Musical aptitude testing in a North London school

Master's Thesis, 2011

105 Pages, Grade: Distinction







List of acronyms


List of Tables

List of Figures

Chapter 1: Introduction and background to the study
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background of the study
1.3 Purpose of the study
1.4 Personal motivation for the study
1.5 Research question and sub-questions
1.6 Research design and methodology
1.7 Chapter layout

Chapter 2: Literature overviews
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Defining key concepts/terminology
2.3 Discussion on previous research conducted
2.3.1 Intelligence and musical ability
2.3.2 Auditory Structuring Theory
2.4 Summary .

Chapter 3: Research design and methodology

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Defining and conceptualising the research question
3.3 Sample design and sample method
3.4 Data collection methods
3.5 Literature review, questionnaires and interviews
3.6 Summary

Chapter 4: Results: Presentations (Illustrations) and discussions
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Data capturing and analysis
4.3 Sample profiles
4.4 Presentation and discussion of results
4.5 Concluding interpretations

Chapter 5: Conclusions and recommendations
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Summary of the study
5.3 Limitations and shortcomings
5.4 Relevance of the research
5.5 Recommendations .

References .


Appendix A: Music Listening Test/Questionnaire Appendix B: The answers to the listening test
Appendix C: Interview (practical performances) with observation Appendix D: Permission letter to head teacher
Appendix E: Permission letters for parents of students
Appendix F: Permission letters for students participating in music listening tests


I declare that the mini-dissertation, which I hereby submit for the degree Magister Musicae in Music Education at the University of Pretoria, is my own work and has not previously been submitted by me for a degree at this or any other tertiary institution.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Well-known musical aptitude tests designed by, among others, Seashore, Gordon, Bentley and Wing have been extensively discussed by several researchers, and this background is provided in this mini-dissertation. However, this research project was aimed at determining to what extent a newly designed music listening test impacts on students’ success rate in being judged to have particular musical aptitude.

The purpose of this research was to evaluate what students score respectively for four elements of music (pitch, melody, rhythm and texture) through a musical aptitude test designed by the author in consultation with colleagues in the Music Department at a school in North London in the United Kingdom .These tests were divided into two stages with students aged 10-13, of mixed genders and from different cultural backgrounds. The first focussed on the listening test (questionnaire) for a sample of 160 students. The second stage included practical performances (interviews and observations) and aural tests based on the elements: Rhythm, Melody, Improvisation, Two-part melody and Texture.

The results of the first stage revealed that the students particularly achieved high scores for the elements of music: melody and pitch. The age groups who scored the highest marks respectively were pupils aged 13. The results of the second sample of the respondents who completed the test revealed that the majority of the students had previous music tuition with the string instrument being the most popular amongst respondents. This study revealed that students always respond to different sound qualities, followed by the identification of rhythmical patterns and melody. Their memory of pitch changes and develops further due to the possession of precise interval recognition and excellent memory recall.


This is written for my late mother, Eileen Theresa Müller, a senior music lecturer at Dower Training College of Education in Port Elizabeth, who died suddenly of endometrial cancer on the 30th December 2009 and the memory of my late brothers Fabian and Sebastian Charles Müller. My mother inspired me in music so much over the years, from my first piano lesson at the age of 6 to my taking up cello at 13. Upon my return to South Africa from living abroad in Israel I continued with my music education at the University of Port Elizabeth, the same University at which she completed her degree and post graduate studies during the years of Apartheid. Her grace and presence will always fill my heart with joy, as I cherish all the musical moments we shared together.


Firstly I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Caroline van Niekerk, whose support and motivation over the past two years has inspired me to contribute my best at all times. Thank you, Professor, for your encouragement during my post- graduate studies at the University of Pretoria. Your insight, experience and depth of knowledge have helped me to strive for excellence. Thank you once again for all your assistance, patience and understanding and also diligently assisting in the proof-reading of my work. Secondly I thank my family in South Africa, my father, Douglas Müller, my brother, Damian Charles Müller, and my sister Darleen Theresa Müller-Gajjar, all of whom have supported my endeavours over the years and helped me to develop into the person I am today. I also wish to acknowledge my friend, Robert Jones, who made me feel so at home following my relocation to Buckinghamshire in England and always providing sound advice. I thank my Fortismere work colleagues, Sarah Ogilby, Mellany Topping, Fiona Collins and Edward Jeffries who have assisted me in my research. Finally special thanks are extended to my friend, Burke Christian, and housemate, Professor David Craig, with whom I have enjoyed many academic conversations whilst partaking in good food and the odd glass of wine.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten




musical ability

musical aptitude test





Table 1 - Example of the data (Of only the 6 first participants)

Table 2 - Average score for both girls and boys aged 10 (n=13) .

