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Early acquisition of musical aural skills. Richard Parncutt 1 Gary McPherson 2 Margit Painsi 1 Fränk Zimmer 1 1 Department of Musicology, University of Graz 2 School of Music, University of Illinois. ICMPC Bologna 21-26 August 2006. Aims.

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Early acquisition of musical aural skills l.jpg

Early acquisition of musical aural skills

Richard Parncutt1 Gary McPherson2 Margit Painsi1 Fränk Zimmer1

1Department of Musicology, University of Graz

2 School of Music, University of Illinois

ICMPC Bologna 21-26 August 2006


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Aims

  • How and why do children spontaneously recognize musical pitch structures?

  • Improve “ear training”?

  • Exploratory qualitative study


Acquisition of musical aural skills intuitive cognitive model l.jpg
Acquisition of musical aural skills: Intuitive cognitive model

  • Exposure phase

    aural (visual, tactile-motor, linguistic)  memory

  • Experimentation phase

    match memory to performance by trial and error

  • Recognition phase

    auditory pattern  memory  linguistic label


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Background: Skill acquisition model

  • Nature/nurture:

    • interaction between genes & environment

  • Expertise approach:

    • more practice  more skill

  • Critical periods:

    • earlier practice  more skill

  • (Intrinsic) motivation:

    • motivation  practice  skill


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Background: Subskill interdependence model

  • Musical skills

    • general musicality or

    • independent specific skills?

  • Is audiation central?

    • Origins of musicality = origins of audiation?



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Methodological problem: Memory model

  • Strong for

    • meaningful events

  • Unreliable if

    • long ago

      BUT

  • Longitudinal observation is also problematic

    • implicit skill acquisition



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Specific issues model

  • Instrument

  • Specific early experiences

  • Age at onset of recognition

  • Situations

  • Active or passive

  • Motivation

  • Belief in talent


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Data collection model

  • period

    • Sep 2005 to June 2006

  • publicity

    • email lists

  • participants

    • 196

  • missing data

    • many


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Sex of participants model

  • 112 female

  • 84 male


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Nationality of participants model

51% USA

19% UK

7% Canada

5% Australia

Language of questionnaire

Western bias of internet


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Age of participants model

  • mean 36 years

    • min 18

    • max 83


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Aural skills of participants model

Best grade for an ear training test

  • A: 109

  • B: 23

  • C: 3

  • D: 1

  • E: 1


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Years of musical practice model

  • mean 28

    • min 4

    • max 70

      Does practice make perfect?


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“CV” of average participant model

  • Began to play regularly…

    • aged 7 years (min 2, max 21)

  • Played continuously…

    • stops for only 1 year

  • Filled our questionnaire

    • aged 36 years


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Instrument model

Are some instruments better

for ear training than others?


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Main instrument model

59% piano

8% guitar

7% flute

5% violin

Keyboard represents aural structures visually?

Parents of talented children choose piano?


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First year of playing: Instruments played model

piano 63%

violin 13%

flute 6%

guitar 5%

recorder 4%

others 9%


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Instruments in the home model

140 people named 311 instruments:

  • piano (106)

  • guitar (40)

  • violin (28)

  • recorder (22)

  • … flute, keyboard, trumpet, harmonica, cello, organ, clarinet, accordion, banjo/mandolin…

    Important for ear training?

  • 86% yes

  • 10% no

  • 4% can‘t remember


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Why piano? model


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Early musical experiences model

“Early” = before learning first instrument

What early musical experiences promote development of aural skills?


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Early musical experiences model

  • Age at middle of period

    4.5 years

  • Frequency of musical experiences

    5.3 (1 = very rare … 7 = very frequent)


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Family member whose musical activities experienced most often

49 % mother

31 % father

8 % sister

4 % brother


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Early musical activities: Materials often

  • lullabies

  • hymns

  • traditional and folk songs

  • Christmas songs

  • Suzuki songs

Examples:

  • Mother at piano, kids play drums & sleigh bells

  • Dad made up songs about our family

  • My brother and I made up Gregorian chants


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Early musical activities: How enjoyable? often

  • mean 6.3

    (1 = not at all … 7 = very)

    enjoyment  motivation  practice


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Early musical activities: Specific emotions often

Music as:

  • private experience

    • It was amazing to produce sounds.

    • Music always gave me an immediate feeling of exhilaration.

  • part of intensive personal interaction

    • Happy, closeness with family members, fun and joy in learning the tune and rhythm of songs

    • I could switch off from the unhappy family life and escape into music.

    • I enjoyed this time because I gave our family the 'glue' that held us together.


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Age often

At what age do children

acquire basic aural skills?


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First memory of recognizing pitch structures often

  • Age: mean 8.6 years (min 2, max 18)


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Age at which specific structures recognized often

  • Basic structures learned between 8 and 14

  • Basic structures consolidated before building on them


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Role of situation often

In what situations do children

acquire aural skills?


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First year of playing often

Situations in which learned about music

  • Conventional music lessons 64% (130)

  • Working out pieces by ear alone 24% (103)

  • Mental practice 16% (54)

  • Composing alone at instrument 16% (72)

  • Playing by ear with friends or family 16% (46)

  • Composing with friends or family 19% (9)

  • But our participants may not be representative

    Percentage: average of those who replied (In brackets: number who replied to question)


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First memory of recognizing pitch structures often

Wide variety of situations. Examples:


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Context in which skill originally acquired often

  • Wide variety of responses

  • family and outside

  • formal and informal

  • group and solo

  • instrumental and choral

  • theory and practice

  • Aural skills are learned

  • Learning is mainly active


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Musical styles in which structures recognized often

  • Rank order:

  • classical

  • children’s

  • pop/rock

  • religious

 Participant bias towards “classical” music


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Learning styles often

  • Active or passive?

  • Motivated or “just happened”?


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Most important factor in developing this skill often

 Role of active learning


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Why motivated to acquire this skill? often

 Role of relevant, useful goals


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Inherited or learned? often

  • Questions about origins of skills:

    • All answers involved musical activities

    • No-one objected that skills were inborn

  • “How important were your early musical activities for the development of your aural abilities?”

    • 5.8 (1 = not at all … 7 = very)

      Participants believe skills are learned


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Inherited or learned often

Source of info for “opinion then”:

46% compare memory with current knowledge

18% parents then

15% peer comparison then

Real learning + belief in talent


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Interesting but unreliable data often

  • Metacognition is weak

    • Even for the most talented

  • Memory is unreliable

    • Respondents may invent or exaggerate

  • Our participants are biased toward

    • upper middle class

    • “classical” music


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Consistent with expertise model often

  • motivation  practice  skill

  • Critical periods?


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Interdependence of musical subskills often

  • Musicality as

    • independent specific skills

  • Central role of audiation

    • supports other subskills


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Educational implications: Home often

Parents should

  • hear, make, enjoy music themselves

  • own and play several instruments

  • encourage child from an early age (6?) to

    • hear, make, enjoy a lot of music

    • experience keyboard and choral singing

    • take music lessons

    • develop own musical tastes and passions


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Educational implications: Institutional often

  • Offer parental training incl. music

  • More music in school

  • Musical interaction teachersparents

  • Ear training at school, not university


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