Rock Band
& Electronic Music Making


Principal Investigator: Dr. Kylie Peppler // Co-PI: Dr. Kenneth Hay

Project lead: Michael Downton

Prior studies in music have attempted to address the failures of the music notational system to reflect what is heard in the musical experience and to attract musicians trained to learn music “by ear” (i.e., without learning to read or write music notation). Rhythmic action games, like the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises, allow the player to fully immerse him or herself in the gaming experience. As a result, players report following and reading ahead like a musician reading a musical score as well as listening to music differently; they pick apart different things in the song (i.e., bass, melody, rhythms, structure) and the gaming experience becomes a musical one.

Our research into this phenomena—spanning youth, rock musicians, professional gamers with no musical experience, music educators, and professional classical musicians—sought to understand more deeply how rhythmic action games and the tools and representations of these types of games further mediate preparation and participation in more formal music context. Our findings suggest that youth with more experience in playing Rock Band do better in more formal music practices than those without it.

Impromptu & Music Composition


Creative Paths to Peace

PI: Kylie Peppler // Co-PIs: Drs. Adena Portowitz & Jeanne Bamberger

Project lead: Michael Downton

Creative Paths to Peace investigated how children develop musical and cross-cultural understanding while engaged in composing music and other arts-makerelated activities.  Youth from the United States and Israel worked together to compose, construct, and remix their own tunes using Impromptu, a computer software interface that allows users to manipulate virtual blocks—tuneblocks—to create their own compositions.  Early findings suggest that youth discussions about their shared music experiences changes the social, cultural, and historic context of what it means to compose music. Youth have been found to be developing and building their intuitive musical understanding as well as appreciate cultural differences across musical styles.

Representative Publications