A study of listening behavior and the effectiveness of aural modeling with undergraduate level singers
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The efficacy of aural modeling in music education at the primary and secondary levels is well documented, and anecdotal evidence among university studio voice teachers abounds. However, this topic has not previously been explored with undergraduate level singers using acoustic analysis of the singing voice. This investigation utilized a survey on listening behaviors to examine undergraduate voice students’ use of recorded aural models. In addition, an empirical study measured the effect of repeated exposure to recorded aural models on participants’ vocal production. Research was conducted at Southwestern University, a private liberal arts institution in Georgetown, Texas. Study participants were divided into two groups. The control group performed a newly-composed melody after a recorded aural model of the melody was played a single time. The experimental group completed 10-minute listening assignments once a day for a five-day period before performing the same melody. Data between the non-listening and listening groups was compared. Using a second newly composed melody, the control group then completed a five-day listening assignment and performed the second melody. Pre- and post-listening data from this group of subjects was compared. Listening assignments were adapted from a speech pathology remediation technique known as auditory bombardment. They involved listening to multiple repetitions of the recorded aural model without attempting to practice singing the melody. The study measured four acoustic parameters: musical accuracy (pitch and rhythm), vowel/consonant articulation, use of vibrato, and ratio of power between overtones above and below 2 kHz. The listening behavior survey revealed that most students use recorded aural models in their practice time. However, results indicated that students would benefit from professional quality aural models and specific information about appropriate time parameters for listening activities. Results of the empirical study revealed a statistically significant 20-30% improvement in vocal production in both the experimental listening group and the control group post-listening. These data demonstrate that focused periods of listening to an aural model are effective in improving vocal production, even within a short period of time. The results of this study support the inclusion of aural modeling in the applied voice studio.