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Responding to your Musicality Test comments ...

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Michael Orwell Michael Orwell | 16:13 UK Time, Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Photo of an early language laboratory


Thanks to everyone for all your comments about the Musicality Test. It might be worth emphasising a couple of things to help put the test into context.  Here at BBC Lab UK, one of our prime aims is to create new science by engaging the BBC audience, while our participants discover something about themselves. We have to be guided by what are the most scientifically rigorous and interesting areas to investigate, within a certain sphere. Secondly, wherever possible, our scientific sponsors encourage (and we fully endorse) using previously published instruments and measures. The reason for this is that we can vouch for the scientific validity of feedback that the participant receives but also the scientific researchers can compare the results of the BBC study with countless other studies, making the data far more powerful.

Some of you have made reference to the 'Group the music' part of the test. This is a difficult exercise, and the only part of the experiment where some prior knowledge of some particular areas of music was required. It was based on a well known psychology paper by Carol Krumhansl called 'Plink' about the musical notions which can be expressed in very short pieces of audio. We copied the genres she used in her experiments, as jazz, hiphop, rock and pop are well known in every continent and on a global scale, represent the highest numbers of unit sales, making them the most likely to be recognised, worldwide.

In the rest of 'How musical are you?', there was no further investigation into genres and the survey asked questions which could apply to any listening taste. In the other listening tests, we emulated highly cited instruments such as the 'Beat Alignment Test' and while we copied lots of the similar musical types as used by Iverson and Patel, we managed to have an incredibly eclectic selection of stimuli material, which took in blues rock, tea-dance music, orchestral and gypsy jazz. Our Radio 3 colleagues remarked that the spacebar tapping and melody memory parts of the test were very reminiscent of traditional musical theory exams, so I feel we achieved a good balance of the innovative with the tried and tested.

For those of you who were put off by the genre-sorting exercise; had you persevered, you may have found some challenging tests and thought-provoking questions about your relationship with music. I'd urge you to have another go; if there's a part you don't like or can't do, the skip button will take you on to the next section, your feedback still should be accurate and the data will still be useful to the scientists.

For those of you who completed the test but seemed unimpressed by the test or the feedback; well, thank you for taking part and submitting data towards this fascinating research goal.

This particular test aimed to examine people's attitudes and engagement to the music they listen to (in 7 different ways), then compare that to 4 different ways of measuring objective musicality. If the test didn't measure the things you were hoping for then we'll take that on board and look how we can improve future versions of the test.

Michael Orwell is a producer for BBC Lab UK, a BBC website where you can participate in groundbreaking scientific experiments.


  • Comment number 1.

    It was nothing like I was expecting. Very unmusical in fact. The genre thing was a big mistake and the clips way too short and similar in sound. Not surprised it put a lot of people off. I did complete the whole thing but did not understand the aims of it at the ned and thought the results were nit very close to my personal opinion of my musical understanding and appreciation. Must do better.

  • Comment number 2.

    just completed your "musicality test" in which I completely and utterly failed. Oddly I am a devoted composer, music historian, teacher and active musician. My enthusiasm for music is rated nill, explained thus: "You probably spend less time than most people just listening to music or having music on in the background while you do other things". I, however (still a far greater music enthusiast than any of my students or peers), claim that people who abuse music in such ways have no spiritual connection to it. Also the sorting out of sound fragments by "genres" implies familiarity with those "genres", I for one couldn't care less for any of such "music", I don't even recognise this as music! Same applies to tapping along with some muzak. Hence I suggest you should call your test a pop music consumer marketing study.
    Best regards

  • Comment number 3.

    I enjoyed the quiz and found it interesting and pleasantly challenging. However I was judged to be unsocial in the context of joining in music making activities. There seemed to be no way to indicate that I have very little free time. I used to sing with a church choir every week but now that my spouse has another three churches to look after that is no longer possible. I am frequently asked to join two other local choirs but they meet on the same evening as the youth group! I know this shows I am prioritising other things above music but it doesn't mean music is unimportant to me. I'm sure that I will come back to joining in with music making on a more regular basis at some time in the future.

  • Comment number 4.

    What's so wacky is that Mac users couldn't get past a certain point....! All this means that you'd have more people if you system worked correctly.

  • Comment number 5.

    I also found the first test with the clips impossible but that was because I thought it was my broadband's fault and that the clips were not meant to be so short so my own fault! However, once past that I thought it was a lot of fun to do and enjoyed the interactivity with the space bar tapping etc. Most people who love music and make it part of their lives know about their relationship to it, but like the neuro science work on how music affects the brain, large scale exercises like this will hopefully add a little to our common wider understanding of people and music which can't be a bad thing.

  • Comment number 6.

    Interestingly, those in my family who had heard about the test (by listening to Radio 4 or reading)scored much higher than I did, because they knew you have to be extreme rather than reasonable with your answers. I wonder how scientific this makes the test.


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