Cognitive Science Models and Analogies to Support Music Education that Incorporates Multiple Tonal Systems

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Carol Smith


In this synthesis, I work on theoretically investigating the musical mind from a cognitive point of view for the purpose of clarifying my understanding of tonal sensitivity and how this ability can be developed and processed in children. Educated under the Chinese and European traditions in Taiwan’s music education, my experience brought me a unique perspective by being immersed in both European and Chinese tonal systems. I am particularly interested in whether exposure to multi-tonal systems will enhance some aspects of tonal sensitivity. I review previous literature and do cross-domain model building between music and mathematics to conceptualize a person’s tonal sensitivity, and how a person’s mind generates it. I also consider previous literature and cross-domain models between music and language to develop the hypothesis that children learning about more than one tonal system in music will gain benefits similar to those of children who learn two languages early in life. In order to develop this hypothesis, I review the literature in bilingualism and work with a small group of music teachers in Taiwan in order to make it applicable in Taiwan’s music education. This research allows me to propose a plan for further research so I may eventually promote the formal and organized multi-tonal structure learning (MTSL) in Taiwan, a country with this multi-tonal music tradition.


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