Relationships between the rhythm sight-reading strategies and sensory learning styles of Florida all-state musicians: a verbal protocol analysis
Hughes, Jr., Ronald F.
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Rhythm is one of the most fundamental and important elements of musical performance, but many scholars maintain that rhythm sight-reading remains one of the biggest challenges for musicians in high school ensembles. The purpose of this study was to determine the rhythm sight-reading strategies of accomplished high school instrumentalists and whether the strategies they used were aligned with their respective visual, aural, kinesthetic, or read/write learning styles as determined by their VARK Questionnaire responses. The five questions that guided this inquiry were: (1) What learning strategies do Florida All-State musicians demonstrate while previewing challenging notated rhythm rhythms? (2) What learning strategies do Florida All-State musicians demonstrate while sight-reading challenging notated rhythms? (3) What sensory learning styles (visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic) do these demonstrated learning strategies represent? (4) Which sensory learning styles do these All-State musicians generally prefer while learning, according to their VARK Questionnaire results? (5) How do the learning strategies used successfully and unsuccessfully by these All-State musicians while sight-reading notated rhythms relate to their sensory learning style preferences? The 30 participants included 11th- and 12th-grade band musicians who had successfully auditioned into the Florida All-State Band or Orchestra multiple times. The verbal protocol analysis (VPA) technique was used to identify each student’s rhythm sight-reading strategies as they previewed and performed challenging rhythms on a keyboard. Data were coded and scored a minimum of two times. Each student musician’s strategies were then compared with his or her learning style preferences as determined by their responses to the VARK Questionnaire. The findings revealed that the participants used a wide variety of sight-reading strategies during both their preview time and while performing rhythms. Participants’ modality preferences, as determined by their responses to the VARK Questionnaire, were aural (83.3%), kinesthetic (73.3%), read/write (56.7%), and visual (53.3%). A comparison of the participants’ learning strategies to their preferred learning style preferences revealed that all 30 of the participants aurally or internally vocalized the rhythm patterns using “dut” or “1-e-&-a” syllables. Additionally, all but one of them utilized kinesthetic pulse strategies. The results of the study suggest that musicians may benefit from learning varied kinesthetic pulse and aural rhythm pattern strategies, as well as visual strategies, in order to select the ones that they like to use and best facilitate the execution of rhythms successfully. Additional findings indicate that high school musicians should be given adequate practice time so they can develop and apply their preferred strategies.
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