Siyao Cheng

Research Student -  PhD

Research Program: Brain Sciences

Thesis Title

An exploration of different notation systems in healthy older adults’ music education

Research Project

The older adult population will keep increasing over the next 50 years; more research is needed to support their quality of life and maintenance of cognitively active lifestyles. Learning a musical instrument is a beneficial activity for older adults to keep cognitively stimulated whilst also keeping socially connected with others. However, there remains a void in practical research that helps us understand what the optimal education methods are for later-life learners.

Music notation is an important tool for music students to study and perform music pieces, and staff notation seems to be the “one true way” in western cultures, but one major problem lies in its complexity. As older adults’ motivation of learning to play a musical instrument tends to be the enjoyment rather than becoming professional musicians, staff notation might become a potential obstacle for them. Many simpler alternatives to standard staff notation exist for music students, but they are not used on a wide scale and there is a lack of empirical evidence as to whether these can better support learning. My research aims to explore whether these alternatives can facilitate older adults in learning a musical instrument, specifically what elements (colour, number, notes name, etc.) might assist aging adults to perceive different music features (pitch, rhythm, melody, etc.) and perform better in musical tasks. This proposed research could enhance their enjoyment in instrument learning, as well as maximise the advantages of music training.


  • Master of Research: Psychology (MARCS Institute, Western Sydney University, Australia), 2020
  • Bachelor of Psychology (Shandong Normal University, China), 2016

Phone+61 2 9772 6107
LocationWestern Sydney University Bankstown campus (Bullecourt Ave, Milperra)