Examining Tonal Stability in Children's Production of Conventional Songs
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The present study highlighted tonality as a key variable in the development of singing proficiency and musical ability in children between the ages of 3 and 7 years in the production of conventional songs such as Brother John. The central purpose of the study was to quantitatively examine whether a child's ability to sustain the resting tone, or the tonic in a conventional song becomes more proficient with age. The study analyzed data obtained from a singing test battery developed by Dr. Annabel J. Cohen (2008; 2009a; 2009b) for data collection and used Stadler Elmer's Microanalysis Pitch Analysis Procedure (2000) for analysis of data from the Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing (AIRS) Research Collaborative. It was predicted that the ability to sustain the tonic in conventional song will increase with age and that younger participants will exhibit more overall deviation from the tonal center than older participants. Pitch values were obtained from each participant's rendition of Brother John and the average deviation from the tonic was obtained for each participant. The average deviation from the tonic was compared across age and analyzed using a one-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and a Mann Whitney-U Test. No significant differences were found between the age groups and their average deviation from the tonic. However, general observations of data obtained from the current study suggest the importance of maintaining phrase contour on sustaining the tonic and the dominant tone (the fifth degree of the diatonic scale). A future investigation is encouraged to test whether maintaining phrase contour is connected to or precedes the acquisition of tonality in children's singing. The results of this study suggested continuing improvements on the design and administration o(the AIRS test as the AIRS Project develops the battery beyond the pilot stages to increase its versatility in multiple contexts of edueation, well-being, and development.