Table 3 - Average score for both girls and boys aged 11 (n=99)

Table 4 - Average score for both girls and boys aged 12 (n=45) .

Table 5 - Overall average scored for both genders (n=160)

Table 6 - Jang’s research statistics compared to Müller’s .

Table 7 - Karma’s research statistics compared to Müller’s

Table 8 - Milovanov’s research statistics compared to Müller’s

Table 9 - Gilleece’s research statistics compared to Müller’s ..


Figure 1 - Model of auditory structuring in relation to sensory capacities and related culture-dependent skills (Karma 2007: 84)

Figure 2 - The average results for boys aged 10 (n=7)

Figure 3 - The average results of the girls aged 10 (n=6) ..

Figure 4 - The average results of the boys aged 11 (n=41) .

Figure 5 - The average results of the girls aged 11 (n=58)

Figure 6 - The average results of the boys aged 12 (n=25)

Figure 7 - The average results of the girls aged 12 (n=20) .

Figure 8 - The average results of the boys aged 13 (n=3)

Figure 9 - Overall averages for each age group (n=160) .

Figure 10 - The ethnicity of participants (n=160)

Figure 11 - Ethnicity for stage 2 stage (n=32) ...

Figure 12 - Years of musical experience (n=32)

Figure 13 - Instrumentation of various participants (n=32).

Figure 14 - Clapping Exercise

Figure 15 - Melody used for singing or play back

Figure 16 - Students had to complete the improvisation

Figure 17 - The two-part melody

Figure 18 - Various chords ..

Figure 19 - Rhythm analysis of stage 2 test 1 (n=32) .

Figure 20 - Melody analysis of stage 2 test 2 (n=32)

Figure 21 - Improvisation analysis of stage 2 test 3 (n=32)

Figure 22 - Two-part melody analysis of stage 2 test 4 (n=32) ..

Figure 23 - Texture analysis of stage 2 test 5 (n=32)

Figure 24 - Benefits of assessment for learning (DfES, 2008: 5)

Figure 25 - John Hankinson criteria for Musical Aptitude tests(Hankinson, et al: 1999: 2) .



The concept of theory in music concerns the measurements and description of sound properties and the abstract and syntactical components of musical language, for example its tones, intervals, scales, rhythms, timbres and key signatures - Beard and Gloag (2005: 182)

As a music teacher at Fortismere School, Music College in Muswell Hill, North London I was interested in the fact that one of the school’s policies was to accept music students on the basis of musical aptitude testing as part of the entry requirements for securing a place at the school in Year 7. Music Colleges were introduced in 2004 as part of a Specialist School Programme in England. This system enabled schools to specialise in certain fields, in this case music. These colleges received extra funding from joint private sector and government schemes (

Fortismere School is part of the London Borough of Haringey Local Education Authority situated close to the town centre. Fortismere was founded as Tollington School, a private boys’ school after World War II. By 1958, following a merger with Tollington High School for Girls and Tollington Grammar School for Boys it had become known as Tollington Grammar School (co-educational). Subsequently this school merged with William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School and was known as Creighton Comprehensive School. In September 1983 Creighton School and another comprehensive, Alexandra Park School, were combined and became known as Fortismere School. In 1997 the school gained Technology College status until 1 September 2007 when Fortismere became a school with Foundation status offering specialism in Mathematics/Computing with Music and a secondary specialism in Modern Languages. According to Directgov, a Foundation school in England and Wales is a state-funded school in which the governing body has more freedom in the running of the school than in other community schools. In collaboration with the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 these schools are directly funded by central government, replacing grant-maintained schools. This involved the Local Education Authority and students do not pay fees. Pupils, however, do follow the National Curriculum (

The author does not find the musical aptitude tests which were used entirely appropriate. The tests have been criticised by parents (Davies 2009; Smith 2009) as being biased towards students who came from underprivileged backgrounds, due to the nature of the questions. This was the main reason the author decided to create a new test based on elements of music, focussing on the foundations which all children have from primary school music education in the UK.

The school recently featured as one of the Top Twenty comprehensive schools in the country in a newspaper article and is heavily over-subscribed in all the years (Graeme Paton, an Education Correspondent, The Telegraph, Case Studies, 11 January 2007). The school has several famous musical alumni, including Rod Stewart, Ray Davies and Dave Davies.

Mr Aydin Önaç was appointed as head teacher1 at Fortismere from 2005 to September 2010. He was criticised for his policy of musical aptitude testing by Tim Ross, an Education Correspondent, in a newspaper article (London Evening Standard, 19 January 2009), who stated:

A Leading state school head teacher faces a revolt from parents over plans to reserve 10 per cent of places for gifted musicians but parents are outraged at the idea, which they fear will lead to the school losing its community ethos as more places go to talented music students from outside the area.

