Publishable Stuff

Rasmus Bååth's Research Blog

Subjective Difficulty of Tapping to a Slow Beat

A short paper I presented at the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition , Thessaloniki, Greece. A great conference, by the way, except for the heat…


The current study investigates the slower limit of rhythm perception and participants subjective difficulty when tapping to a slow beat. Thirty participants were asked to tap to metronome beats ranging in tempo from 600 ms to 3000 ms between each beat. After each tapping trial the participants rated the difficulty of keeping the beat on a seven point scale ranging from “very easy” to “very difficult”. The result strongly support the notion that subjective difficulty increased with slower tempo as this was the case for all participants. While rated difficulty increased monotonically as a function of tempo the largest increase was between the tempo of 1200 ms and 1800 ms. This is in line with earlier reports on where tapping starts to feel laborious and supports the notion that there is a qualitative difference between tapping at fast (< 1200 ms between each beat) and slow (> 2400 between each beat) tempi. A mixed model analysis showed that tempo, tapping error and percentage of reactive responses all affected the participants rating of difficulty. Of these, tempo was by far the most influential factor, still participants were, to some degree, sensitive to their own tapping errors which then influenced their subsequent difficulty rating.


Bååth, R., Madison, G. (2012) The Subjective Difficulty of Tapping to a Slow Beat. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and the 8th Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music.