Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Music Education

Document Type



Playing by ear and the ability to play in tune are components of musicianship that rely heavily on the ability to successfully discriminate musical pitches. Connections between ear-playing and intonation performance have rarely been addressed. The purpose of this study was to investigate relationships between intonation performance and ear-playing skills of high school and college-aged wind instrumentalists. Research questions were: (1) What is the relationship between the ability to play by ear and intonation performance? (2) How does intonation ability differ when the participants sightread notation compared to performing music that was learned by ear? (3) Do differences appear in ear-playing ability based on selected musical experiences? Sixteen high school and 18 university wind musicians (N = 34) submitted a background questionnaire, completed a series of musical performance tasks designed to measure ear-playing ability and intonation accuracy. Analyses indicated a moderately direct correlation between ear-playing ability and intonation accuracy for the total sample and for the university group. However, no correlation was found in the high school group. No significant difference in intonation ability appeared when comparing a melody learned by ear and one performed using notation. Analyses also revealed that musicians who had been playing 3-4 years, 5-6 years, and 6 or more years were more successful than those musicians with less experience. Implications for music teaching and learning are provided.



Committee Chair

Isbell, Daniel