Promoting collaborative playful experimentation through group playing by ear in higher education

Varvarigou, M. (2017) Promoting collaborative playful experimentation through group playing by ear in higher education. Research Studies in Music Education, 39 (2). pp. 161-176. ISSN 1321-103X.

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A group of 46, first-year, primarily classically trained, undergraduate students took part in an exploratory research study on Group Ear Playing (GEP) in higher education. The students attended the “Playing by Ear” component of the Practical Musicianship module, which adopts the materials and strategies on playing by ear in the instrumental lesson developed by Lucy Green. The students were divided into eight groups, then provided with audio material and were instructed to copy the music by ear as a group for 40 minutes each week for five weeks.

Data were collected through individual reflective logs and end-of-programme feedback forms. The analysis of the data focused on thematic discovery from the transcripts and was achieved through open, axial and selective coding.

The findings of the study suggest, first, that the students engaged in playful experimentation in a collaborative manner, where the more confident musicians supported their less confident colleagues.

Second, a variety of strategies for exploring improvising was reported by the students, which included adding ornaments based on scales, changing the rhythms for variety, missing notes out and incorporating other melodic riffs.

Third, although the focus of the activity was on copying music by ear from recordings, all musicians appeared motivated to improvise together rather than as soloists, in order to “change things slightly”, “make the piece sound more interesting” and fit with others’ parts.

Finally, the students reported that GEP not only helped them to feel more confident about playing by ear but also to be more confident about improvising and to become more confident musicians.

This study proposes that playing by ear from recordings in a group successfully facilitates collaborative playful experimentation in higher education and supports the development of learners’ listening, creativity and improvisation skills.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Collaborative learning; creativity; group ear playing; improvisation strategies; playful experimentation
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study > MT0018 Music in colleges and universities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Music and Performing Arts
Depositing User: Dr Maria Varvarigou
Date Deposited: 04 May 2018 15:34
Last Modified: 04 May 2018 15:37

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00