Fifth-Grade Listeners' Music Style Preferences: A Ranking of Contemporary Popular Music Styles and Comparison to Leblanc, 1979

By Ginocchio, John F. | Contributions to Music Education, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Fifth-Grade Listeners' Music Style Preferences: A Ranking of Contemporary Popular Music Styles and Comparison to Leblanc, 1979


Ginocchio, John F., Contributions to Music Education


The purpose of this study was to examine participants' degree of preference for styles of popular, jazz, and classical music, comparing the results to Leblanc's (1979) findings. The participants, 156 fifth graders from a metropolitan area in the Midwest, listened to a recording of 19 musical examples and recorded their preference for each. The participants most preferred punk rock music followed by pop, rap, dance, heavy metal, hard rock, and country music. Traditional jazz and Romantic classical music were the least favored styles. Comparison with Leblanc (1979) suggested similarity in the ranking of styles, while also implying a decline in overall music preference since that study.

Many studies have investigated the preferences of participants for different styles of music. In each study that included popular music among the styles measured, popular music was the most preferred of the styles (Rogers, 1957; Leblanc, 1979; Leblanc, 1981; Shehan, 1981; and Hargreaves, Comber, & Colley, 1995). Moreover, studies have shown that older participants tend to prefer the music that was popular during their young adult years (Gibbons, 1977; Hargreaves & North, 1997). If popular music is most preferred by participants, and if popular music is defined as the music of a subject's young adulthood, then several questions may be posed. What are the current prevailing styles of popular music? How are current popular styles different from those of twenty, ten, or even five years ago? How might this impact teaching strategies and content in order to create teaching environments that accommodate the backgrounds and interests of today's music students? To this end, it is important that teachers know the musical preferences and interests of their students.

Although many studies indicate that popular music is the most preferred style, most treat popular/rock music as a single style of music rather than assessing the numerous sub-styles that exist in popular music. In 1979, Leblanc published a study that measured the preference of fifth-grade participants for a variety of musical styles including two popular music styles: rock and easy-listening pop. The results provided a foundation of style preference from which subsequent research could isolate specific variables and measure their effect on preference. In light of the rapidly changing musical landscape in contemporary popular culture, it seems prudent to revisit Leblanc's landmark results and replicate this research measuring preferences for current popular music styles.

Leblanc (1979) examined the preferences of 278 fifth-grade students from eleven classrooms in the St. Louis area. This study employed a listening tape consisting of one representative example of thirteen different styles of music. Specific selections were chosen by the researcher and then validated through comparison with style indications given by graduate music students. The tape also included three examples of ambient sound. Participants were asked to listen to each example and rate their preference for it on a scale of 1 to 7. The rank order of stylistic preferences as indicated by preference means were as follows: (a) easy-listening pop, (b) rock, (c) ragtime, (d) Dixieland, (e) band march, (f ) country western/bluegrass, (g) random generated electronic sounds, (h) electronic pop, (i) modern swing, (j) sports car, (k) avant-garde, (l) classical instrumental, (m) black gospel, (n) windshield wipers with rain, (o) sacred choral, and (p) folk. Further analysis revealed that the responses given for the six top ranked styles were not significantly different, while there was a significant difference in comparison to the responses for classical instrumental, black gospel, sacred choral, and folk selections.

Leblanc's findings represented an important step in understanding the preference relationships between a variety of generic styles as well as some styles within these genres. Because numerous styles are commonly associated with current popular culture, it is important to expand on Leblanc's study of popular sub-styles in order to develop an accurate sense of music preference among today's youth.

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