Two experiments plus a pilot investigated the role of melodic structure on short-term memory for musical notation by musicians and nonmusicians. In the pilot experiment, visually similar melodies that had been rated as either "good" or "bad" were presented briefly, followed by a 15-sec retention interval and then recall. Musicians remembered good melodies better than they remembered bad ones: nonmusicians did not distinguish between them. In the second experiment, good, bad, and random melodies were briefly presented, followed by immediate recall. The advantage of musicians over nonmusicians decreased as the melody type progressed from good to bad to random. In the third experiment, musicians and nonmusicians divided the stimulus melodies into groups. For each melody, the consistency of grouping was correlated with memory performance in the first two experiments. Evidence was found for use of musical groupings by musicians and for use of a simple visual strategy by nonmusicians. The nature of these musical groupings and how they may be learned are considered. The relation of this work to other studies of comprehension of symbolic diagrams is also discussed.
The American Journal of Psychology
Link to Published Version
Halpern, Andrea. "Musical Expertise and Melodic Structure in Memory for Musical Notation." The American Journal of Psychology (1982) : 31-50.