Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Private Music Instruction: An Investigation of the Effects of Pre-College Music Lessons on Undergraduate Ensemble Placement

Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Private Music Instruction: An Investigation of the Effects of Pre-College Music Lessons on Undergraduate Ensemble Placement

Article excerpt

Private music instruction has been consistently linked to music education in American public schools. In the early twentieth century, Scott (1920) reported that 57% of students in Boston public schools were taking private music lessons. Parents and school administrators alike encourage children to take private music lessons to supplement their regular music classes. Students are often encouraged or required by their band directors to take private lessons (Swanson, 1964). Swanson reported that school administrators believe private lessons can help prepare school ensembles musicians for successful community performances. While school ensembles can benefit from band students' enrollment in private lessons, private music instruction can also benefit individual students. The experience of taking private music lessons and receiving feedback from applied teachers can help students' individual music performance abilities (Duke, 2000).

There is evidence that students taking private music lessons score higher on music aptitude tests (Pembrook & Taylor, 1986). Years of piano study appear to be a significant factor in the development of aural skills in junior high school students (May & Elliot, 1980). Other studies have shown that students with private music lesson experience are more sensitive to tuning inaccuracies (Yarbrough, Morrision, & Karrick, 1997). The amount of time spent playing a musical instrument may be an additional factor in developing musical sensitivity. Students that participate in private music instruction gain more experience playing their instruments than those who do not.

In a study of incoming music majors at Florida State University, students experienced in ensemble participation and private music lesson instruction made fewer errors on a music test than students with less experience (Pembrook & Taylor, 1986). Incoming freshman were asked to complete a questionnaire indicating their years of pre-college music instruction. The students' musical abilities differed as a result of their musical background. Students with more experience in music history, theory, ensembles, and private study, performed significantly better on a melodic discrimination test than students with moderate or little experience (Pembrook & Taylor, 1986).

Private music lessons also show benefits that reach beyond purely musical concepts. Piro (2009) found a positive correlation between student's verbal sequencing skills and private music lesson enrollment. Music lessons may also correlate to small changes in children's IQ test scores (Schellenberg, 2004). Schellenberg suggests that private music lessons have transfer effects that can affect non-musical areas of cognition. These transfer effects, measured through the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children: Third Edition, may be created through involvement in music lessons that contain a focused attention on reading musical notation, mastery of fine-motor skills, and musical expressivity.

While some studies show the benefits of music lessons, other studies have shown that there is no significant relationship between musical abilities and private music instruction. Brand and Burnsed (1981) reported no relationship between pre-college private music instruction and undergraduate students' music error detection abilities. Nierman (1983) found that private music instruction had nothing more than a low to moderate relationship to music perception skills and verbal-descriptive development.

Regardless of the results of various research studies, students enroll in private music instruction for many different reasons. In a comprehensive study funded by the National Piano Foundation, Duke, Flowers, and Wolfe (1997) documented the perceptions of teachers, parents, and students regarding the benefits of private piano study. Most parents in the study held a positive view of private music instruction, indicating that piano lessons help develop students' personal discipline, concentration, confidence, responsibility, and self-esteem. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.