The effect of rhythmic notation on college undergraduate music majors' choice of tempo



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If one goal of music education is music literacy, the ability to read and write music, then understanding a student's perception of written music would seem to be paramount to teaching. This knowledge forms the foundation for sequencing the music educator's curriculum with music literacy as the goal.

The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of rhythmic notation on individuals' choice of tempo.

Undergraduate music majors (N = 90) at a large southwestern university served as subjects. Three rhythmic patterns were arranged in 6 counterbalanced groups to account for possible order effects, and subjects were randomly assigned to each order.

The initial question, "Does notation influence choice of tempo?" can be answered in the affirmative. Simply, subjects' choice of tempo varied due to notation and presentation order, but the tempi chosen were based on fractions and multiples of the quarter-note as the beat note.

The results of the study seem to indicate that despite the order-effect on the initial and subsequent choice of tempi, the overwhelming majority of subjects in all groups varied tempi according to notation and chose tempi that reflected the quarter-note as the beat note value.