Yawning and pitch changes?

Yawning and pitch changes?

If I yawn while listening to or playing music, the pitch of the music as I hear it changes considerably for the duration of the yawn. Has anyone else encountered this? I’ve asked some friends and they think I’m nuts. I even wrote to New Scientist magazine about this, but received no reply.

The effect seems to be stronger when listening to or playing stringed instruments.

Could it be something to do with the way a yawn stretches the muscles around the jaw and some parts of the ear or inner-ear? Any ideas?

PS The yawns are normally caused by tiredness and not boredom.

PPS This is not a wind-up.

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

No wind-up. It’s true. The pitch of what you’re listening to can go down by as much as a full tone when you yawn. It’s something to do with stretching those little hair-like nerve endings in the inner ear when you yawn. That’s as much as I can say without risk of inaccurate biological detal My degree was in Botany, you see, and plants don’t have ears. Cue witticisms…

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

detail full stop. I got insects in both eyes gardening this afternoon.

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

I think it may be summat to do with narrowing your ear tunnels when you widen your jaw? Thus squeezing the air through faster and altering the pitch? That’s a wild gues I’m no academic on this subject…

Posted by .

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

I think maybe your friends are nuts…I know exactly what you’re talking about : )

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

Oh sure. You ever burp while playing? I burped earlier at session, right in the middle of Over the Moor to Maggie, a big ol’ Guinness belch. It’s like I was playing a sitar for a second.

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

I know what you mean… you are not nuts. I think the reason is that when you yawn, your ear drums (tympanic membranes) become less taut, therefore the frequency of vibration of the ear drums drops… affecting the perceived frequency of the notes. Just like a bodhran really… loosen the skin and the pitch drops.

Re burping while playing a wind instrument, carbon dioxide burped up is more dense than air. It drops the pitch of your instrument by nearly a semitone for a few notes. The reverse of what happens when you inhale helium and then try to talk.

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

That’s amazing. So if you’re playing the fiddle and you burp, the gas hangs over it for a short while and changes the pitch? I may be wrong but I think that Guinness has nitrogen bubbles, rather than carbon dioxide (making for a smoother texture). Is nitrogen denser than air? Is air made mostly of nitrogen? I don’t know.

On a slightly different subject: isn’t it great when you sneeze in a room full of stringed instruments? They all seem to resonate and sing in sympathy …

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Sorry button’s ‘n’ whistles: I just re-read your post. You’re talking about wind instruments, not fiddles. It’s given me another idea though: what happens when you break wind on a fiddle? I’ve never tried it, but there must be some pretty dense gases involved.

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Hee hee! I’m not a physicist - only a veterinarian! And I can’t say I’ve ever tried that.

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A veterinarian eh? OK so supposing a cow breaks wind directly into a wind instrument (you’ll have to use your imagination as to how that’s possible). Cows produce mostly methane don’t they? If a tune were to be produced, would it be higher or lower in pitch than the same wind pressure from a human’s breathing?

Ch - ch - changes?

What’s this then? I even looked up the answer & now the subject is something about greenhouse gases. Oh, fine then. I’ll go watch a movie.

Posted .

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

Where do you look up the answer to a question like this?

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Are you certain it’s an actual pitch shift you’re hearing and not a frequency response shift towards the lower end from the open Eustachian tubes?

Try searching on Ask.com and chew some gum.

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Pardon? Could you say that in English?? He he

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The pitch doesn’t really change,it is just how your middle ear can sometimes respond to different frequencies. During yawning the Eustachian tube can open, which often changes air
pressure in the middle ear and thus hearing. Yawning can also trigger the middle ear muscles. Both effects can change loudness, but not pitch. Having a stuffy nose or cold can also cause similar issues.

…and not to mention that all ears are equally the same.

‘was thinking of a joke there somewhere, but I think I may have just opened the door on that one. (grin)

Cows on helium, yawning, pitch change & what comes out the other end..

Obviously you begin in Greece with early observations of auditory perception by Empedocles, Hippocrates, Aristotle, & finally Cassius Felix. Moving right along I went lurking on a geeky forum; not unlike our own mustard board . . .

To: AUDITORY
Subject: Re: Pitch perception shift caused by carbamazepine and yawning
From: Martin Braun
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 15:34:37 +0100

John Neuhoff wrote:

> Of course there are plenty of studies that demonstrate that changes in
> loudness can influence the pitch of same-frequency tones, starting with
> the classic work of Stevens on equal pitch contours.

" Such studies need to be interpreted with much caution. The often claimed
dependence of pitch on sound level simply is based on poor interpretation of
the data and should be called {my favourite part} a * scientific artefact * .
There definitely is an independence of level and pitch in hearing.

