This study was designed to examine the effect of three teaching processes on a child’s ability to accurately perform musical aspects of two instrumental melodies from Music for Children, Vol. I (Orff, adapted by Murray, 1958). The three teaching processes are termed structured successive approximation, forward chaining, and backward chaining. Steady beat, rhythmic accuracy, tonal accuracy, and phrasing were the musical aspects that were assessed. Melodies were taught using a recorded performance followed by individual instruction on alto xylophones set up in C pentatonic.
There were 46 fifth grade students involved in the study. Each participant learned both melodies with the order of presentation and method of teaching being randomly assigned for each. After a pre-determined length of teaching time had elapsed (4’30”), a recording was made of each performance on Day One. Two days later the child returned to make a follow-up recording to examine the effect on memory. Students were asked to play anything they could remember from the first session. Students who were unable to perform anything, or only small melodic fragments, heard the melodies again and the subsequent performances were recorded.
Results indicated that melodies taught with forward chaining received the highest average scores for the initial teaching. Melody 2 was easier for these students to learn than Melody 29. Rhythmic accuracy was the lowest scoring musical aspect for both melodies and for all the methods. On the follow-up assignments, the average performance ability for all students was approximately the same regardless of the process used on Day One.