Factors which Contribute to Expertise in Instrumental Practice

An article recently published by Susan Hallam (2013) has some interesting findings on what motivates instrumental music students to practice and how these factors can predict overall level of expertise achieved.

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Results show that the strongest predictor of level of expertise obtained was weekly practice and what is actually practiced during the practise time. Other factors which contributed to the motivation of the students included self-beliefs, beliefs about the importance of musical ability, support from family, friends and teachers, enjoyment of performing, attitudes towards playing an instrument and perception of its value, enjoyment of musical activities (listening to music, concerts, ensembles participation, social life revolving around musical activities), and future aspirations.

Factors relating to practice which improved the level of expertise obtained included the use practising strategies at low levels of expertise were found to be generally unproductive. High level strategies such as identification of problem sections, changing tempo to practice difficult sections, isolation of sections, recognition of making a mistake, were strategies used the most by students at a higher level of expertise.

Students were also asked to indicate how they organised and self-managed their practice. The students with high levels of expertise were able to better manage their practice time, concentrate and, developed routines such as starting with scales and exercises. In examination practice and preparation, 90% of respondents said they practised more when preparing for an examination. The order of priority was similar to formal practice with starting with scales and technical work and then moving on to set repertoire.

Parental support for practice was also indicated high in the responses. 65% of parents normally reminded students to practice and some parents had helped them at times to practice.


Hallam, S. (2013). What predicts level of expertise attained, quality of performance, and future musical aspirations in young instrumental players? Psychology of Music, 41(3), 267-291.

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