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Games to test your musicality with ToontjeHoger

Jazz Stofberg,
9 december 2022 - 09:55

ToontjeHoger is an initiative of UvA scientists to teach people more about their musicality. On the website, you can play various mini-games based on scientific research. “The message is that people are more musical than they think.”

Scientists from the UvA music cognition group have launched a new science communication initiative. On the ToontjeHoger website, people can test their musicality with six mini-games. Afterwards, they receive a score and an explanation of what they just did, based on scientific research. Professor Henkjan Honing explains that with ToontjeHoger, his group wants to help people realize that they are more musical than they think. According to Honing: “People are often rather negative about their musicality or think that they are only musical if they make music themselves. That's an idea we’re trying to debunk.”

Foto: Daniël Rommens
Henkjan Honing

“It is not just a good musician or a great singer who is musical,” says Honing. “Musicality is much more than that. The capacity for music is similar to the capacity for language.”


Besides making music, according to Honing, musicality also means listening, appreciating, and having an emotional response to music. “With our science communication, we want to convince people that they are more musical than they might think. That is the main message of our research, lectures, readings, and of ToontjeHoger.”


Honing also hopes that ToontjeHoger will reach many people. “It is intended for everyone with an interest in musicality, from high school students to older people.” Players can share their scores online after the mini-games. “We already see the first hashtags appearing. The hope is that it catches on fast. Then maybe in a year, we can release ToontjeHoger 2.0.”

Smarter through music

The development of the platform took about a year, Honing says. The six games chosen were based not only on research from the music cognition group, but also on high-profile research from the field. Choosing the games was still quite a job; there were twelve at first. “We finally chose the games that work best as demonstrations. During lectures, for example, or with family and friends.”

“Music that makes you alert and happy makes you temporarily smarter”

One of the games is about the “Mozart effect.” Honing complains about how the press often pays attention to this, in the wrong way. It is one of the regularly recurring misunderstandings in our field. People think that listening to Mozart’s music makes you smarter, but that's not what happens.” Thorough and systematic research shows that it’s not necessarily about Mozart’s music. “The point is that music makes you alert and relaxed, which then makes you temporarily smarter. Music affects your mood and your improved mood makes you temporarily smarter. So it's not just a Mozart effect; it can also be a hard-rock or a jazz effect.


Honey stresses that people should not worry if they score low on ToneHigher. “There are very few people who are truly amusical. We call that amusion, which, by the latest estimate, only occurs in about one and a half percent of the population.” People with amusion cannot tell two distinctly different melodies apart, for example. “Above all, listen to a lot and to a variety of different types of music,” Honing advises in conclusion, “that has an enormous impact on your cognition.”

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