Furthermore the following was outlined in the same article:

The proposals, which are yet to be agreed, would see up to 24 out of 243 pupils selected on the basis of musical aptitude tests. Mr Önaç said the tests were not auditions but were designed to identify musical potential in any child, rather than to find the most accomplished 11-year old violinists.

Many parents were upset with the decision that was taken and this was one comment (Alan Davies, 07 May 2009):

I think it is an excellent idea to have a school that fosters musical talent within pupils. However, a problem arises when a leader is myopic. Music is wide but Mr Önaç’s view is not. Before his arrival there was a wide range of talent, enjoying the diverse musical influences, not only classical - but this seems not to be in favour with the illustrious leader.

Another parent (Anthony Smith, 19 January 2009) expressed the following opinion:

As a former student I find it sad that a school that managed to be inclusive and academically successful is now well on the way to becoming academically exclusive.

Mr Önaç’s policy for musical aptitude testing in my opinion was fundamentally selective.

Despite the criticism, the school continues with its musical aptitude testing and 10% of students admitted are given places based on their results in those tests.

Researchers have made many discoveries around musical aptitude tests (Buttall 2007; Drake 1954; Gilleece 2005; Gordon 1965, 1967a, 1989, 2003; Hankinson, Challis & Edwards 1999; Humphreys 1998; Jang 2000; Karma 2007; Milovanov 2009; Seashore 1919, 1960; White 1931; Wing 1948). The starting point of my research was to define the word musical aptitude which, according to the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML), is best described as the potential or capacity for musical achievement (Gordon, 2003: 372). This involved the ability to intuitively learn or appreciate music with the differentiation between off-key or off- pitch, thus having a fine ear for music. Musical ability is often viewed in all-or- none terms: some are blessed with "talent," others are not. The major purpose of musical aptitude tests is according to Gordon: “To act as an objective aid in the evaluation of students’ basic musical aptitude so that the teacher can better provide for individual needs and abilities” (Gordon, 1965: 45). To evaluate previous research conducted in this area one needs to interpret the theories of various psychologists who contributed to musical aptitude testing. Humphreys (1998: 42) discussed the link between late nineteenth-century psychological research and the early (eighteenth century) musical aptitude research, focussing on Carl Emil Seashore (1866-1949) and Columbia University psychologist James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944).

During the 1890s Seashore discussed a longitudinal study, the hypothesis for which was that tests of sensory discrimination ability, including musical discrimination, would correlate with an undergraduate’s academic grades.

Seashore continued researching the sensory approach to the testing of musical aptitude. The focus of his research over two decades led to the development of his famous tests of musical aptitude2 ; his beliefs and methods were examined in an article by Jere Humphreys.3 Seashore undertook his doctoral studies in the first half of the 1890s which embraced the birth of sensory psychology and mental testing research in the United States of America. Thereafter he applied the methods of scientific psychology and mental testing in his research on musical aptitude.

Galton’s research hypothesized that “a measure of sensory acuity would provide a crude measure of a person’s level of intelligence,” and that mental ability is normally, or randomly distributed.4 Galton’s research in the 1970s involved various tests which concentrated on musical discrimination and perceptions.5 Humphreys (1998: 44) focused on the research which Cattell conducted at Columbia University with the establishment of a Psychology Department and the start of “Freshman Tests” concluding with two tests related to music. The first test included aural training emphasizing the hearing of tones whereby researchers divided subjects from each year into “normal,” “subnormal” and “abnormal” categories. The second test measured the “accuracy of the perception of pitch”. After subjects listened to a pitch (F below middle C) played on a monochord they attempted to match the one pitch played by adjusting the instrument’s bridge.6 The implication these tests had on music education is discussed further by Humphreys (1998: 46):

By contrast, the field of music waited until 1965 for the appearance of a well-constructed test that corresponded to the second generation of intelligence tests.7 Researchers now question the validity of his second generation of tests, both of intelligence and of musical aptitude. Both types of tests predict performance on school related tasks8 but not necessarily on “life tasks.”

Humphreys (1998: 47) concluded that Seashore believed musical aptitude was based largely on sensory ability and therefore somewhat different from other abilities. He felt that the research of other psychologists, not immediately associated with music (Cattell et al, 1896), came to the same conclusion.

I was interested in conducting my own research with a study at the school where I was based. It was the purpose of this research project to evaluate what students scored respectively for four elements of music through a musical aptitude test which I designed, in consultation with colleagues in the Music Department at Fortismere School. The reason for this is that previous musical aptitude tests only included listening excerpts from the history of music and questions related to pitch and form (including structure). I wished to test students on the elements of music with which they are familiar and which they have been previously taught at Primary school level. For this purpose the decision was made to create a new test which included questions based on pitch, melody, texture and rhythm, and involved various listening activities.


