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Bet you can't find the highest note on this keyboard!

Play the tones clockwise around the keyboard until you find the highest note. Can't? You might have to go around a few times. Still can't find the highest note? Here's why. . . .

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The Shepard Scale:

Although this keyboard appears to play an endlessly rising scale, you are actually hearing only a single set of twelve tones.

The secret is that each tone on this keyboard is actually a chord.

The chords have been created with a computer and are not typical of sounds created with an instrument.

The chords are comprised of six notes of the same pitch (i.e.: six C's, six D's, etc.) from six different octaves. Each of these notes is played at a different volume - the notes in the middle octaves are the loudest while the notes in the upper and lower octaves are softer. In addition, the upper octave note of each chord is slightly quieter that the low octave note of the next chord (see Footnotes.)

Because of this volume shift and their ambiguous octave position, the human brain interprets an ascending series of these tones as an infinitely ascending scale. Analogously, a descending series of these tones seems to descend forever.

For further Scientific explanations check out our Links page.


Footnotes:
Pitch is the relative rapidity of the vibrations
(frequency) of a note. Two C notes have the same pitch - they vary in "pitch height" from one octave to the next.

An octave is a series of twelve notes (semitones) of different pitch. This keyboard combines notes from a range of six octaves.


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