Measuring Musical Originality Using Information Theory

Don D. Coffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of applying the mathematics of information theory to the analysis of musical originality. Originality can be thought of, in information theory, as entropy, the degree of freedom a composer has in selecting musical symbols to convey a message. Theoretically, original music has high information, or low predictability. Seventh grade students (N = 34) enrolled in a nine-week general music course were asked to create a composition on a MIDI keyboard prior to receiving course instruction and once again at the end of the course. The pitch content of pre- and post-instruction compositions were analysed for levels of entropy. Results showed that post-instruction compositions exhi- bited significantly higher pitch entropy, indicating greater freedom of choice and less predictability in pitch choices, despite a sizeable reduction in the average length of compositions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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