In September 2005, Lorraine France Gilleece, a student at the University of Dublin under the supervision of Professor David Singleton, completed her DPhil entitled An Empirical Investigation of the Association between Musical Aptitude and Foreign Language Aptitude. Gilleece’s study focussed on the similarities and relationship between musical ability and linguistic ability, especially in relation to second language acquisition. Gilleece selected a sample of one hundred and forty nine subjects (students) who completed the Bentley Measure of Musical Aptitude Test (BMMAT) with a language aptitude test9. Results revealed that within both experiments a significant relationship existed between music and language aptitude, independent of general intelligence. Gilleece focussed on the difference between music and language as highlighted in the research of Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) by attempting to analyse music using transformational-generative grammar (TGG) with an approach more commonly associated with linguistics (Gilleece, 2005: 8).

Trehub (2003: 670) proposed that “It is reasonable to conclude, then, that the rudiments of music listening are gifts of nature rather than products of culture”. A connection co-exists between music and language which has historically aroused much interest and speculation (Gilleece, 2005: 13). Hauser and McDermott (2003: 667) conclude that “Some aspects of rhythm perception for music may be tapping domain general auditory mechanisms”.

Assimilations between language and music are closely related to culture (Gilleece, 2005: 15). Rousseau (1998: 321) highlights the difficulty in appreciating music, which is unfamiliar in a particular culture, and states that “the most beautiful songs to our taste will always only indifferently touch an ear that is not at all accustomed to them.” Some theorists agree with the view that musical meaning is widely determined by cultural convention (Blacking, 1973; Walker, 1996). The empirical study of Balkwill and Thompson (1999) reveals that emotions in music are communicated through an amalgamation of universal and cultural cues.

Karma (2007) noted that definitions of musical aptitude are criticized for low ecological validity, as are definitions of musical aptitude and consequently musical aptitude tests. According to Choksy (2003: 6), with reference to the criticism, tests often have very low validity or do not measure musical aptitude at all. Psychological tests are devised to measure psychological constructs such as intelligence, personality or musical aptitude. Gembris (1997) discussed three phases in the definition of musicality. The first phase was the phenomenological approach, the main trend in the 20th century, although traces of it are present in the 21st century. There is a close relationship between music and the aesthetics of its time; understanding of musical beauty is the most important ingredient in the concept of musicality (Karma, 2007: 80). The second phase of the psychometric approach was most dominant during the 20th century. The main interests were objective definitions of musicality and standardized tests to measure it. According to Gembris, the third phase refers to the musical meaning approach, this being the most important one today. According to Karma (2007: 80) success in music studies is obviously affected by several variables (Harrison, Asmus & Serpe, 1994). Every teacher knows the overall importance of motivation, with motor abilities and intelligence playing pivotal roles. It is also not uncommon to find that academic abilities explain success in music studies better than musical abilities (Harrison 1990; Hedden 1982; Klinedinst 1991). If this is true, even a comprehensive measure of musical aptitude will not reach complete correlation with success in music studies (Karma, 1982).

The basic aim of research is often to learn to understand phenomena. Karma (2007: 82) noted:

A satisfactory combination of homogeneity on the one hand and real-world validity on the other could be reached by defining musical aptitude as the ability to hear patterns in sets of sounds, that is, auditory structuring ability (Karma, 1973, 1976, 1984, 1985, 1994, see also Boyle, 1992: 249). The word “structuring” is used to stress the idea that the process is active, something the perceiver does. Instead of just receiving “the structure,” the listener uses his or her ability, personality and experience as well as cues given by the stimulus to hear one of the numerous structures a reasonably long sequence of sounds allows.

A study by Ki-Boem Jang, a professor in the Department of Music Education at Seoul National University of Education in Korea, referred to ‘musical abilities’ as a student’s ability with regard to five elements of music: rhythm, melody, dynamics, timbre and tempo. Jang used the Korean Music Aptitude Profile (KoMAP) which he developed. KoMAP is a Web-based aptitude test consisting of five musical elements: rhythm, melody, dynamics, timbre and tempo. The test is standardized and for children aged between 5 and 13. The study examined the effect of musical ability on both the behavioural and the academic development of school children. With reference to academic development, achievements in mathematics were examined, while in the behavioural field the school report was used which focused on the following variables: responsibility, assiduity, co-operation, creativity, social abilities and cheerfulness (Jang, 2000: 3). These six behavioural traits are of major educational concern in Korean public schools. Thus, at the end of each semester, the teachers are responsible for evaluating each student’s performance in these areas. The evaluation is on three levels; good (3.00), moderate (2.00) and poor (1.00).

