July 1, 2014

Rhythm is heard best in the bass

Bassist Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.

Better detection by the brain could explain why low-pitched notes carry the beat across musical cultures.

Lead guitarists usually get to play the flashy solos while the bass player gets only to plod to the beat. But this seeming injustice could have been determined by the physiology of hearing. Research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 suggests that people’s perception of timing in music is more acute for lower-pitched notes.