Adopting an External Focus of Attention Enhances Musical Performance
Journal of Research in Music Education
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Two experiments are reported in which skilled musicians playing different instruments performed a piece of their choice under various attentional focus conditions. In the external focus condition, they were asked to focus on playing for the audience and the expressive sound of the music. In the internal focus condition, they were asked to focus on the precision of their finger movements (or lip movements for singers) and correct notes. In the control condition, they were asked to play the way they normally did. Expert raters evaluated the musicians’ performances for both musical expression and technical precision. In Experiment 1, external focus instructions enhanced musical expression relative to both internal focus and control conditions. There was no effect on technical precision. In Experiment 2, raters were given more detailed evaluation criteria. An external focus again led to superior musical expression compared with internal focus and control conditions. In addition, technical precision was higher within the external relative to the internal focus condition. The findings show that the advantages of focusing on the intended movement effect (i.e., externally) generalize to experienced musicians. Music teachers could offer their students specific recommendations for focus of attention during training and in concert situations to optimize learning and performance.
Attentional focus; Expertise; Motor learning; Music
Adopting an External Focus of Attention Enhances Musical Performance.
Journal of Research in Music Education, 66(4),