Popular music and the role of vocal melody in perceived emotion

Scott Beveridge*, Don Knox

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    250 Downloads (Pure)


    The voice plays a crucial role in expressing emotion in popular music. However, the importance of the voice in this context has not been systematically assessed. This study investigates the emotional effect of vocal features in popular music. In particular, it focuses on nonverbal characteristics, including vocal melody and rhythm. To determine the efficacy of these features they are used to construct a computational Music Emotion Recognition (MER) system. The system is based on the circumplex model that expresses emotion in terms of arousal and valence. Two independent studies were used to develop the system. The first study established models for predicting arousal and valence based on a range of acoustical and nonverbal vocal features. The second study was used for independent validation of these models. Results show that features describing rhythmic qualities of the vocal line produce emotion models with a high level of generalizability. In particular these models reliably predict emotional valence, a well known issue in existing Music Emotion Recognition systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)411-423
    Number of pages13
    JournalPsychology of Music
    Issue number3
    Early online date30 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


    • emotion
    • popular music
    • voice
    • technology
    • computational modelling

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Music
    • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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