQS-2006, 44-47.