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Good-looking musicians really do sound better

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by pklima, Mar 15, 2008.

  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Sorry if this has been posted already. I just came across these research studies from 1997-98 according to which better-looking violinists sound better even when you can't see them, as do female singers.

    Do the vets who've played with tons of different people think this is true, especially in contexts where looks aren't very important to success (religious, classical etc.)?

    Here are the abstracts of the studies.

    The purpose of this study was to determine whether certain nonmusical attributes of violinists would affect judges' ratings of their performances. Twelve violinists (6 females and 6 males) were videotaped. They and their performances were rated by 72 graduate students and university music faculty members. Members of the visual group rated violinists by viewing a videotape with the sound turned off. They rated them on appropriateness of dress, stage behavior, and physical attractiveness. Members of the audiovisual and audio groups rated musical performance on six test items and did not rate nonmusical attributes. Results from the audiovisual and audio groups revealed significant interactions on half the test items for treatment by dress and treatment by stage behavior: violinists who were high on stage behavior and on dress benefitted significantly from videotape evaluation, but violinists who were low on these attributes were not evaluated differently on audiotape versus videotape. For attractiveness, however, there was no significant interaction: more attractive violinists received higher musical performance ratings than less attractive violinists did under both the audiovisual and audio conditions. In light of earlier research, this suggests that more-attractive performers may progress to a higher level in their acquisition of performance skills than less-attractive performers.

    Effects of Performer Attractiveness, Stage Behavior, and Dress on Violin Performance Evaluation
    Joel Wapnick, Jolan Kovacs Mazza, Alice-Ann Darrow
    Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 510-521

    The purpose of this study was to determine whether physical attractiveness of singers would affect judges' ratings of their vocal performances. Fourteen singers (6 female, 8 male) were videotaped. They and their performances were rated by 82 musicians, who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The visual group rated singers on physical attractiveness only; they viewed the videotape with the sound turned off. The audiovisual group subjects rated musical performance from the videotape. Subjects in the audio group rated musical performance from an audiotape dubbed from the videotape. On the basis of visual group ratings, male and female singers were each divided into more-attractive and less-attractive groups. Four-way mixed-design analyses of variance (treatments by sex of rater by sex of singer by singer attractiveness) subsequently were calculated for each of the seven rating categories on the rating forms. Results revealed in every category a significant treatment by sex of singer by attractiveness interaction. For male singers only, there was no difference in performance ratings between more-attractive and less-attractive singers when rated by audiotape; but audiovisual ratings significantly favored the more attractive singers over the less attractive singers. Results for female singers were confounded by the audio-alone ratings, which favored the more-attractive singers over the less-attractive singers. Other results showed that, for both male and female singers, male raters were more severe than were female raters; that audiovisual ratings were higher than were audio-alone ratings; and that ratings of undergraduate majors versus graduate students and faculty members combined were not differently affected by singers' attractiveness.

    Effects of Physical Attractiveness on Evaluation of Vocal Performance
    Joel Wapnick, Alice Ann Darrow, Jolan Kovacs, Lucinda Dalrymple
    Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 470-479
  2. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    I've seen some kick-ass fugly bass players though...
  3. That's a pretty mean study. Imagine being asked to participate in it because they thought you were an ugly violinist.
  4. I was just thinking that.

    "Ok, for the ugo category we will need..... you.. you and..... you."

  5. ROON


    Aug 5, 2006
    Sydney, Australia
    Whether you think someone is attractive or ugly is totally subjective, so how can you base a study on it?

    Sounds stupid to me.
  6. ROON


    Aug 5, 2006
    Sydney, Australia
    Take Victor Wooten for example! :ninja:
  7. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2003
    Oakland, CA
    While they tout interesting results, my personal feeling is that looks are entirely subjective as a listener. However, as we all know the average Joe Public is quite fixated upon looks and is easily swayed by it. God knows why Celine Dion still gets work. :smug:

    Similar to how a certain bass can make us play differently, perhaps a person who is confident and sure of themselves will reflect in their playing. However that doesn't answer the question of all the not-so-attractive folks that have high self-esteem and a stratospherically-high level of musical proficiency.

    In my mind, the audio-only test would yield the true results. This is where the listeners are key; their experience judging audio-only and their ability to be non-biased, etc. But their correlation to the video-only data is odd. I don't see how testers could rate more attractive players higher than others except for their own subjective opinions of what is 'good'. So it's still a subjective study, really.

    I have met amazing musicians of all walks of life, skin color and body geometry. To say that "good-looking" ones are better is akin to saying that Britney Spears is the ideal woman. It's opinion and boy, do people love their opinions!
  8. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
  9. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    That's the interesting part - that the good-looking people tended to come out on top in the audio-only test (except for male singers). The audio, video and audiovisual ratings were done by separate groups of people.

    I'm not a good musician (or good-looking) myself, but I've played with somewhere over 200 different people so far in my life - the bulk of those being college students in volunteer church choirs. The best-looking women (a few I still remember as being exceptionally gorgeous even though I've played with them one time a decade ago) were all definitely above average or better in terms of ability.
  10. I'm just throwing this out there, but it might be because of confidence.
  11. I know for sure people are stupefait by my sound
  12. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    That's probably one factor - better-looking people are more confident so they're likely to get less nervous when auditioning or performing, and may also practice more.

    Cross-assortative mating between musically talented fathers and good-looking mothers is also a possibility, as is being sick less during childhood.

    It wouldn't be hard to investigate these things with more research.
  13. Shawn Lane.
  14. Fnord Explorer

    Fnord Explorer

    Feb 3, 2008
    It may seem strange, but attractive people tend to come from better genetic stock and people with good genes tend to be more successful. Successful people can afford better education and so the cycle goes.
  15. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    This is a very interesting thought which hadn't occurred to me - but I think you may be right.

    I'm not sure I get this one. Are attractive people less likely to get sick (maybe as a result of "better" genes)? And therefore they would be able to work more on music, or...?
  16. Well, being sick a lot during your childhood possibly hinders development is what I think he means.
  17. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Exactly. People who got sick less will be more attractive - we naturally find indicators of good health attractive. One measure of healthy development is fluctuating asymmetry. Reasearch has also shown that people who are more symmetrical are more intelligent and also better dancers.

    Here are some abstracts related to that:


    And buried in this huge PDF, search for "Dance": http://www.isironline.org/resources/pdf/program2006.pdf

    Of course we should all like the cross-assortative mating explanation - it gives us the hope that we can land a better-looking partner thanks to our musical skills!
  18. What an idiotic "study". I'm impressed at its stupidity.:bassist:
  19. Define 'attractive people', 'better genetic stock' and 'good genes'?
    We've seen this kind of reasoning some 70 years ago in Europe....
  20. kevmc28


    Feb 28, 2008
    Somerset, NJ, USA
    It depends on what bass clothes you wear.

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