Jang’s study was conducted over a period of 15 months and included 118 subjects of the Sangwol elementary school (from grade 5 and 6) in Seoul. His findings were that a positive relationship existed between musical ability and the scores in mathematics. Students with a higher ability in music scored a higher result in mathematics. Overall the groups with higher level of music ability showed better behavioural traits. In relation to ability there were positive behavioural traits including co-operation, creativity and cheerfulness. Similar abilities in tempo showed a positive relationship toward assiduity, responsibility and creativity. Abilities in timbre showed a positive relationship towards assiduity, co-operation, creativity and social behaviour. Only melody had no positive correlation with behavioural traits, although it did show a positive relationship towards high scores in mathematics (Jang, 2000: 5). This case study was most relevant to the issues I wanted to investigate in my own research.


The purpose of this research project was to evaluate what students score respectively for four elements of music through a musical aptitude test designed by the author in consultation with colleagues in the Music Department at Fortismere School. Students were tested on the elements of music with which they were familiar and which they have been previously taught at Primary school level.


On a daily basis teachers are faced with and challenged by students who have ability and others showing no ability at all to complete musical questions based on elements of music and the rudiments of music theory. The author wanted to understand whether there was a close relationship between musical ability and musical aptitude. The information gleaned should provide an understanding of how to cater for students’ individual needs and abilities and to make the necessary differentiation for them.


To what degree can the results of a newly designed test, focussing on the music elements pitch, melody, texture and rhythm, and conducted within the school where I teach in North London, add insights in the field of musical aptitude research?

The following sub-questions were posed:

What factors can be seen to influence these test results and how?

To what extent can students be identified as musically gifted and talented?


This mini-dissertation was based on two research instruments: listening questionnaires (music aural tests) and observations of subjects (students) while demonstrating their musical abilities.

Mouton (2002: 150) states that studies involving the subjects of research (research participants) use mainly qualitative methods in order to gain an insight into life-worlds of research participants.

This study was largely empirical in nature; I relied on information provided through the questionnaires and observations to explore and answer the research questions. However, the evaluation included research methods that were qualitative as described by Mouton (2001: 196).

The test design involved two phases: the first gathered data from a total sample of 160 students selected from 240 prospective applications for placements for the year 2012. (Historically it has been the tradition of the school to only accept 160 students for each musical aptitude test every academic year.) The second phase included performances of 32 students, randomly selected from the 160 students, practically demonstrating their musical abilities and skills. (The reason why 32 students were selected is because of the time allocation of 16 hours for the second stage of these tests. Each student needed approximately 30 minutes per session and most of the venues with the necessary recording equipment in the Music Department were occupied until 3pm every afternoon.)


The study report is organised in the following manner:

Chapter 1: Provides an orientation and background for the study. It includes the personal motivation and purpose for this study. This chapter also introduces the research question and sub-questions and explains the research design and methodology used.
Chapter 2: Includes the literature review and theoretical framework which will be discussed and outlines the two areas used for this mini-dissertation. The first section will be defining ‘intelligence and musical ability’ with a full discussion followed by the second section explaining the ‘auditory structuring theory’. This will also include defining the key concepts/terminologies used with short discussion of previous research conducted.
Chapter 3: Provides a detailed outline of the research design and methodology used with defining and conceptualising the research question. The sample design, various methods used for data collection and a discussion on the use of questionnaires and interviews.
Chapter 4: Presents the findings related to the research question and subquestions including the data capturing and analysis, the sample profiles, the presentation and discussion of results with the concluding interpretations.
Chapter 5: Concludes the report by summarizing the main findings and highlighting the key issues arising from this study with the necessary recommendations.



Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well - Aristotle The literature reviewed for this research project focussed on the theory of intelligence and the model of auditory structuring in relation to sensory capabilities and related culture dependent skills.

Various sources have been consulted to present an in-depth literature study: journal articles, books, newspapers, media reports, academic dissertations and information available on the Internet.


