PLoS ONE (Jan 2020)

From beat tracking to beat expectation: Cognitive-based beat tracking for capturing pulse clarity through time

  • Martin Alejandro Miguel,
  • Mariano Sigman,
  • Diego Fernandez Slezak,
  • Gustavo Stolovitzky

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 15, no. 11


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Pulse is the base timing to which western music is commonly notated, generally expressed by a listener by performing periodic taps with their hand or foot. This cognitive construction helps organize the perception of timed events in music and is the most basic expectation in rhythms. The analysis of expectations, and more specifically the strength with which the beat is felt—the pulse clarity—has been used to analyze affect in music. Most computational models of pulse clarity, and rhythmic expectation in general, analyze the input as a whole, without exhibiting changes through a rhythmic passage. We present Tactus Hypothesis Tracker (THT), a model of pulse clarity over time intended for symbolic rhythmic stimuli. The model was developed based on ideas of beat tracking models that extract beat times from musical stimuli. Our model also produces possible beat interpretations for the rhythm, a fitness score for each interpretation and how these evolve in time. We evaluated the model’s pulse clarity by contrasting against tapping variability of human annotators achieving results comparable to a state-of-the-art pulse clarity model. We also analyzed the clarity metric dynamics on synthetic data that introduced changes in the beat, showing that our model presented doubt in the pulse estimation process and adapted accordingly to beat changes. Finally, we assessed if the beat tracking generated by the model was correct regarding listeners tapping data. We compared our beat tracking results with previous beat tracking models. The THT model beat tracking output showed generally correct estimations in phase but exhibits a bias towards a musically correct subdivision of the beat.