Investigating musical identities

This research project concerned musical identities. In particular, we were interested in finding out how contemporary socio-cultural factors influence the development of musical identities in adults, and the impact this has on musical engagement. The study was conducted by Dr Amanda Krause (James Cook University) and Dr Melissa Forbes (University of Southern Queensland). If you have any questions about the study, please contact Dr Amanda Krause or Dr Melissa Forbes.

Principal Investigator: Dr Amanda Krause
College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University

Co-Investigator: Dr Melissa Forbes
School of Creative Arts, University of Southern Queensland

Summaries of the project findings are posted here on this project webpage, when available.

We have presented preliminary findings at academic conferences and have published three journal articles so far. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

[1] Krause, A. E., Forbes, M., & Lowe-Brown, X. (2022). Does reality television-style singing influence singing self-concept? Journal of Voice, advance online publication.

  • Abstract: Hypothesis - Due to upward social comparison, we hypothesized that exposure to reality television singing (a technically demanding style of contemporary commercial music singing) would negatively influence singing self-concept compared to hearing amateur singers or plain, unembellished singing by professionals. Study Design and Methods - A between-subjects, online experiment was used. A sample of 212 individuals (Mage = 33.14; 69.30% female) participated in the study. After completing a background section, participants were randomly allocated into one of the experimental conditions (hearing one of four versions of a well-known song: a control version with piano and no singing, amateur singing, professional plain singing, and professional singing in the style of reality television singing). Participants were then asked to judge the performance they heard and to respond to items concerning their singing self-concept (including singing ability). Results and Conclusions - A series of ANCOVAs was used to examine the impact of the experimental condition on the participants’ performance judgments and singing self-concept. The amateur singing was judged as the lowest quality. While there was no significant difference by experimental condition regarding possessing good singing ability, the experimental condition did affect people's singing aspirations and perceived ability to sing along with the performers. The pattern of results suggests that exposure to reality television-style singing may have negative impacts on people's singing self-concept via upward social comparison. Self-concept has been identified as an important predictor of musical engagement and participation and plays a role in motivating action. These results encourage music educators, singing voice pedagogues, and community musicians seeking to promote musical and singing participation to be aware of cultural influences on an individual's singing self-concept.

[2] Forbes, M., Krause, A. E., & Lowe-Brown, X. (2021). Descriptions and evaluations of “good singing” in the age of The Voice. Australian Voice, 22, 16-28.

  • Abstract: What constitutes “good singing” can be hotly contested amongst singing voice pedagogues, yet little is known about what the general public considers to be “good singing”. Within a program of research on musical identity and singing self-concept, this mixed-methods pilot study considered how members of the public (N = 52) described and evaluated stylistically different versions of a sung melody to test a hypothesis that reality TV singing may be deemed as “good singing”. Participants were exposed to three versions of “Happy Birthday”: 1) amateurs singing “as they would normally sing”; 2) professionals performing a “plain” version; 3) the same professionals singing an embellished version in the style of The Voice reality TV show. Results indicate that both professional versions were considered “better singing” than the amateur singing. While respondents focused on the technical deficiencies for amateurs, descriptions of the professionals concerned style. Stated exemplars of “good singing” were split between the two professional versions— based on sophistication and creativity (“professional: embellished”) or vocal quality (“professional: plain”). While respondents’ preferred version largely matched their chosen exemplar of “good singing”, participants were more likely to sing along with the “amateur” version. Implications for singing voice pedagogy and engagement in singing activities for wellbeing are considered.
  • You can access/download the full article at:

[3] Forbes, M., Goopy, J., & Krause, A. E. (2023). The experiential salience of music in identity for singing teachers. Musicae Scientiae, advance online publication. 

  • Abstract: Professional musicians with strong identities in music may also have a high degree of music in their identities. Accordingly, a rigid identification with work may be problematic for musicians, particularly when forces beyond their control change their work circumstances. In this study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 10 singing teachers, representing a subset of professional musicians, and used interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore the ways in which they enacted music in their identities. The framework of musical identities in action was used to interpret the findings, revealing the dynamic, embodied, and situated complexity of music in participants’ identities. Music had existential salience in the accounts of nine participants. Its salience resulted from the dynamic and situated presence of music across the lifespan, the literal embodiment of the singing voice, and the metaphorical embodiment of the presence of music in participants’ experiences. While a strong sense of music in people’s identities can promote lifelong engagement with music, if the emphasis on music is existential, the identity of a professional musician may be at risk when they are faced with an external threat to their livelihood. This is important knowledge for music educators and professional musicians’ career thinking.
  • You can access/download the full article at:

[4] Forbes, M., Krause, A. E., & Lowe-Brown, X. (2021, October 30). The impact of exposure to vocal performances on singing self-concept. Poster presented at International Symposium on Performance Science (ISPS 2021). MontrĂ©al, Canada [Virtual]. {pdf}

[5] Krause, A. E., & Forbes, M. (2021, July 29). Socio‐cultural influences on Australian adults’ musical identities. Poster presented at the 16th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC)/ 11th triennial conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM). Sheffield, UK [Virtual]. {YouTube recording}

[6] Krause, A. E., & Forbes, M. (2022, November X). Examining "good singing" in the age of The Voice. Paper presented at the Spheres of Singing 2022 conference. Virtual. {YouTube recording}

[7] Forbes, M., Krause, A. E., & Lowe-Brown, X. (2022, October 02). Examining "good singing" in the age of The Voice. Paper presented at the ANATS Conference 2022. Adelaide, SA, Australia [via Zoom].