Speech and music both utilize pitch variation to convey contrasts in meaning: music‐pitch expresses composition (e.g., the key of a piece) and effect; speech‐pitch conveys pragmatic meaning and, in tone languages, lexical information. This study investigated whether experience with processing lexical pitch affects music pitch processing. 28 nonmusicians (14 native English speakers and 14 native Mandarin speakers) discriminated (experiment 1) and identified (experiment 2) short melodies. The Mandarin listeners more accurately discriminated the melodies than the English listeners (Mann‐Whitney U=140.5, p<0.05; two‐tailed t(21.86)=2.45, p<0.05, d=0.93), but the English listeners more accurately matched the melodies with graphical representations of the pitch movements that the mandarin listeners (Mann‐Whitney U=26.5, p<0.005; two‐tailed t(25.44)=−3.94, p<0.001, d=1.15). This indicates that experience with lexical‐pitch processing may enhance attention to pitch and thereby facilitate pitch‐pattern discrimination. However, learned linguistic pitch‐pattern categories may interfere with novel, nonlinguistic, pitch‐patterns, thereby impairing identification of musical pitch‐patterns. Our study contributes to a literature suggesting that processing of music‐pitch and speech‐pitch utilizes shared cognitive mechanisms (e.g., Alexander et al., Interspeech 2005). Results are discussed with regard to a cognitive‐processing framework that involves the influence of experientially acquired top‐down pitch category information upon novel bottom‐up pitch input during certain tasks. [Work supported by NU Cognitive Science Graduate Fellowship to J.A. and NIH Grants DC005794 (to A.B.) and HD051827 DC007468 (to P.W.)]