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Free Content Software-assisted harmonic function discrimination

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Determining the function of chords within a diatonic key can be difficult, especially for those listeners who do not regularly play instruments capable of producing chords. Software-based instruments, however, can allow an individual to play chords by pressing a single button as opposed to plucking several strings or pressing several keys. This quantitative study addressed two research questions: to what extent is a software-based musical instrument able to assist individuals in recognizing chord-contexts to the extent that traditional chordal instruments do? In what ways does a software-based musical instrument compare to a traditional chordal instrument as a viable aid for assisting individuals in chord-determination activities? In this Pre-/Post-test designed study, two groups of undergraduate music majors using either a chordal instrument or a software-instrument completed activities that emphasized understanding chord progressions. Results were compared within the groups and between groups. Both groups improved to some extent and there was no significant difference between the improvements within both groups overall, suggesting that the software instrument was as viable a mechanism for supporting the musical task as the traditional instrument. Additionally, the data suggest that the ability to recognize two of the five progressions, the vi IV I V and the I V vi IV, improved significantly in the experimental group but not in the control group.

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Keywords: adaptive instruments; chord functions; chord progressions; cognition; harmony; informal learning; music technology; music theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Publication date: May 1, 2014

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  • The Journal of Music, Technology and Education (JMTE) explores the issues concerning the use of technology in music education. It examines pedagogy at all levels and across genres such as composition, musicology, performance and music production. It is the only journal specifically dedicated to the educational aspects of music technology and the technological aspects of music. Peer-reviewed, with an international editorial board, JMTE aims to draw its contributions from a broad community of educators, researchers and practitioners who are working closely with new technologies in the fields of music education and music technology education.
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