by V.J. Manzo, PhD (2012)                       Segments of these videos have been muted in copyright compliance

Research Overview
Determining chords and chord progressions by ear is part of musicianship, yet this is a skill in which many musicians are deficient. Players of monophonic instruments (like trumpet, voice, and sax) may be more deficient than performers of polyphonic instruments (like piano and guitar) due to their lack of experience playing chords. In the past, institutions have attempted to get students to understand harmonic motion and tonal contexts of chords by having them use a piano as an aid, yet, for those who lack the same proficiency on a piano as they do on their primary instrument, more effort is spent on the physical act of performing back the harmony than in actually listening to the harmony, its motion, and the context of each chord in the progression in an attempt to understand it.
This study focused on the use of technology in an effort to separate the cognitive functions of analyzing chords and chord progressions from the physical actions involved in performing them by allowing individuals to use a software-based musical instrument to play diatonic chords. The software instrument E006 was designed to make playing back chords in a diatonic key much easier than performing with a traditional acoustic instrument; a participant need only press the number keys 1 - 7 on their computer keyboard to play the chord functions 1 - 7 in a selected key.

Over the course of six weeks, participants in the experimental group were asked to listen to popular music and, using the software as an aid, perform alone and with the audio accompaniment. Additional activities asked participants to determine the chords and the progressions in selected music with and without the aid of the software. Participants in the control group participated in the same activities, but used a traditional acoustic instrument as an aid instead of the software instrument.

Research Documents
- Dissertation - Dissertation Manuscript (mirror) | Presentation Slides
- Surveys - Qualifying Survey | Pre-test Survey | Post-test Survey (Experimental Group) | Post-test Survey (Control Group)
    Note: response fields for name, email and user feedback have been removed from these demo surveys
- Control Group Activities - activities site used by the control group (requires Quicktime - recommended browser Firefox)
- Experimental Group Activities - activities as they appeared embedded within the E006 software (included in software download below)
- Software - download the software (E006) used in the experimental group activities
       - How to add activities & audio to the software
Additional Resources
- Polyphonic instrument background as bias in determining harmony aurally - pre-Dissertation research study by V.J. Manzo
- More Research & Technology Projects - additional research and technology projects by V.J. Manzo
- Max/MSP/Jitter for Music - book describing how to design software similar to the apps used in this study (Manzo 2011 / Oxford University Press)
- Cliché Progressions - database of popular music songs that use common chord progressions (Manzo 2005) []