Gold-MSI Intro

The Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication Index (Gold-MSI)

The Gold-MSI is a new self-report inventory and test battery for individual differences in musical sophistication. It measures the ability to engage with music in a flexible, effective and nuanced way.  All materials can be used free of charge and are available for download. The self-report inventory has also been translated into German, Danish and French.

An online version of the Gold-MSI was implemented by BBC LabUK as the How Musical Are You? test and has been taken by more than 190,000 people in 2011 and 2012. Read the full results of this very large survey in the open access journal PLOS One: The Musicality of Non-Musicians: An Index for Measuring Musical sophistication in the General Population


The Gold-MSI was designed with the following features in mind:

  • Independent of musical preferences for specific styles (e.g. classical music vs pop music)
  • A valid and reliable measurement instrument and at the same time as short as possible without sacrificing its good psychometric properties.  
  • It is multi-faceted and distinguishes between different aspects of musical sophistication. The self-report inventory has sub-scales for the following facets:
  • Sensitive to differences among ‘non-musicians’
    • Active Musical Engagement, e.g. how much time and money resources spent on music
    • Self-reported Perceptual Abilities, e.g. accuracy of musical listening skills
    • Musical Training, e.g. amount of formal musical training received
    • Self-reported Singing Abilities, e.g. accuracy of one’s own singing
    • Sophisticated Emotional Engagement with Music, e.g. ability to talk about emotions that music expresses

The self-report inventory also allows the scoring of a General Musical Sophistication factor that incorporates aspects from all five sub-scales.

Listening tests

The battery of listening tests currently consists of following musical ability tests:

  • Melodic Memory: Listen to pairs of short melodies and indicate whether melodies in each pair are identical (despite being played in different keys) or not.
  • Beat Perception: Listen to music excerpts and indicate whether a simultaneous click track is on or off the beat of the music. This is an implementation of Iversen & Patel’s Beat Alignment Test (2008).
  • Sound Similarity Judgements: Listen to very short sound excerpts (800ms) and sort them into four distinct groups according to how similar they sound.
  • A new test of beat tapping abilities is currently being validated.

For results and details see the paper The Musicality of Non-Musicians (for Melodic Memory and Beat Perception tests) and the paper Perceptual dimensions of short audio clips and corresponding timbre features (for Sound Similarity test).

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Content last modified: 23 Oct 2014

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