The University of St. Thomas

Music

Sewall, Dana

Sewall, Dana

An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Traditional and Gestural Instruction on a Subject's Performance of an Expressive Element in a Musical Excerpt
Dana Lynne Doty Sewall
Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of traditional and gestural instruction on a subject's performance of an expressive element in a musical excerpt. The study also looked at the effectiveness of traditional and gestural instruction for each individual subject when performing an expressive element in a musical excerpt.

Short musical excerpts, sung by each of the six subjects, were collected for this study. The excerpts represented four expressive musical elements (staccato, legato, crescendo, and accent) and two different methods of instruction (traditional and gestural). Each subject was recorded singing four musical excerpts, each focusing on one expressive element.

Two of the expressive elements were explained using traditional instruction. Traditional instruction was defined as the use of verbal dialogue alone, to instruct the subject how to sing a musical phrase expressively. The other two expressive elements were explained using gestural instruction. Gestural instruction was defined as the use of gesture combined with verbal imagery to instruct the subject how to sing a musical phrase expressively. The researcher chose physical gestures that would correspond with the
musical excerpts during gestural instruction.

Staccato: quickly picking lint off of a shirt sleeve
Legato: painting a wall with a roller in an arc shape
Crescendo: pushing a lawn mower up a hill
Accent: punching a punching bag with alternating hands

The six subjects were asked to learn the musical excerpt, listen to the definition of the expressive element, and sing the musical excerpt while performing the expressive element accurately. Each subject was asked to sing two musical excerpts with expressive
qualities, using the traditional method of instruction, and two musical excerpts with expressive qualities, using the gestural method of instruction. The subject received the traditional method or the gestural method according to what was mandated by a repeated measures design.

Findings were mixed and showed that, on average, traditional instruction received higher average scores when teaching the expressive elements of staccato and accent, and gestural instruction received higher average scores when teaching the expressive elements of crescendo and legato. Traditional instruction received higher average scores individually for Subjects B and D, and gestural instruction received higher average scores individually for Subjects A, C and E. Subject F showed no difference in the average scores of either instructional model.

However, the researcher believes that the uncharacteristically low scores of Subject D may have skewed the data in significant ways. The researcher contends that gestural instruction would have been found to be more effective when teaching the expressive elements of staccato and accent if the average scores of Subject D would not have been so extremely low for those elements. If this had been the case, the impact on the implications of the study results could have been significantly different.

Thesis Supervisor
Dr. Carroll Gonzo