A content analysis of the use of music on "Barney & Friends": Implications for music education practice and research

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Ruth V. Brittin


Television, Music, Barney & Friends

Subject Categories

Education | Music


This descriptive study examined the music content of 88 episodes from the PBS television show Barney & Friends , which aired from September 1992 to September 1998, in an attempt to quantify musical examples and presentations that may be considered introductory music experiences for preschoolers. Using many of the procedures identified by Wolfe and Stambaugh (1993) in their study on the music of Sesame Street , 25% of Barney & Friends ' 88 episodes were analyzed by using the computer observation program SRIBE in determining: (a) the temporal use of music; (b) performance medium; and (c) intention of music use. Furthermore, each structural prompt presentation (n = 749) from all 88 episodes was examined for: (a) tempo; (b) vocal range; (c) music style; (d) word clarity; (e) repetition; (f) vocal modeling; and (g) movement.

Results revealed that the show contained more music (92.0%) than nonmusic (7.8%), with the majority of this music containing instrumental sounds (61%). The function of this music was distributed equally between structural prompt music (48%) and background music (48%). The majority of the structural prompt music contained newly composed material (52%), while 33% consisted of previously composed material. Fifteen percent contained a combination of newly composed and previously composed material.

To further assess magnitude of familiarity, all 749 presentations were cross-referenced with song lists from previous studies investigating common song repertoire. Although only 19% of MENC's (1994) 42 Songs appeared on the show, many more songs from research publications examining common song repertoire appeared. The most common tempo range for presentations on the show was 80-100 bpm, while vocal ranges of a 9th, 8th, 6th, and 7th were predominant and most often sung by children's voices. The adult male voice was also common, with 84%) of all adult vocals being male. The tessitura category with the greatest number of appearances was middle C to C above (n = 133), with the majority of the presentations (n = 435, 73%) extending singers' voices over the register lift of B above middle C. Children's music and music of the American heritage were the most common style categories observed, and these two categories combined on 260 (35%) presentations. The use of choreographed movement and props/costumes was also prevalent, and may have contributed to high inter-observer reliability of tempo. Implications for music teachers working with young children and music researchers examining various epistemological questions of music learning and behavior are discussed.


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