When a violin plays a steady-state C4 from piano to forte, neither the
player nor an experienced listener hears a pitch shift. It can happen,
however, than an inexperienced listener says that the tone went up. This is
a typical confusion of perceptional qualities, but it has nothing to do with
limitations of our auditory system. Similarly, if somebody confuses
brightness and contrast in vision, we would not suggest that the confusion
is due to limitations of human vision.

Interestingly, the propensity to confuse level shift with pitch shift is
well reflected in some of our "natural" languages. Even such sophisticated
languages as Spanish and Swedish have no particular word for "loud". They
use the word "high" when meaning "loud". So "alto" in Spanish and "hög" in
Swedish are used both for high pitch and for high loudness.

The origin of the close association (and confusion) of the categories
"level" and "pitch" probably lies in speech. In agitated speech both go up
simultaneously, and in tired speech both go down simultaneously. "

Martin

To: AUDITORY
Re: Pitch perception shift caused by carbamazepine and yawning
From: Matt Flax
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 02:14:15 +1100

Hi,
" I can understand your psychological explination (sic) for the connection
between pitch shift and signal intensity, however I would like to refer
to Zhang’s paper from 1996 which discusses the CM recording from the
mammalian ear [1].
This paper clearly indicates some physiological mechanism which induces
a CM best frequency shift with input signal intensity shift. It is
suggested in the article that it is the active feedback (AF) which
alters the best frequency.
Now best frequency and pitch aren’t really the same thing, however it is
likely that there is a connection. "

Matt

Excuse my hijacking of the thread. Those were only the last 2 posts. At this point I was wondering what is meant by ’ the best frequency shift of the CM ’ (caudal mesopallium) ? Turns out it is part of the cerebral auditory pathway. Which is described in the following article.

Bird Song Systems: Evolution
E D Jarvis, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA
http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/Jarvis_2009_Bird_Song_Systems.pdf

I pulled out a few excerpts;

Vocal Learning Behavior

… " Vocal learning depends on auditory learning, but auditory learning does not depend on vocal learning.
Vocal learners must hear the sounds they will later imitate. They use auditory feedback to correct their vocal output
by comparing the output with auditory memories of the sounds they are trying to imitate. "

Vocal Learning Song Systems

" Only vocal learners such as songbirds, parrots, hummingbirds, and humans have brain regions in their
cerebrums that control the acoustic structure and syntax of their vocalizations. "

Cerebral Auditory Pathway

" The cerebral auditory pathway is thought to be responsible for processing complex sounds … Auditory stimuli are relayed from the thalamus (Ov) to the cerebrum … L2 … processing acoustic features of sounds, then
L1, L3, and NCM process more-complex aspects of sounds … and
finally CM, the highest station, processes the most complex aspects, such as fine discriminations. In this
regard, NCM and CM are also thought to be involved in … and have been proposed to be involved in auditory memory formation of songs used for vocal learning. This hypothesis still needs verification. " Ya da yada ya da . .

Somewhere in all that gibberish, I hope, there is a (vague) connection with playing sessions. The movie was good btw.

Posted .

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

" The cerebral auditory pathway is thought to be responsible for processing complex sounds … Auditory stimuli are relayed from the thalamus (Ov) to the cerebrum … L2 … processing acoustic features of sounds, then
L1, L3, and NCM process more-complex aspects of sounds … and
finally CM, the highest station, processes the most complex aspects, such as fine discriminations."

Sorry you’ve lost me there. I understood the first word: ‘the’. After that I got a headache. Is it something to do with parrots? Or p’rhaps humming birds?

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

I don’t know about yawning and pitch, (i didn’t read much of Random’s post either ) but burping a proper belly belch whilst playing the whistle definitely alters the pitch wildly (down I think from memory). So burp gas must be more dense than air?

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Yep, that’s what I said in my earlier post Cabers. Joel, methane is a good deal denser than air so I imagine it would flatten the pitch considerably! Though I’m still not sure how you would test it experimentally… would involve a cow, a piece of hosepipe and a flute though I suppose!

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It does depend on what you’ve been drinking beforehand too! I only have experience with carbonated soft drinks!

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

Hence divers breathing heliox, or people inhaling from balloons, have much raised pitch because of the less dense gas passing through their vocal cords.
It all goes to show that everything we enjoy and value is transitory and dependant on exterior factors.

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

It may have to do with pressure in the inner ear.

If you are yawning during a session, may I suggest some percussion?

Buttons ‘n’ Whistles: and where were you thinking of putting that flute? My next thought would be a projectile flute. You would then have a flute you would never want to touch again, a traumatized cow that would need a psychiatrist and you would have PETA knocking at your door.

Belching through a whistle? Whatever happened to session etiquette? And it probably contributes to global warming! ( ^ :

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I only suggested the equipment - It’s up to Joel to design the experiment. He will have to consult with an animal ethics committee first though… And I won’t be offering my flute!

Apparently the density of a gas affects the speed of sound. Sound travels slower in a more dense gas. If I remember high school physics correctly f = v/lambda (the wavelength) so a lower velocity sound wave will result in a lower frequency. (I think!)

