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Musical Key

based on 10 ratings
Author: Crystal Beran

Grade Level: 5th - 10th; Type: Psychology

Objective:

Determine whether people are predisposed to like songs in a certain key.

The purpose of this experiment is to find out whether a person’s taste in music is dictated by the key that the song is written in.

Research Questions:

  • Why do people have different tastes in music?
  • What predisposes a person to liking a certain song?
  • What qualities do people look for in a new song?
  • How many times does a person need to hear a new song before they can decide whether they like it or not?

The Music Genome Project has revolutionized the way people discover new songs that they like. It uses computer programming to collects information on the song’s tempo, key and other characteristics, such as the use of instruments and the structure of the song. This information is then fed into the database, and analyzed. Songs with similar qualities are then recommended to the listener. This technology takes for granted that a person who likes a certain song likes that song because of the musical qualities of that song. There are many different reasons why people gravitate towards certain music, and the key, tempo, and instrumental use may be some of them. 

Materials:

  • Access to the internet
  • Access to a number of different songs
  • 6-10 volunteers to help

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Have your volunteers meet with you.
  2. Make sure each volunteer puts their name on their paper.
  3. Have your volunteers write down their top three favorite songs, in order of how much they like them.
  4. Take the song lists and research each song on the internet to find out what key it is in.
  5. For each volunteer, locate a song in the same genre (such as pop, blues, rock, etc.) that is in the same key as their number one song.
  6. For each volunteer, locate a song in the same genre that is in a different key as their number one song.
  7. For each volunteer, locate a song in a different genre that is in the same key as their number one song.
  8. For each volunteer, locate a song in a different genre that is in a different key as their number one song.
  9. Create a playlist for each of your volunteers, made up of the songs you found in steps 5-9.
  10. Have your volunteers listen to the playlist and place the songs in their order of preference. It is okay if they don’t like any of the songs, they can still order them from most to least favorite.
  11. Analyze your results to find out whether there was a strong preference for key.
  12. (optional) As time allows, you can repeat this experiment with the other songs on their favorite’s list.

Terms/Concepts: Music Genome Project; Pandora; Key; Tempo; Instruments; Musical qualities; Preference

References:

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