Music, School of


Date of this Version

Spring 2015


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Music, Major: Music, Under the Supervision of Professor Stanley V. Kleppinger. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Chris Keelan


This thesis explores the possible effects, pedagogical applications, and benefits of pairing color with certain musical elements in undergraduate aural skills courses. The aural skills exercises primarily used in this paper are melodic and harmonic dictations but the overall theory could be applied to any exercise used in aural skills courses. An extensive review of the history and uses of color in music, as well as the invention of the color organ and the resulting artistic movements that placed color and music into the same medium are presented along with their potential uses in aural skills. Our perceptions of and emotional reactions to color and music are intriguingly similar and by pairing those similarities along with a “natural synesthesia” we all have and use to explain and understand abstract topics such as color and music, it seems only logical to continue to explore any potential educational benefits this pairing may have. With the aforementioned topics and the recent studies that have looked at the use of color in both music education and the effects visual and auditory stimuli have on one another, I make the case for why color should be used when attempting to aid students in undergraduate aural skills. I conducted several studies to determine the possible role color could have in aural skills courses and I present those results as well as showing the possible ways in which color could be paired with certain drills. By creating a multi-sensory, enlivened learning experience in aural skills courses, struggling students and those who are more visual and kinesthetic learners may benefit. New software was developed to create a new, modern-era color organ which was used in my study that looked at the differences in the memory retention of visual and audio stimuli. The tests were analyzed through ANOVA which looked for any potential benefit color had with isolated solfège and chord qualities drills. Although the findings of the ANOVA analysis must be viewed with caution because one of the assumptions on which the ANOVA analysis is based was not met, results did show one group as approaching significance. The student feedback on the theory and study is discussed with several interesting and important trends seen in the testing, including the preference of visual stimuli. Finally, the future research needed and the pedagogical applications that could be utilized when pairing color to music in entry level undergraduate aural skills is examined.

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