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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.

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Presentation on theme: "Early acquisition of musical aural skills Richard Parncutt 1 Gary McPherson 2 Margit Painsi 1 Fränk Zimmer 1 1 Department of Musicology, University of."— Presentation transcript:

1 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 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 1. Exposure phase aural (visual, tactile-motor, linguistic)  memory 2. Experimentation phase match memory to performance by trial and error 3. 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 Other studiesOur study real-timeretrospective any or average children children who will later have good aural skills N = small - mediumN = large

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 AspectProblem Open questionUnclear Closed questionLeading Quantitative dataNeeds many participants Qualitative dataNeeds openness and trust

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 – 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? Upper middle class parents Piano in house General support for music

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 Specific activityNo. of entries Playing an instrument108 Singing – at home48 Listening to music23 Singing – choir, church...17

25 Early musical activities: Materials Examples: Mother at piano, kids play drums & sleigh bells Dad made up songs about our family My brother and I made up Gregorian chants lullabies hymns traditional and folk songs Christmas songs Suzuki songs

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

30 Age at which specific structures recognized Means PerformNotateUnderstand Melodic intervals Chord qualities9112 Chord functions Close modulations Distant modulations Melodic inversion  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 APHeard mother make mistake on piano. Played by ear before starting lessons. Recognized tones while dad tuned / mother played piano. HarmonyCried when hearing IV6 – iv6. Transcribed pop progressions. Played "Smoke on water" at guitar group. TheoryTheory class in high school - ear training exercises. Correspondence course in theory and ear training. ChoirSinging back a pattern for choir auditions. MelodyMatching pitches, singing back melodies, singing in tune. PianoApparently played a song on piano by ear. Wide variety of situations. Examples:

34 Context in which skill originally acquired ÞAural skills are learned ÞLearning is mainly active Wide variety of responses family and outside formal and informal group and solo instrumental and choral theory and practice

35 Musical styles in which structures recognized  Participant bias towards “classical” music Rank order: 1.classical 2.children’s 3.pop/rock 4.religious

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

37 Most important factor in developing this skill CategoryN=82Examples active music making 28  sightsinging, solfege, tuning instrument  starting to play at an early age  regularity, persistence, hard work  teaching myself  experimenting with instrument listening to music 16  learning how to listen  active or intense listening  hearing music in many different contexts  Role of active learning

38 Why motivated to acquire this skill? CategoryN=96Examples learning goal 27  to learn specific songs  to sing on the correct pitch  to do well in music courses, be a better performer  to learn music quickly, understand music, compose  to sing or play like a specific performer joy, fun21  I loved it ; it was fun, like a game no special intention 20  I wasn’t motivated, it just sort of happened  a consequence of joining the school choir  it was just what we did – it was family useful- ness 14  reading music took too much time and effort  hearing melody helped me hear bass and chords  important to make low brass section sound good  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 InheritedLearned Opinion then 44%56% Opinion now 39%61% 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? phaseage exposure3-7 experimentation7-10 recognition9-14

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


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