Benefits of collaborative instrumental practice

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Benefits of collaborative instrumental practice

New research from Norway investigates the benefits of collaborative instrumental practice for music students. Recent research suggests that collaborative practice, as opposed to what is common for instrumental practice of individual practice, has many benefits for motivation and self-efficacy.
According to Bandura’s (Bandura, 1997) theory of self-efficacy, vicarious learning which is learning via observation and inclusion by others, is beneficial for increase sense of self-efficacy at that particular task.

Kokotsaki and Hallam (2007) have reported benefits of peer practice including increase sense of belonging, making friendships, improved social skills, self-esteem, satisfaction, and enhanced motivation.

Music conservatories are often based on the premise of “private teaching, private learning” as this has long been the traditional mode of music education. The one-to-one teacher-student model. Seeking help from peers or collaborative instrumental practicing is not a strategy commonly used in this model of instrumental music education.

Differences in genre

Styles of music and genre may play a part in  the mode of practice which takes place. Classical repertoire may primarily be an individual lesson and practice pursuit. In contrast, contemporary styles such as jazz and rock are based around a group practice format.

Benefits of collaborative practice

To ascertain the benefits of collaborative practicing, Nielsen et al (Nielsen et al., 2018) surveyed music students from a Norwegian Music Academy. The survey addressed peer learning and the influence of peer learning on their instrumental practising, and overall satisfaction with practice.

The results of collaborative practicing

Survey results found students from courses designed around improvisation/jazz engaged in more peer practicing than other instrumental music program courses.

Additionally, the results demonstrated  collaborative practice comprised of discussing and reflecting on practising with peers. More than half of the students (80%) surveyed reported that having practise-related discussions was beneficial to them. These discussions were valid across courses and genres of music studied.

Significant correlations were found between time spent discussing practicing with peers and perceiving these discussions as beneficial. More time discussing, the more beneficial these discussion became. 75% of students reported that peer practicing was influential for their own practicing. The relation of the instrumental teacher as an influence was addressed.  Results found that the main instrumental teacher was rated higher as an influence than peers.

Furthermore, the opportunity to practice with peers was found to be a satisfying experience and led to being more satisfied with progress as a performer, although a little less satisfied with own practice.

Unusual findings

Interestingly, neither time spent with peers practicing or discussing practice positively correlated with own practice or perceived progress as a performer. The results show that peer practicing, discussion and reflection on the practice to be beneficial for instrumental music students. However, this interaction did not lead to improved satisfaction with individual practicing.  The discussion and reflection provided a heightened awareness about practising but this does not lead to knowing how to improve ones practice habits.

It is also prudent to remember that music academy environments are highly competitive. It would be hard to escape the focus on improvement and achievement in such a place. Students feel they can never be satisfied with their practice on any level.

In the one-to-one teaching studio environment, there may be opportunities to create “practice camps” or sessions. Several students can practice together and discuss issues relating to their repertoire and practising in general.

Activities could be teacher guided but there is an opportunity to step back and let students take the lead in their practice in a collaborative environment. Furthermore, developing a heightened awareness of one’s own practicing is surely a first step in enabling students to develop good practise habits and increased evaluation and reflection on their progress.


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Kokotsaki, D., and Hallam, S. (2007). Higher education music students’ perceptions of the benefits of participative music making. Music Educ. Res. 9, 93–109

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Nielsen, S. G., Johansen, G. G., & Jørgensen, H. (2018). Peer Learning in Instrumental Practicing. Frontiers in Psychology, 9.

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