Who has the most musical expertise?

musical expertise

A new study on musical expertise has arrived. It is musical expertise from a different perspective than my usual motivational foundations. This research article assesses musical expertise of amateur, professional, and musicians undergoing formal music education via aural discrimination tests such as rhythm, melody, scales, intervals, chords and cadences.

Typically, musical expertise has been defined as number of years learning and playing an instrument as a criterion or reference. This notion of musical expertise is based around experience. Some measures of musical expertise encompass a genetic disposition or a factor of both experience and genetic disposition. Much of this is based around self-report data which has issues of bias, therefore possibly inflating responses and affecting final results.

However, researchers have begin to understand expertise from an individual difference perspective and that it is a multidimensional construct rather than uni-dimensional (year of experience=expertise) or binary in the idea of musicians vs non-musicians (which typifies much research in this area).

What about individual who are already musicians? How can expertise be measured? The researchers Lin et al (2021) have developed a measure of musical expertise for musicians. The researchers developed tests on the idea that musical expertise is an interactive result of musical talent and practice, that it requires formal musical education and training, and is situated at the upper end of musical achievement.

To test measurement of musical expertise Lin et al (2021) assessed amateur musicians who are actively engaged in musical activities, aspiring professional musicians who are preparing for an entrance exam at a music conservatory, and music students who are currently undergoing formal training at a conservatory.

The results found music students scored the highest, followed by aspiring musicians, and then amateur musicians.

Intervals and scales are a winner

The items which most differentiated the aspiring musicians from those undertaking formal study were intervals and scales where those undergoing formal training performed better at these aural discrimination tests. In general, music students undergoing formal training scored the highest, followed aspiring musicians, and finally amateur musicians.

The research demonstrates that those reaching professional levels get significantly better at a musical skill and master it to a very high level due to constant and rigorous training they receive.

The results also validate the ear assessment measures the researchers have developed which allows for the ability to discriminate expertise in already trained musicians than the typical musician vs non-musician style of musical expertise research.

© iteachpiano 2021

Lin, Z., Werner, A., Lindenberger, U., Brandmaier, A. M., & Wenger, E. (2021, Vol. 38 Issue 4 – 2021). Assessing Music Expertise. Music Perception, 38 (4), 406–421.

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