Tonal schemata are shaped by culture-specific music exposure. The acquisition process of tonal schemata has been delineated in Western mono-musical children, but cross-cultural variations have not been explored. We examined how Japanese children acquire tonal schemata in a bi-musical culture characterized by the simultaneous, and unbalanced, appearances of Western (dominant) music along with traditional Japanese (non-dominant) music. Progress of this acquisition was indexed by gauging children’s sensitivities to musical scale membership (differentiating scale-tones from non-scale-tones) and differences in tonal stability among scale tones (differentiating the tonic from another scale tone). Children (7-, 9-, 11-, 13-, and 14-year-olds) and adults judged how well two types of target tones (scale tone vs. non-scale tone; tonic vs. non-tonic) fit a preceding Western or traditional Japanese tonal context. Results showed that even 7-year-olds showed sensitivity to Western scale membership while sensitivity to Japanese scale membership did not appear until age nine. Also, sensitivity to the tonic emerged at age 13 for both types of melodies. These results suggest that even though they are exposed to both types of music simultaneously from birth, Japanese children begin by acquiring the tonal schema of the dominant Western music and this age of acquisition is not delayed relative to Western mono-musical peers.

You do not currently have access to this content.