Pulse Salience

Wikis > Glossary > Pulse Salience

Pulse salience is a concept developed by Richard Parncutt used to determine the underlying pulse for a given rhythm. In “A Perceptual Model of Pulse Salience and Metrical Accent in Musical Rhythms,” Richard Parncutt (1994) explains, “The perceptual (and hence musical) significance, strength, or prominence of a pulse sensation may be called its salience. The tactus is then the pulse sensation with the highest salience” (413)

The salience of a given pulse is determined by several factors:

Salience increases with phenomenal accent
Salience increases with the number of events matching the given pulse
Salience is enhanced by consonant pulse sensations, which are pulse sensations that are multiples of one another

Increases in tempo do not seem to affect pulse salience.

Parncutt also writes, “the salience of pulse sensation is greatest in the vicinity of 100 events per minute (600 ms) and falls to zero for tempi outside the approximate range 33-300 events per minute (200-1800 ms)” (455).

 (Created by Kevin Lai, 2/7/10)