Effects of Melodic Complexity and Rhythm on Working Memory as Measured by Digit Recall Performance

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The purpose of this study was to isolate the effects of melodic complexity with and without rhythm on working memory as measured by sequential monosyllabic digit recall performance. The recall of information paired with 6 different melodies was tested on 60 university students. Melodies were built upon 3, 5, and 7 notes, and each level contained a rhythmic sequence and a nonrhythmic sequence. Results indicated that there was no significant difference between recall of music majors and nonmusic majors, although music majors tended to outperform nonmusic majors. There was a significant difference in the within-subject variable of rhythm: The mean recall of information paired with a rhythmic component was higher than recall of information not paired with a rhythmic component. Congruent with existing research, participants recalled information in serial positions of primacy and recency most accurately. Suggestions for future research and implications for clinical practice are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalMusic & Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • melody
  • memory
  • music
  • music therapy
  • recall
  • rhythm


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