CEC Theses and Dissertations


The Effects of Using the Practical Ear Training Tool(PET) Paired with Mnemonic Imagery on Enhancing Traditional Ear Training Methods for Undergraduate Music Students

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Ronald McFarland

Committee Member

James Wintle


Expert music educators believe interval, scale and chord ear training increases efficiency of music learning and performance. Traditional undergraduate ear training methods include acquiring theory from text, singing numbered pitches as notes are played on an instrument, and performing ear drills. The author believes traditional methods are effective. However, certain problems need consideration. Learning textual pitch information separately from hearing pitches can hinder mental associations. Individual practice in singing numbered pitches can be difficult unless number location is known on an instrument. Also, ear drills are often attempted without knowing how to memorize pitch information. The author developed the Web-based Practical Ear Training tool (PET) to address these problems. PET provides an efficient method of associating text with pitch. The user sings numbered pitch structures while hearing-seeing the structures played by PET. Moreover, reproducing PET use aurally-visually in the imagination can act as a mnemonic device for retaining pitch structures. The author refers to this process as mnemonic imagery. The purpose of this interdisciplinary dissertation was to discover if PET paired with mnemonic imagery would enhance traditional ear training methods with undergraduate music freshmen. Interdisciplinary aspects included music education, computer-human interaction, computer science-technology and cognitive-behavioral learning theory. Twenty-three participants were randomly assigned to a control group using ear drills and an experimental group using PET paired with mnemonic imagery. A standardized music achievement test, with subtests measuring aural-visual identification of melodic and harmonic structures, was employed in a true experiment. The melodic section was used as a pretest-posttest. The harmonic section was used as a separate pretest-posttest. Based upon experience, research questions, study limitations, and a literature review - the author believed enhancement to traditional ear training would be shown by equal levels of posttest achievement between groups, or a higher level of posttest achievement by the experimental group. Two-tailed hypotheses were established for melodic and harmonic posttests. An analysis of results showed no significant difference between groups on either posttest. Therefore, with limited use, PET paired with mnemonic imagery was shown to be equivalent to ear drills. The implications of these findings and recommendations for future studies were discussed.

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