The cognitive and psychomotor mechanisms of optimal music practice and performance: focus of attention, tempo manipulation and slowness
Emma Allingham, M.A.
This dissertation investigates the cognitive mechanisms and psychomotor processes that take place during music practice and performance, with a view to informing best performance practices and music pedagogy. In an experimental behavioural study, the effects of a performer’s focus of attention on performance outcome was examined in two simple violin bowing motor tasks. The first task involved playing an open string legato bowing pattern in response to a metronome, and the second involved a “slow motion” bowing technique of producing individual oscillations of the string, one at a time. Both expert violin players and complete beginners performed these tasks under three different focus instructions: 1) focus on the movements in your right arm, 2) focus on the sound you produce, and 3) focus on the resistance of the bow against the string. The first two focus instructions were devised in accordance with previous work in sports psychology, which has shown the beneficial effects of an “external” (outside of the body) focus, and an “internal” (inner body movement) focus. The final focus instruction was intended as a second kind of “external” focus, drawing attention to tactile sensory feedback, thus grounding awareness in bodily sensation, while still directing attention to the external environment. Outcomes of the two motor tasks are currently being analysed, with dependent variables derived from music information retrieval, motion capture of bow kinematics, electromyography of muscle activity in the bowing arm, physiological arousal measures, and high-speed camera recordings of string motion. Results will inform music pedagogy and performance practice, while highlighting potential differences in attentional focus effects in music compared to sports motor tasks. In a second online survey study, the use of tempo and slowness in music practice is explored. This study investigates the frequency and perceived effectiveness of various practice techniques involving tempo manipulation, as well as experiences of flow during music practice. The intention is to compare practice habits and strategies among musicians of different genres, instruments and stages of learning. This survey study will inform a third experiment on the topic of how practising fast music slowly affects cognitive load, facilitates skill acquisition, and influences the experience of practice in music learning.
Allingham & Wöllner (2019). Effects of Attentional Focus on Motor Skill performance in Violin Bowing. Poster presented at the 12th International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology, Berlin, Germany. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/16zQDQEKViTOX_tfX4wXiRkILAU0LktEY/view
Allingham & Wöllner (2019). Effects of Attentional Focus on Motor Skill performance in Violin Bowing. Poster presented at International Symposium Time Changes in Experiences of Music and Dance. Hamburg, Germany.
Allingham & Wöllner (2019). Effects of Attentional Focus on Motor Skill performance in Violin Bowing. Spoken presentation at SEMPRE autumn conference 2019, Bath, United Kingdom.
Kontakt: Emma Allingham