Aesthetics - A branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. Scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature.
- Assiduity - Persistent application or diligence; unflagging effort.
- Assimilations - A common phonological process by which the phonetics of a speech segment become more like that of another segment in a word.
- Auditory - Means of or relating to the process of hearing.
- Behavioural Traits - Relatively enduring characteristics that distinguish one individual from another.
- Discrimination Skills - The cognitive and sensory capacity or ability to see fine distinctions and perceive differences between objects, subjects, concepts and patterns, or possess exceptional development of the senses.
- Ecological Validity - A form of validity in a research study. For a research study to possess ecological validity, the methods, materials and setting of the study must approximate the real-life situation that is under investigation.
- Empirical - Denotes information gained by means of observation or experiments.
- Exploratory study - A type of research conducted for a problem that has not been clearly defined. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection method and selection of subjects.
- Genotype - The genetic makeup of a cell, an organism, or an individual. Usually with reference to a specific character under consideration.
- Harmony - The use of simultaneous pitches (tones, notes) or chords.
- Homogeneity - The state or quality of being homogeneous.
- Hypothesis - A proposed explanation for an observable phenomenon.
- Intelligence - A term describing one or more capacities of the mind.
- Intensity - A widely-used term, which can refer to strength, amplitude, level or magnitude.
- Interview - A conversation between two people (the interviewer and the
- interviewee) where questions are asked by the interviewer to obtain information.
- Maturation - Could refer to emotional development.
- Melody - A linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity with a combination of pitch and rhythm.
- Musical ability - The ability to 'make sense' of music, which develops in most people.
- Musical aptitude - The ability to intuitively learn or appreciate music.
- Musical memory - Refers to the ability to remember music-related information, such as melodic content and other progressions of tones or pitches.
- Observation - An activity of a living being (such as a human), consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments.
- Off-key - A term often used to denote musical content that is not at the expected frequency.
- Parameters - A quantity that serves to relate functions and variables using a common variable when such a relationship would be difficult to explicate with an equation.
- Pilot study - A small scale preliminary study conducted before the main research, in order to check the feasibility or to improve the design of the research.
- Pitch - Represents the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound. It is
- one of the major auditory attributes of musical tones along with duration, loudness, timbre, and sound source location.
- Pitch discrimination - The ability to differentiate tones.
- Qualitative research - A method of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines. Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern such behaviour.
- Questionnaire - A research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents.
- Sample - In statistics, a sample is a subset of a population.
- Sensory acuity - A phrase used in neurolinguistic programming. It deals with being aware of everything that is going on around you.
- Texture - The way the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic materials are combined in a composition.

Transformational-generative grammar - A generative grammar, especially of a natural language, that has been developed in a Chomskyan tradition.


This section is divided into two subsections. The first section covers the area of intelligence measurement and the second focusses on the auditory structuring theory process related to musical aptitude as a primary explainer.


When one refers to the word “intelligence” one evaluates the perceptions and interpretations of theories. Howard Gardner (1999a: 180-181) reflects on multiple intelligences and the impact on thinking and practice in education in the United States. He suggested:

I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place. Knowledge is not the same as morality, but we need to understand if we are to avoid past mistakes and move in productive directions.

I totally agreed with the above statements. The framework of Howard Gardner (1999b: 41-43) includes linguistic intelligence , logical-mathematical intelligence, musical intelligence, bodily-kinaesthetic intelligences, spatial Intelligence, interpersonal intelligence and finally intrapersonal intelligences. Gardner (1999b: 44) argued:

The theory is an account of human cognition in its fullness. The intelligences provided ‘a new definition of human nature, cognitively speaking’. Human beings are organisms who possess a basic set of intelligences.

People have a unique blend of intelligences. Howard Gardner argues that the big challenge facing the deployment of human resources ‘is how to best take advantage of the uniqueness conferred on us as a species exhibiting several intelligences’ (ibid.: 45).

Here follows a definition of the different levels of intelligence as described by Howard Gardner (1999b: 41-43).

Linguistic Intelligence - This intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are amongst those that Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.

Logical-mathematical Intelligence - This intelligence consists of the capacity to critically analyse problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and to investigate issues scientifically.

Musical Intelligence - This intelligence involves skill in performance, composition, and an appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms.

According to Gardner’s theory musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.

Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligences - These intelligences involve the potential of using one’s whole body or even parts of the body to solve problems. It focuses on using mental abilities to co-ordinate bodily movements. Gardner relates this level of intelligences to mental and physical activity.

Spatial Intelligence - This intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas. Interpersonal intelligence - This intelligence is more concerned with the understanding of intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows individuals to work effectively with others. This is relevant to educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counsellors. Intrapersonal intelligence - This intelligence involves the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivation.

Reynolds & Hyun (2004: 18) have researched and examined teachers’ understanding of musical aptitude. They examine how teachers select, suspend, check, regroup and transform their understanding when measuring the overall musical aptitude tests of their students with a focus on how to obtain standardized musical aptitude test scores from the participants. The study involved ten classroom teachers from South Korea and the USA who elaborated on their experiences with a final individual interview.

Boyle (1992: 247) suggested:

Those teachers differ in their understanding of music constructs such as talent, ability, musicality, and aptitude is not surprising. Researchers and teachers would do well to achieve consensus about music constructs, their measurement, and the use of results, because testing offers objective bases for instructional, curriculum, and program changes that take into account students’ individual differences.

