Optimizing Song Retention through Spacing
Katz, Joel J
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The distributed practice or spacing effect refers to the improvement in memory retention for materials learned in a series of distributed sessions over learning massed in a single session. It has been studied in the domains of verbal learning, motor skill learning and complex co-ordination. The effect of distributed learning on the retention of words and music in song, however, has yet to be determined. This dissertation examines the effect of different spacing intervals on song retention among a population of university undergraduates. A group of second year undergraduate music students (n = 70) supplemented by a group of university students from the general population (n = 17) learned an unaccompanied two-verse song based on traditional materials to a criterion of 95% correct memory for sung words. Subsequent training sessions were spaced at intervals of ten minutes, two days or one week, and tested at a retention interval of three weeks. Performances were evaluated for word errors, additions and omissions; pitch accuracy and omissions; and hesitation as measured by mean note length, length of breaths and length of hesitations. After the third session all participants were tested for musical perception skills using tests drawn from the shorter PROMS battery. Results were analyzed with Bayesian ANOVA and additional post hoc tests. The data revealed very strong evidence for a spacing effect for song between the massed (ten-minute gap) and spaced conditions at a retention interval of three weeks, and evidence of no difference between the two spaced conditions, with large effect sizes for syllable memory (d = 0.873; d = 0.914). These findings suggest that the ongoing cues offered from surface features in the song are strong enough to enable verbatim recall across spaced conditions, as long as the spacing interval reaches a critical threshold.