The Ability to Identify Emotional Content of Solo Improvisations Performed Vocally and on Three Different Instruments

Gene Ann Behrens, Samuel B. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Scopus citations


Fifty-eight undergraduate students with low and high musicianship skills rated the degree to which 24 solo improvisations expressed the emotions of sad, angry, and scared. Eight musicians-two violinists, two trumpet players, two vocalists, and two timpanists-performed three short improvisations, each of which expressed one of the three targeted emotions. Accuracy scores were computed to assess the degree to which subjects rated improvi- sations as expressing the emotion intended by the musician in contrast to the other two emotions. The results indicated that the subjects were relatively accurate in assessing the emotional content of the improvisations. In addition, subjects with a higher level of musicianship skills demonstrated greater accuracy for only the trumpet improvisations. Finally, the subjects' accuracy depended not only on the instrument played, but the emotion expressed. For example, subjects were more accurate when identifying scared improvisations performed on a violin. The applied and theoretical implications of these results were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-33
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)

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