Effects of Internal and External Focus of Attention on Woodwind Performance

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Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain






The purpose of this study was to examine the motor learning construct of focus of attention in the context of playing a woodwind instrument. In an internal focus condition, a musician attends to a physical part of the body; in an external focus condition, a musician attends to an aspect of performance not attached to the body, such as the performance outcome of sound. Novice (n = 15) and experienced (n = 15) college woodwind players played 120 trials of alternating note sequences on an MIDI wind controller during a 2-day protocol. Twenty practice trials were performed for each of the following conditions: control (no focus of attention), internal (fingers), near-external (keys), and far-external (sound). Each focus condition was followed by 5 retention and 5 transfer trials. On Day 2, 5 retention and 5 transfer trials were performed in each condition. Trials were scored for pitch accuracy, evenness, and volume. On Day 1, the transfer task was performed more evenly and accurately by the novices, and more accurately by the experienced players, compared to the practice task (p < .05). This may reflect the difference in fingering sequence between the 2 tasks. On Day 2, a trend was found for both participant groups playing more pitch errors as the focus of attention became more distal, although this result was not significant. Volume was most consistent for the experienced players in the internal focus condition, whereas this condition was least effective for novice players.


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