Is Major Minor? The Relationship Between Music Major Status and a Measure of Musical Sophistication

Steven J. Morrison*, Aaron D. Himes, Mark Montemayor, D. Gregory Springer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although music education researchers often utilize music major status as a single-item proxy variable for musician status—and with this designation presume musical competencies or abilities of research participants—there is a lack of research demonstrating links between status as a music major and those assumed competencies. In this study, we compared undergraduate music majors and non-music majors (N = 237) at the group and individual levels using Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication Index (Gold-MSI), a well-established measure of multiple ways in which people report engaging with music. Comparing group means, we found that music majors scored higher than non-music majors on each Gold-MSI subscale. Moderate distribution overlap suggested that these results should be considered cautiously. A logistic regression analysis further suggested the complexity of using music major status as a single-item measure, given that music major status was only strongly predicted by the musical training subscale. Measures such as Gold-MSI may provide a viable and psychometrically sound way of determining musical sophistication that will allow more granular and refined analyses of studies relating to musical competencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Research in Music Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Gold-MSI
  • measurement
  • music major
  • musical sophistication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Music


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