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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


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    1. 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

    2. Aims • How and why do children spontaneously recognize musical pitch structures? • Improve “ear training”? • Exploratory qualitative study

    3. 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

    4. Background: Skill acquisition • Nature/nurture: • interaction between genes & environment • Expertise approach: • more practice  more skill • Critical periods: • earlier practice  more skill • (Intrinsic) motivation: • motivation  practice  skill

    5. Background: Subskill interdependence • Musical skills • general musicality or • independent specific skills? • Is audiation central? • Origins of musicality = origins of audiation?

    6. Relation to other approaches

    7. Methodological problem: Memory • Strong for • meaningful events • Unreliable if • long ago BUT • Longitudinal observation is also problematic • implicit skill acquisition

    8. Methodological problem: Questionnaires

    9. Specific issues • Instrument • Specific early experiences • Age at onset of recognition • Situations • Active or passive • Motivation • Belief in talent

    10. Data collection • period • Sep 2005 to June 2006 • publicity • email lists • participants • 196 • missing data • many

    11. Sex of participants • 112 female • 84 male

    12. Nationality of participants 51% USA 19% UK 7% Canada 5% Australia Language of questionnaire Western bias of internet

    13. Age of participants • mean 36 years • min 18 • max 83

    14. Aural skills of participants Best grade for an ear training test • A: 109 • B: 23 • C: 3 • D: 1 • E: 1

    15. Years of musical practice • mean 28 • min 4 • max 70 Does practice make perfect?

    16. “CV” of average participant • Began to play regularly… • aged 7 years (min 2, max 21) • Played continuously… • stops for only 1 year • Filled our questionnaire • aged 36 years

    17. Instrument Are some instruments better for ear training than others?

    18. Main instrument 59% piano 8% guitar 7% flute 5% violin Keyboard represents aural structures visually? Parents of talented children choose piano?

    19. First year of playing: Instruments played piano 63% violin 13% flute 6% guitar 5% recorder 4% others 9%

    20. Instruments in the home 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

    21. Why piano?

    22. Early musical experiences “Early” = before learning first instrument What early musical experiences promote development of aural skills?

    23. Early musical experiences • Age at middle of period 4.5 years • Frequency of musical experiences 5.3 (1 = very rare … 7 = very frequent)

    24. Family member whose musical activities experienced most often 49 % mother 31 % father 8 % sister 4 % brother

    25. Early musical activities: Materials • 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

    26. Early musical activities: How enjoyable? • mean 6.3 (1 = not at all … 7 = very) enjoyment  motivation  practice

    27. Early musical activities: Specific emotions 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.

    28. Age At what age do children acquire basic aural skills?

    29. First memory of recognizing pitch structures • Age: mean 8.6 years (min 2, max 18)

    30. Age at which specific structures recognized • Basic structures learned between 8 and 14 • Basic structures consolidated before building on them

    31. Role of situation In what situations do children acquire aural skills?

    32. First year of playing 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)

    33. First memory of recognizing pitch structures Wide variety of situations. Examples:

    34. Context in which skill originally acquired • 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

    35. Musical styles in which structures recognized • Rank order: • classical • children’s • pop/rock • religious  Participant bias towards “classical” music

    36. Learning styles • Active or passive? • Motivated or “just happened”?

    37. Most important factor in developing this skill  Role of active learning

    38. Why motivated to acquire this skill?  Role of relevant, useful goals

    39. Inherited or learned? • 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

    40. Inherited or learned Source of info for “opinion then”: 46% compare memory with current knowledge 18% parents then 15% peer comparison then Real learning + belief in talent

    41. Interesting but unreliable data • 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

    42. Consistent with expertise model • motivation  practice  skill • Critical periods?

    43. Interdependence of musical subskills • Musicality as • independent specific skills • Central role of audiation • supports other subskills

    44. Educational implications: Home 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

    45. Educational implications: Institutional • Offer parental training incl. music • More music in school • Musical interaction teachersparents • Ear training at school, not university