Elevators and escalators: the study of an innovative approach to teaching fingerboard geography to heterogeneous string classes

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Wasson, George Dwayne

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This study examined the effects of a unique teaching approach on middle school string students’ ability to navigate the string fingerboard. Instruction involved the use of the terms elevators and escalators to teach chromatic finger patterns on one string and between all strings. The participants (N=57) in the study were beginning string students enrolled in three middle school classes in Austin, Texas. Students were divided into three instructional groups: video elevator/escalator instruction, worksheet elevator/escalator instruction, and traditional method book instruction. Elevators were defined as finger patterns that occurred between all strings. Escalators were defined as finger patterns that involve consecutive notes on one string or one string and the adjacent string. Groups were compared using a general music note reading test and a performance test. No significant differences were found between the groups in the ability to name the notes on their instruments. On the performance test, there was no significant difference between the groups in performance ability. No significant differences were found in the number of errors that each group made during the performance of the pretest or posttest. A significant difference was found between the worksheet group and method book group in performance of escalators. An ancillary aspect of this study was the comparison of two advanced high school seniors who began instruction at the same time and had been taught using two different instructional methods. One participant had been taught using the elevator/escalator approach, and the other participant had been taught using a traditional method book approach. Although both participants achieved approximately the same performance level, the students used slightly different approaches when learning a new selection of music.