Singing in instrumental music education: research and implications

Citation metadata

Date: Fall-Winter 2003
Publisher: MENC - The National Association for Music Education
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,705 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

Educators and theorists have advocated the use of singing, often referred to as "vocalization," as an instructional technique in instrumental music classrooms (Gordon, 1988; Schleuter, 1997). These scholars contend that vocalization activities afford students unique means of representing aural and notational stimuli and hence may aid in the comprehension and performance of instrumental music. Schleuter states that "lessons and rehearsals should include frequent singing activities" (p. 46), while Gordon suggests that "a student must be able to sing" to correctly internalize melodic information (p. 25).

The first content standard of the National Standards for Music Education includes the statement that students studying music in kindergarten through grade 12 should have experiences "singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music" (MENC, 1994, p. 1). Authors of strategy texts related to the National Standards suggest that instrumentalists should be able to "sing and play a selection with appropriate phrasing, dynamics, and musical expression" (Straub, Bergonzi, & Witt, 1996, p. 9) and "sing a hymn tune with correct breath support and phrasing" (Kvet & Tweed, 1996, p. 5).

Despite these recommendations favoring the use of vocalization, Kretchmer (1998) found that teachers of beginning instrumentalists in California and Washington were often failing to use singing as an instructional technique. She identified four instrumental method books that included vocalization activities but noted that the books were not commonly used in observed classroom settings. Burton (1986) reported similar results among high school and college instrumental music directors. He distributed questionnaires to 200 high school and 73 college directors in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and received usable responses from 121 high schools and 44 colleges. After analyzing responses, Burton found that, although directors considered singing to be an effective rehearsal strategy, employment of such activity was rare.

The purpose of this article is to review research literature on the use of vocalization as an instructional tool in instrumental music education. The review features studies of tonal-verbal vocalization methods, including movable Do solfege syllables, scale degree numbers, and pitch letter names, as well as other methods, including neutral syllables, lyrics, and humming. These vocalization methods have been employed with beginning through college instrumentalists to determine the effects of singing on performance achievement, aural-visual discrimination, aural recognition, and error detection. Purposes, procedures, and results of these studies are described, and conclusions are formed regarding implications for current and future instrumental music educators.

Tonal-Verbal Vocalization Methods

According to Morehead (1991), tonality is "the system of relationships between pitches and chords, usually serving to establish a central note or harmony which is the focal point of a work or section of a work" (p. 549). Krumhansl (1983) supports this premise by suggesting that a hierarchical relationship exists among musical tones. She states, "pitches are described as varying in terms of their stability within the tonal hierarchy, with tones more closely tied to the tonic playing more stable and central roles than those less related to the tonic" (p. 37). Vocalization methods directly related to tonality include movable Do...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A118542895