Perceptual (but not acoustic) features predict singing voice preferences.

Scientific reports(2024)

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Why do we prefer some singers to others? We investigated how much singing voice preferences can be traced back to objective features of the stimuli. To do so, we asked participants to rate short excerpts of singing performances in terms of how much they liked them as well as in terms of 10 perceptual attributes (e.g.: pitch accuracy, tempo, breathiness). We modeled liking ratings based on these perceptual ratings, as well as based on acoustic features and low-level features derived from Music Information Retrieval (MIR). Mean liking ratings for each stimulus were highly correlated between Experiments 1 (online, US-based participants) and 2 (in the lab, German participants), suggesting a role for attributes of the stimuli in grounding average preferences. We show that acoustic and MIR features barely explain any variance in liking ratings; in contrast, perceptual features of the voices achieved around 43% of prediction. Inter-rater agreement in liking and perceptual ratings was low, indicating substantial (and unsurprising) individual differences in participants' preferences and perception of the stimuli. Our results indicate that singing voice preferences are not grounded in acoustic attributes of the voices per se, but in how these features are perceptually interpreted by listeners.
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