Table 2 Features of songs that distinguish between behavioral contexts.

The table reports the predictive influence of musical features in the NHS Discography in distinguishing song types across cultures, ordered by their overall influence across all behavioral contexts. The classifiers used the average rating for each feature across 30 annotators. The coefficients are from a penalized logistic regression with standardized features and are selected for inclusion using a LASSO for variable selection. For brevity, we only present the subset of features with notable influence on a pairwise comparison (coefficients greater than 0.1). Changes in the values of the coefficients produce changes in the predicted log-odds ratio, so the values in the table can be interpreted as in a logistic regression.

Coefficient (pairwise comparison)
Musical featureDefinitionDance () vs.
Lullaby (+)
Dance () vs.
Love (+)
Healing () vs.
Lullaby (+)
Love () vs.
Lullaby (+)
Dance () vs.
Healing (+)
Healing (–) vs.
Love (+)
AccentThe differentiation of musical pulses, usually by volume or emphasis of articulation. A fluid, gentle song will have few accents and a correspondingly low value.–0.64–0.24–0.85–0.41.–0.34
TempoThe rate of salient rhythmic pulses, measured in beats per minute; the perceived speed of the music. A fast song will have a high value.–0.65–0.51..–0.76.
Quality of pitch collectionMajor versus minor key. In Western music, a key usually has a “minor” quality if its third note is three semitones from the tonic. This variable was derived from annotators’ qualitative categorization of the pitch collection, which we then dichotomized into Major (0) or Minor (1)..0.260.44.–0.370.35
Consistency of macrometerMeter refers to salient repetitive patterns of accent within a stream of pulses. A micrometer refers to the low-level pattern of accents; a macrometer refers to repetitive patterns of micrometer groups. This variable refers to the consistency of the macrometer, in an ordinal scale, from “No macrometer” (1) to “Totally clear macrometer” (6). A song with a highly variable macrometer will have a low value.–0.44–0.49..–0.46.
Number of common intervalsVariability in interval sizes, measured by the number of different melodic interval sizes that constitute more than 9% of the song’s intervals. A song with a large number of different melodic interval sizes will have a high value..0.58...0.62
Pitch rangeThe musical distance between the extremes of pitch in a melody, measured in semitones. A song that includes very high and very low pitches will have a high value....–0.49..
Stepwise motionStepwise motion refers to melodic strings of consecutive notes (1 or 2 semitones apart), without skips or leaps. This variable consists of the fraction of all intervals in a song that are 1 or 2 semitones in size. A song with many melodic leaps will have a low value.....0.61–0.20
Tension/releaseThe degree to which the passage is perceived to build and release tension via changes in melodic contour, harmonic progression, rhythm, motivic development, accent, or instrumentation. If so, the song is annotated with a value of 1..0.27...0.27
Average melodic interval sizeThe average of all interval sizes between successive melodic pitches, measured in semitones on a 12-tone equal temperament scale, rather than in absolute frequencies. A melody with many wide leaps between pitches will have a high value..–0.46....
Average note durationThe mean of all note durations; a song predominated by short notes will have a low value......–0.49
Triple micrometerA low-level pattern of accents that groups together pulses in threes.....–0.23.
Predominance of most common pitch classVariety versus monotony of the melody, measured by the ratio of the proportion of occurrences of the second most common pitch (collapsing across octaves) to the proportion of occurrences of the most common pitch; monotonous melodies will have low values.....–0.48.
Rhythmic variationVariety versus monotony of the rhythm, judged subjectively and dichotomously. Repetitive songs have a low value.....0.42.
Tempo variationChanges in tempo: A song that is perceived to speed up or slow down is annotated with a value of 1......–0.27
OrnamentationComplex melodic variation or “decoration” of a perceived underlying musical structure. A song perceived as having ornamentation is annotated with a value of 1..0.25....
Pitch class variationA pitch class is the group of pitches that sound equivalent at different octaves, such as all the Cs, not just middle C. This variable, another indicator of melodic variety, counts the number of pitch classes that appear at least once in the song...–0.25...
Triple macrometerIf a melody arranges micrometer groups into larger phrases of three, like a waltz, it is annotated with a value of 1...0.14...
Predominance of most common intervalVariability among pitch intervals, measured as the fraction of all intervals that are the most common interval size. A song with little variability in interval sizes will have a high value.....0.12.