The University of St. Thomas


Abbe, Bruce

Abbe, Bruce

The Effect of Four Musical Stimuli on the Pitch-Matching Accuracy of Children in Grades One and Four
Bruce A. Abbe

The purpose of this study was to determine how four different pitch stimuli affected the ability of children in grades one and four to match pitches. This investigation also attempted to establish whether children could become accustomed to specific pitch models and increase their pitch-matching accuracy with these models.

Two-hundred-and-eight first and fourth graders from two school sites participated as subjects in this study. Students at the first school site always had a female vocal instructor while subjects at the second school site always had a male vocal instructor. Subjects at both schools listened to a tape which contained four different tonal patterns performed by four different pitch models: a soprano female, a tenor using his normal voice, a tenor using his falsetto voice, and a synthesizer.

Each student listened to the four pitch models and attempted to sing the pitches using the neutral syllable “loo.” Their responses were recorded on two tracks of a four track tape recorder using a contact microphone and a hyper-cardioid microphone. These responses were then transcribed into standard music notation and scored using an eight point scoring system. This system analyzed the accuracy of individual pitches, intervals, and melodic contour. A random sample of 23% of the taped responses were reevaluated by an independent judge. Reliability was found to be in excess of .88. These scores were then analyzed for significance using a Macintosh IIsi and a program called Stat View II. Analysis of the scores yielded the following results:

1. Although girls consistently scored slightly higher on pitch accuracy tests, there were no significant differences in the pitch-matching accuracy scores of boys and girls.

2. The maturity level of the students affected their pitch-matching accuracy. The pitch-matching scores of students within the age span of nineteen months were not significantly different; however, the variance of scores became significant as the age range grew wider. Fourth grade students’ pitch-matching scores were significantly better than those of first grade students.

3. Melodic patterns positively or adversely affected pitch-matching accuracy. The majority of the students in this  study achieved accuracy with a descending sol-mi pattern and scored lowest on an ascending do-re-mi-sol pattern.

4. The timbre of the pitch model had a significant effect on children’s pitch accuracy. On average, the majority of the students responded most accurately to the female soprano model and least accurately to the male model using his normal singing voice. The male falsetto voice proved to be the best alternative to the female model.

5. The ability to match specific timbres appeared to be dependent on students’ previous experiences with this timbre. Those students who received music instruction from a female music teacher achieved success matching the pitches of a female model but experienced major difficulties when attempting to match the male and synthesizer models. The students who had a male model as a music instructor responded with similar accuracy to all types of timbres. The male music instructor had provided these children with a variety of models for their pitch-matching activities. These findings were consistent for both grade levels. Apparently, children quickly adapt to whatever model they become accustomed to hearing.

Capstone Supervisor
Charles Furman