Reynolds & Hyun (2004: 18) confirm that objective measurement of innate music potential is relevant to promoting optimal music learning for children in the developmental stages of musical aptitude, agreeing with Gordon’s definition of musical aptitude focussing on the potential to achieve overall in music (Gordon 2003: 372). I agree with Reynolds & Hyun (2004: 19) that most researchers (Auh 1992; Brown 1928; Cain 1960; Christy 1956; Culver 1965; Doxey & Wright 1990; Drake 1949; Forsythe 1984 and Gaston 1957) concur that there is a direct relationship between a teacher’s judgement and the test scores of a student’s ability or aptitude due to the evidence of their (the students’) test’s validity. Researchers (Boyle 1992; Boyle & Radocy 1987; Gaw 1995; Gordon 1967b; Young 1976) have confirmed that teachers are influenced by non-musical factors such as students’ temperaments, attitudes, personalities or interests, or their evaluations of students’ music achievement when making decisions about musical aptitude, even though researchers have suggested various guidelines to be followed. I disagree, as my colleagues and I find ourselves predisposed by musical factors when assessing our own students.

Evaluating the research of Buttall one can conclude through investigating the biographies of great composers that in many cases the musical precocity co- existed with their abilities in mathematics, or in languages. Philip Buttall (2007: 3) argues that there is a relationship between musical ability and intellectual ability. Wing (1948: 78) confirmed with his theory that a good agreement exists between low intelligences and students’ low scores in his tests of musical ability whereas a high IQ was always accompanied by a high score for their musical aptitude. Edmunds (1960: 40) also discovered that low intelligence and low musical ability appear to be closely related. He confirms the theory of such students with an IQ of 90 where intelligence no longer plays a significant part and verifies when a student is musical or unmusical. With reference to great composers it is believed that Bach’s IQ ranged between 125 and 140, Beethoven’s IQ ranged between 135 and 140 and Mozart’s between 150 and 155. However, as a group the musicians possessed amongst the lowest IQs of most eminent men studied10. White (1931: 75) furthermore argues that these composers were amongst the least versatile. It can also be argued that some aspects of musical ability are related to general intelligence. Further research developments have shown that this theory, too, is by no means consistent; Burt (1990: 33) found correlations between intelligence and pitch discrimination. The assimilation between musical ability and ability in mathematics and foreign languages would not have been significantly influenced by intelligence. Buttall’s research confirms that students with a musical background have an advantage overall when it comes to learning a foreign language. There is a connection between mathematical aptitude and musical abilities as Frank Howes (1958: 20) confirms and discusses:

The analogy between mathematics and music has been recognised from antiquity, and though all attempts to press the analogy, or even to define it, soon break down, it is still recognised by musicians and mathematicians and the rest of us who are neither as a way of thinking in relationships.

The research of Buttall concludes that the evidence so far suggests that musical ability on a larger scale could be more specific with a fairly well established connection between it and general intelligence in the case of younger and less intelligent students (Buttall, 2007: 4). This correlates in terms of some common ability, thanks to the powers of attending, concentrating or following instructions. The musical ability of students depends more on specific musical factors than it does on their intelligence. Positive correlations are found between measures of musical ability and other cognitive aptitudes. The study of musical cognition has long fascinated researchers (Gaab & Schlaug, 2003; Gaser & Schlaug, 2003; Zatorre et al, 1998, 2003). One of the aims and findings of the research of Norton, Winner, Cronin, Overy, Lee & Schlaug (2005: 124) was to determine whether children who choose to participate in music training performed at a higher level than those who did not seek training on any cognitive outcome previously found to be enhanced by, or associated with, music training.

2.3.2 Auditory Structuring Theory

The empirical research results in the model associated with Karma (1982) highlight the following as illustrated in the diagram (see figure 1 on page 17). Gestalts as outlined in figure one below can be defined as a German word for form or shape. The term is also used in English to refer to a concept of wholeness.

There are cognitive sub-processes in auditory structuring (Karma, 1985) but these are all structure-related and this fulfils the demand for construct homogeneity (Karma, 2007: 83).

The sensory capacities (as well as motivation, motor abilities, academic ability,personality, etc.) explain skills but are not parts of musical aptitude. Auditory structuring and sensory capacities are transformed into culture-dependent skills by environment. The culture-dependent skills are not parts of musical aptitude, but they are made possible or are partly explained by it. Either the skills are directly structure-related (tonality, rhythm, melody, etc. are structures) or they can be understood as consequences of comprehending structures. Music is very difficult or impossible to memorise if not structured when heard. The meaning of music is much in its structure; comprehending this structure is thus a necessary condition for the perception of meaning (Karma, 2007: 84).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 - Model of auditory structuring in relation to sensory capacities and related culture-dependent skills (Karma, 2007: 84)

In 2009, Riia Milovanov, a student at the University of Turku in Finland under the supervision of Dr Mari Tervaniemi, Professor Emerita Marita Gustafsson and Professor Risto Hiltunen, completed a doctoral dissertation entitled The Connectivity of Musical Aptitude and Foreign Language Learning Skills: Neural and Behavioural Evidence. Milovanov’s study aimed to focus on the common features between music and language and the interactions between speech and music. The broader aim of Milovanov’s research was to focus on musical aptitude versus expertise with musicians versus non-musicians (both anatomical and functional findings) (Milovanov, 2009:7-10).

