Focus of attention affects performance of motor skills in music

Robert A. Duke, Carla Davis Cash, Sarah E. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


To test the extent to which learners performing a simple keyboard passage would be affected by directing their focus of attention to different aspects of their movements, 16 music majors performed a brief keyboard passage under each of four focus conditions arranged in a counterbalanced design-a total of 64 experimental sessions. As they performed the test passage, participants were directed to focus their attention on either their fingers, the piano keys, the piano hammers, or the sound produced. Complete MIDI data for all responses were digitally recorded by software written specifically for this experiment. Consistent with findings obtained in tests of other physical skills, the results show that performance was most accurate and generalizable when participants focused on the effects their movements produced rather than on the movements themselves, and that the more distal the focus of attention, the more accurate the motor control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-55
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Music Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • focus of attention
  • motor learning
  • music skills


Dive into the research topics of 'Focus of attention affects performance of motor skills in music'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this