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I’ve noticed a pitch change when I’ve removed ear plugs in the presence of music. I never bothered to think about the physics of it. Solving physics problems feels too much like being sent back to school.

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I once got an ear infection that had the most alarming feature of altering up the pitch of sounds (particularly strings) so that I could hear different notes through each ear. The good ear was fine, but the infected ear was making me hear fiddles play a semitone sharp.

It was absolute torture!!

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

Yes I think we will need a hose, and possibly some rubber gloves. We will also have to find a ‘control’ cow that doesn’t produce methane. I think we may have a problem here.

Random Notes: I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. I think the next thing you need to do is to read Zhang’s paper. I want a full summary of your findings on my desk by 9 am tomorrow.

Yawning & ITM ?

It’s funny that way. You can use all the available resources & it doesn’t mean anyone will listen. Just thought I’d humour your question, Joel. But now I feel bad; if you know about Zhang’s paper that means I have to go back & find … wait a minute . . . 9 AM! I missed it already. O.K.
This is it:
Zhang’s essay was in regard to a cow (holstein) listening to a parrot beatboxing the tune Tam Lynn. Cow says to the parrot, " You have perfect vibrato."
Parrot: " It’s not vibrato. The methane is making you hear things. Don’t believe me, you can ask Zhang. "
That’s all folks!

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Aaaaah! It’s threads like this that keep me coming back to The Session! It takes me back to the days when we discussed Sweaty Bottoms, Instruments as Weapons and such. Thanks all.

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

As yawning is contagious, all the other musicians will start yawning too. Thus they will all simultaneously experience the pitch shift, therefore to them it will seem like nothing has happened.
This is a relativistic effect, but, owing to the absolute motion of the Earth through space, the Doppler effect will also come into play. This will cause the sound-hallucination of an approaching ambulance or police car. The frequency of the note produced by the (non-existent) emergency services vehicle will, if sufficiently close to the apparent frequency being experienced by the yawning musicians (remember them?), give rise to a low-frequency beat note which will cause violent but slow oscillations in the pub itself; in the worst case subsidence could ensue and an insurance company will be called in. However, as most insurance companies have now gone bankrupt, no compensation will be paid; this will rapidly lead to the landlord turning to a life of crime and degradation in order to fund underpinning (cont. p94).

Guidelines to avoid this unfortunate societal effect have been given by OFSESH (see Recommendations for Avoiding Moral and Building Collapse, sect. 13 (iii), bullet point 17: "All possible steps should be taken to avoid yawning during sessions; Inspectors will need to see evidence of more exciting tunes being played to this effect".

Posted by .

Re: Yawning and pitch changes?

I’ve definetly experienced this too _ it’s a clear pitch, tone and volume ‘bend from the norm’ in real time

and i remember reading something about it in the Letters of ‘New Scientist’ magazine some years ago. When did you write to them Joel?

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I think it was about two or three years ago, but I’m not a regular subscriber, so maybe they published it after all!

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I once heard that there is only one yawn in the world, and it passes from person to person. After all, people never yawn at exactly the same time do they?

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Here’s what you need Joel.

http://www.carbonnews.co.nz/story.asp?storyID=3252

triplet, when you have an ear infection, with inflammation in the tympanic membrane, the membrane would become less flexible and so you get the reverse of the yawn effect. It’s like tightening the skin on a bodhran… creates a higher pitch.

Why are yawns contagious anyway? Even thinking about it I feel one coming on now!

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Thanks but your new cow only produces less methane. I need one that produces none at all. Now where are my rubber gloves?

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Almost right, but wouldn’t a hole in the rear end cause instant deflation, thus rendering the experiment worthless?

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So you need inflatable cow, hose with 3 way tap, air pump, another hose, flute, rubber gloves, and ordinary cow. Gee you guitar players are hard to please!

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Ah hahaha! Yes, yawning does affect pitch.

Not quite sure why, other than maybe it changes the shape of the inner ear?? But no, you’re not crazy. I think I might just have to yawn a little when I get my fiddle and bow up again!

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It doesn’t have to be a flute. A cheap whistle will do the trick just fine. See? Guitar players can compromise too …

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Ok, well then I have a really horrible feadog you are welcome to use. I won’t even want it back when you’ve finished. BTW I expect this research to be written up in all the best journals.

I’m not surprised you get the yawns in sessions if you are still up - by my calculations it’s 2.12am in England.

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@triplet: Your problem with the ear infection sounds similar to what occasionally happens to me when I get a cold with accompanying sinus congestion: everything, even a freshly tuned grand piano, sounds horribly off-pitch, and I can’t stand to play for a day or two. I wonder if I was also experiencing slightly different pitches in each ear?

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It’s 4:22 am now and I’m still up. Not unusual for me. Yawn. Stretch. Yawn again. Good night. Good morning.