Investigating Blocked vs Interleaved Practice for Musical Style Recognition in Musicians and Non-Musicians
Co-Authors:Elizabeth Kinghorn, Jessica A. Grahn, Jonathan De Souza, Christine Carter
Virtual or In-person:In-person
Aural skills, including the ability to distinguish between different musical styles, are of critical importance in musical training. Recent research in music cognition has demonstrated that interleaved practice, in which practice is frequently alternated between tasks or categories, may enhance learning (Wong et al., 2020). We present results from six studies examining the effects of blocked and interleaved practice on musical style recognition in musicians and non-musicians. Participants completed a learning phase including one part in which excerpts from composers were presented in a blocked order, and another part in which excerpts from different composers were presented in an interleaved order. Participants’ ability to recognize these musical styles was subsequently tested on a set of novel excerpts both immediately and 24 hours after the learning phase. We conducted six variations of the experiment, which differed in testing context (online vs in-person), musical styles (20th century composers, classical/romantic/20th century composers, and jazz pianist improvisers) and testing protocols (separate vs combined tests). Three of the six experiments showed a significant or trending effect of practice order, wherein participants more accurately identified composers they had learned in the interleaved condition compared to the blocked condition. To synthesize the results, we conducted a meta-analysis on the samples from the six studies (n = 14) to estimate an overall effect of practice order and examine moderating factors such as expertise. In summary, these findings have significant implications for music education considering that aural skills are typically taught and studied in a blocked manner.