Temporal guidance of musicians’ performance movement is an acquired skill

Matthew Rodger, Sile O'Modhrain, Cathy Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The ancillary (non-sounding) body movements made by expert musicians during performance have been shown to indicate expressive, emotional, and structural features of the music to observers, even if the sound of the performance is absent. If such ancillary body movements are a component of skilled musical performance, then it should follow that acquiring the temporal control of such movements is a feature of musical skill acquisition. This proposition is tested using measures derived from a theory of temporal guidance of movement, “General Tau Theory” (Lee in Ecol Psychol 10:221–250, 1998; Lee et al. in Exp Brain Res 139:151–159, 2001), to compare movements made during performances of intermediate-level clarinetists before and after learning a new piece of music. Results indicate that the temporal control of ancillary body movements made by participants was stronger in performances after the music had been learned and was closer to the measures of temporal control found for an expert musician’s movements. These findings provide evidence that the temporal control of musicians’ ancillary body movements develops with musical learning. These results have implications for other skillful behaviors and nonverbal communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Early online date8 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Apr 2013


  • Music performance, Skill acquisition, Tau Theory, Temporal control of movement


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