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Abstract

When investigations of instrument preferences include actual music instrument timbres and labels, research reveals that gender stereotyping of instruments influences a respondent's choice. The primary purpose of this study was to examine timbre preferences in relation to the student's gender using synthesized sounds rather than natural instrument timbres. A secondary purpose was to examine students' subsequent choices of instruments in relation to their timbre preference and gender. Gordon's Instrument Timbre Preference Test (1984) was administered to 632 third-grade students. Boys (n = 312) most frequently preferred the oboe, English horn, and bassoon timbre (35.6%), followed by tuba (27.2%) and flute (24.8%): least preferred timbres were trumpet and trombone/baritone. Girls (n = 320) most frequently preferred the flute timbre (39.6%), followed by double reeds (24.8%) and saxophone (24.8%): least preferred were low brass timbres. In fourth grade, the instrument choices of 232 of these students were examined. Results indicate that even though boys' timbre preferences did not conform to typical instrument gender associations, their instrument choices do: 83% of all boys (n = 117) chose to play the saxophone, trumpet, or trombone, yet only 28% demonstrated a preference for these instruments. Nearly 80% of all girls (n = 115) chose to play the flute or clarinet, yet only 40% preferred these timbres. These results support the hypothesis that students ultimately tend to choose instruments according to gender-stereotypes rather than demonstrated timbre preference.

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