The Relationship Between Musicians' Internal Pulse and Rhythmic Sight-Reading
Farley, Alison Lauren Pogemiller
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Playing music at first sight involves coordination of auditory, visual, spatial and kinesthetic systems to produce an accurate and musical performance (Hayward, 2009). Accurately performing pitch and rhythm in tandem has been observed to be difficult in a sight-reading task. Musicians' rhythm reading ability has been found to be the best predictor of sight-reading performance (Elliott, 1982). It may be conjectured that stable and consistent internal pulse is necessary to perform accurate rhythms. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between an individual's timekeeping ability and performance on rhythmic sight-reading tasks. Fifty-three wind, string or percussion instrumentalists participated in one rhythmic sight-reading and three timekeeping evaluations in two separate sessions. The sight-reading evaluation included rhythmic excerpts that increased in difficulty as participants performed the exercises out loud with a neutral spoken syllable. The timekeeping evaluations involved silently reading rhythms and keeping steady beat with and without visual notation while tapping at specified points. Absolute deviations from the target performance were analyzed in relation to performance on the sight-reading evaluation. Participants were also asked to report any specific strategies used in performing the rhythm reading or timekeeping tasks. There was no significant correlation between the sight-reading evaluation and tests of internal timekeeping. A significant correlation was found between tasks involving rhythm reading and tasks focusing on timekeeping. Analysis of strategies indicated no difference in accuracy between participants who employed strategies and those who did not. Supplementary analyses were completed to determine possible reasons for the dichotomy of rhythm reading and timekeeping. Results suggested that participants had difficulty maintaining tempo rather than misreading rhythms or placing taps at incorrect points. These data suggest that timekeeping and rhythm reading are two separate tasks. This contradicts the initial assumption that participants who perform well on rhythmic sight-reading examples would have strong time keeping ability.
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