The effects of instrumental tutoring and experimental music on collaborative creativity in 9-10 year old children

  • Emma Hawksley

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study explores musical creativity in 9 to 11-year-old children, looking at two factors in particular: the choice of stimuli (derived either from Western classical or 20th century experimental music) and whether or not the children concerned have instrumental tuition.

In relation to the first issue: research has shown that experimental music is virtually non-existent in the school music curriculum in the UK (Landy, 1992; Spencer, 2016). Yet experimental music has historically been viewed as providing an effective means of widening the relevance of participation in classroom music and promoting creativity (Dennis, 1967; Self, 1970; Paynter, 1970; Schafer, 1975). However, the pioneering ideas that were advanced in the 60s and 70s, although seen as progressive at the time, failed to gain a foothold in the mainstream of school music education. This research aims to establish whether, as its proponents suggested, there is in fact a link between the use of experimental music in the classroom and musical creativity.

In relation to the second issue: instrumental teaching in the UK largely bases its pedagogy on traditional teaching practices that, arguably, lack creativity (Gaunt, 2008). At the same time, the impact of instrumental teaching on musical creativity is an unexplored area of research – an area that this study seeks to address. 69 research participants of 9 -11 years old were divided into groups according to whether or not they took instrumental lessons, and they were asked to compose in response to Western classical and experimental musical stimuli. Compositional responses using a variety of percussion instruments were videoed to capture primary data for analysis. Participants’ creative products in the form of compositions were analysed using an adaptation of the Sounds of Intent framework of musical development (Ockelford, 2013). The new ‘composing’ framework with a particular focus on composition, used an applied musicological methodological approach to extract and analyse specific factors pertaining to four collaborative compositional processes, which were: levels of musical coherence, the use of musical stimuli, the structure and content of the compositions and levels of collaboration.

The results showed a statistically significant difference between the outputs of non-tutored and tutored participants, with non-tutored participants achieving higher scores than tutored across all four areas of compositional process.

Results showed no statistically significant difference between the compositional outputs of children to experimental or traditional musical stimuli, however tutored participants use of stimulus material and levels of collaboration were significantly affected by the type of musical stimuli used, whereas non-tutored participants were not. Results showed that tutored participants scored significantly higher in response to experimental musical stimuli than they did to the classical stimulus. This suggests an interaction effect between levels of being tutored or non-tutored and different types of musical stimuli.

Examination of the musical materials produced by the children suggested that the differences found between tutored and non-tutored scores could be the result of non-tutored participants’ higher levels of communication and musical imitation during the group compositional process, and that differences found in tutored participants use of experimental and Western classical stimuli could be a result of aural perceptions to unfamiliar sounds. These results supports the argument that instrumental learning is not a prerequisite of musical creativity in children, and that experimental music may promote musical creativity.
Date of Award10 Feb 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAdam Ockelford (Director of Studies), Arielle Bonneville-Roussy (Co-Supervisor) & Antonia Zachariou (Co-Supervisor)


  • Composition
  • creativity
  • musicology
  • education
  • zygonic theory

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