I agree with Milovanov and other researchers (Trainor 2005; Trehub & Hannon 2006; Hanon & Trainor 2007) that most individuals acquire a basic musical competence through everyday exposure to music during their development. The term musicality can be vague and also measuring musical aptitude can be problematic. Musical aptitude tests have a history of over 85 years of refinement and development and most measure discrimination skills. The first test that was released was “The Seashore Measures of Musical Talents” in 1919. The Advanced Measures of Music Audiation Test (AMMA; Gordon, 1989), the Bentley Test (BT; 1966), the Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia (MBEA; Peretz et al, 2003), the Karma musical aptitude test (KMAT; 1993) and the Distorted Tunes Test (DTT; Drayna et al, 2001) all have their own specific criteria and ways of defining musical aptitude.

The test developed by Bentley examines pitch discrimination ability, tonal memory, chord analysis and rhythmic memory (Milovanov, 2009: 8). The Seashore test considers musicality to be an entity emerging from relatively independent sub-skills organised according to the different sound parameters and cognitive demands (for example pitch-discrimination accuracy/temporal accuracy versus memory for pitch/rhythm). Finally Karma (1993) developed a test that considers musicality to be more a general ability to structure sounds in order cognitively (Milovanov, 2009: 8-9).

Milovanov (2009: 7) further states:

Terminological uncertainty can be sometimes confusing or even misleading in the field musicality research. Terms, such as musical capacity, musical talent, musical aptitude and musical ability are often discussed and used as synonymously with the term musicality, which they actually are not. Boyle (1992) takes the position that musical capacity is the result of genotype and maturation. Musical talent, on the other hand, is recognised by the high level of musical performance. The achievements of musical ability are the results of capacity, surroundings and musical education. It is justified to say that there is no exact and unequivocal definition of the term musicality and there are as many definitions for the term as there are researchers.

Milovanov (2009: 14) concludes that:

Musical aptitude and music skills have often been connected to other cognitive skills, such as linguistic skills, cognitive development, motor abilities, social skills, and the ability to express oneself. Several correlative studies have shown that, on average, participants with musical aptitude perform better in many fields.


Musical aptitude tests have a history of over 85 years of refinement and development and most measure discrimination skills. Evaluating the history of musical aptitude tests one can conclude the following timelines, showing progression over the years:

- 1919 - Seashore developed “The Seashore Measures of Musical Talents”.
- 1966 - Bentley created “The Bentley Test”.
- 1989 - Edwin Gordon produced “The Advanced Measures of Music Audiation Test”.
- 1993 - Kai Karma made “The Karma Musical Aptitude test”.
- 2000 - Ki-Boem Jang invented “The Korean Music Aptitude Profile”.
- 2001 - Drayna, et al (2001) created “The Distorted Tunes Test”.
- 2003 - Peretz, et al (2003) produced “The Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia”.


1 This makes reference to the school principal, headmaster or headmistress.

2 Carl E. Seashore, Seashore Measures of Musical Talent (New York: The Psychological Corporation, 1919).

3 Jere T. Humphreys, “Precursors of Musical Aptitude Testing: From the Greeks through the Work of Francis Galton,” Journal of Research in Music Education 41 (Winter 1993): p 315-27.

4 Ibid, 319. See also Richard Herrnstein, I.Q. in the Meritocracy (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973) p 63.

5 Ibid, 319-20.

6 J.McKeen Cattell and Livingston Farrand, “Physical and Mental Measurements of the Students of Columbia University, “Psychological Review 3 (1986): p 636.

7 Edwin Gordon, Musical Aptitude Profile (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965). The “Musical Sensitivity” portion of this test clearly represents a move away from sensory measurement.

8 Various aptitude tests, including those of musical aptitude, predict achievement in school music. See Jere T. Humphreys, William V. May, and David J. Nelson, “Research on Music Ensembles, in Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning, ed. Richard Colwell (New York: Schirmer Books, 1995), p 651-53.

9 Reason for not mentioning him before was because he conducted a study with reference to musical aptitude test and language aptitude.

10 In the research conducted reference was only made to males and not females.

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Musical aptitude testing in a North London school
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Masters in Music Education with Distinction Mario Maxwell Müller (Author), 2011, Musical aptitude testing in a North London school, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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