Directing attention in melodic dictation
Paney, Andrew Sean
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Music students are generally required to take classes in aural skills. Many begin university theory classes with little or no aural skills training. Instructors are charged with the task of challenging well-prepared students while providing remediation for others. Researchers have isolated four phases involved in taking dictation: hearing, memory, understanding, and notation. Would directing students through those phases help them score better on a dictation assessment? Subjects were music students in their second, third, or fourth level of aural skills training at the time of the experiment. Two matched groups were formed based on subjects’ scores on a dictation of a recorded melody. Subjects in the control group took a second dictation individually. Subjects in the treatment group also took a second individual dictation, but they received instructions before and after each hearing. These instructions directed their attention to basic musical aspects of the recording and asked them to respond to questions regarding those aspects. Dictations were evaluated based on rhythm, pitch, and overall scores. The top and bottom 25% (based on their matching scores) were also compared. In every comparison the control group scored higher than the treatment group. Comparisons of the whole group in rhythm, pitch, and overall scores showed a significant difference in scores favoring the control group. Results suggest that receiving direction during a dictation was not helpful to music students. This may be a result of a disruption of students' established routines. It may also indicate a lack of mastery of the component basic musicianship skills requisite for successful mastery of dictation.