The effect of violin, keyboard, and singing instruction on the spatial ability and music aptitude of young children

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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of violin, keyboard, and singing instruction on spatial ability and music aptitude of children ages four to seven years. Specifically, this research attempted to determine: (a) whether formal music learning in the violin, keyboard and singing conditions enhanced children's spatial ability and music aptitude, and (b) whether children's spatial ability and music aptitude differed among these learning conditions. In addition, this study sought to examine the relationships among children's age, their development of spatial ability, and music aptitude in the given music instruction.

A pretest-posttest two by three factorial design was employed in the study. Children (N=88) ages four to seven years were randomly assigned to one of three instructional groups (violin, keyboard, or singing) and received 45 minutes of music instruction four times a week for 16 days. Spatial reasoning skills were measured using two subtests, the Object Assembly and the Block Design of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-III, while music aptitude was measured using the Primary Measures of Music Audiation or the Intermediate Measures of Music Audiation.

An ANOVA with repeated measures was used to analyze children's mean scores on spatial abilities and music aptitude. Using an alpha level of .05, results indicated that the violin and keyboard groups significantly improved on spatial-temporal reasoning over four weeks of instruction. The spatial-temporal reasoning scores of 4-5 year olds significantly increased from the pretest to posttest while the scores of 6-7 year olds remained statistically constant. Regarding music aptitude, the tonal aptitude scores of 4-5 year olds singing group significantly increased over four weeks of music instruction. No statistically significant differences were found on the spatial recognition and rhythm aptitude scores among the three instructional groups for either age level.  

The study concluded that (a) violin and keyboard instruction might influence the spatial-temporal reasoning of young children, (b) younger children's spatial-temporal reasoning ability might be more enhanced by music instruction than those of older children, and (c) singing instruction appears to help young children develop their tonal aptitude. Pedagogical implications for music education were discussed.