Motivation in Instrumental Music Practice

What do we know about motivation and how does it apply to instrumental music practice? How can teachers assist in improving their students’ motivation to practice? This is a question which is common to many instrumental music teachers. 

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We would agree that more practice means more improvement, however, not all practice is not the of the same quality. Research suggests that not only will the amount of practice (Ericsson, 2004) will lead to improved performance, but the type or quality of practice can affect motivation to practice (Hallam, et al., 2012).

Motivation in instrumental music practice can be considered under the umbrella of self-regulation (Bandura, 1991), self-efficacy (Pintrich & Schunk, 1996), attribution theory (Weiner, 1986) and deliberate practice (Sloboda, Davidson, Howe, & Moore, 1996).

What students do during their practice time and how they approach learning via metacognitive, cognitive and the physical processes to practising will have a positive or negative effect on their motivation. 

Saying to a student “do more practice” is not necessarily the right answer or approach to making improvement, or as a way of motivating a student. It is a quantifiable method to practising which is readily understood by parents and students, however, it fails to describe the underlying processes which students need to develop to achieve a more effective practice routine.


More to follow..




Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory of self-regulation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 248-287. doi: 10.1016/0749-5978(91)90022-l

Ericsson, K. A. (2004). Deliberate practice and the acquisition and maintainence of expert performance in medicine and related domains. Academic Medicine, 79, S70-S81. 

Hallam, S., Rinta, T., Varvarigou, M., Creech, A., Papageorgi, I., Gomes, T., et al. (2012). The development of practising strategies in young people. Psychology of Music, 40(5), 652-680. doi: 10.1177/0305735612443868

Pintrich, P. R., & Schunk, D. H. (1996). Motivation in education: Theory, research and applications. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Sloboda, J. A., Davidson, J. W., Howe, M. J. A., & Moore, D. G. (1996). The role of practice in the development of performing musicians. British Journal of Psychology, 83, 703-715. 

Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag.

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