A comparison of the perception of tempo between musicians and non-musicians
Prado, Kathryn L.
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The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a difference in the ability of musicians and non-musicians of various ages to differentiate between steady beat and melodic rhythm. The two independent variables under investigation were tempo (slow = 92 and fast = 108) and ornamentation (plain and ornamented). Each example (plain/ornamented and fast/slow) was paired with itself and each of the other samples to form 16 test items. The experiment was designed with eight groups (four ages x musician/non-musician) in single observations (post-test only). Subjects for this study (N = 326) were 3rd (n = 94), 5th (n = 87), 7th (n = 66), and 9th (n = 79) grade students in suburban upper-middle-class public schools. Results of this study indicated that musicians outscored non-musicians within each age group. Musicians scored higher with each subsequent grade level tested. Non-musicians' average score did not follow the same increase by grade level. In conclusion, results of this study do seem to indicate that the ability to differentiate between steady beat and melodic rhythm is an acquired skill that can be improved upon with age and experience.