The effects of vocal improvisation on Kodály-based sight singing technique in high school choral music students
Nonnemaker, Brandon Michael
MetadataShow full item record
Music literacy is a key component in a fully enriching music education. Nearly all pedagogical approaches emphasize music reading and writing. However, sight singing, a specialized component of music literacy, is a skill that remains a challenge for many young singers. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of vocal improvisation on Kodály-based sight singing instruction for high school choral music students. Based on results of the AMMA (Advanced Measures of Music Audiation, Gordon, 1989), participants (n = 52) were assigned to an experimental group (n = 27) or control group (n = 25). Both groups received sight singing instruction using the Kodály method. The instructional strategies associated with this method included (a) tonic solfa, (b) Curwen hand signs, and (c) Chevé rhythm syllables. The experimental group, however, participated in researcher-compiled vocal improvisation activities for 10-15 minutes of the 30-minute lessons. Improvisation activities included (a) learning selected repertoire by rote, (b) sequentially developing a vocabulary of tonal syllables and rhythmic syllables, (c) improvising with voice and body percussion tonic, dominant, subdominant, and submediant tonal patterns within the context of major and minor tonalities, and (d) improvising with voice and body percussion macrobeat, microbeat, division, elongation, and rest rhythm patterns within the context of duple meter. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to determine if there were statistically significant differences between sight-singing performance pre-assessment and post-assessment, as well as pre-experiment and post-experiment AMMA administration. The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to determine significant difference between control and experimental groups. Results suggest that regular sight singing instruction using the Kodály method benefited sight singing achievement (pitch accuracy, rhythmic precision, intonation, tempo). Incorporating vocal improvisation helps students build rhythm and tonal vocabulary and aurally explore the functions of harmonic structure. These practices seem to benefit overall music audiation, particularly rhythmic audiation. Survey findings suggest students’ perception of their sight singing ability and of their ability to “hear music internally” (audiate) are positively impacted by vocal improvisation practices.