Musical Ability

  1. Gregory R. Bock Organizer and
  2. Kate Ackrill
  1. John Sloboda

Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470514498.ch7

Ciba Foundation Symposium 178 - The Origins and Development of High Ability

Ciba Foundation Symposium 178 - The Origins and Development of High Ability

How to Cite

Sloboda, J. (2007) Musical Ability, in Ciba Foundation Symposium 178 - The Origins and Development of High Ability (eds G. R. Bock and K. Ackrill), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470514498.ch7

Author Information

  1. Department of Psychology, University of Keele, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471939450

Online ISBN: 9780470514498

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Keywords:

  • musical ability;
  • material and emotional support;
  • early experiences;
  • sex stereotyping;
  • well-balanced musical performer

Summary

Musical ability is the ability to ‘make sense’ of music, and develops in most people over the first decade of life through normal enculturation. Whether this ability is developed to a high level usually depends on the decision to start learning a musical instrument, which forces high levels of focused cognitive engagement (practice) with musical materials. Performance ability has both technical and expressive aspects. These aspects are not always developed equally well. Factors contributing to the development of a well-balanced musical performer include (a) lengthy periods of engagement with music through practice and exploration, (b) high levels of material and emotional support from parents and other adults, (c) relationships with early teachers characterized by warmth and mutual liking, and (d) early experiences with music that promote, rather than inhibit, intense sensuous/affective experiences. It is argued that much formal education inhibits the development of musical ability through over-emphasis on assessment, creating performance anxiety, coupled with class and sex stereotyping of approved musical activities. Early free exploration of a medium is a necessity for the development of high levels of musicality.