Psychology for Musicians: Understanding and Acquiring the Skills

By Andreas C. Lehmann; John A. Sloboda et al. | Go to book overview

2
Development
There are many important questions on which almost every musician is expected to have an opinion. How do musical skills emerge in the normal child? Can we know anything about musical capacity before and shortly after birth? Is there a normal path of musical development that most children follow? How do we account for differences in musical ability between children? Is absolute pitch a sign of special musical ability? What kinds of activity and environment will best assist children in their musical development? Is there an optimum age for beginning formal musical instruction? Musicians who teach (as most musicians do) will shape their teaching and their advice to parents according to the views they hold on these questions. These are also questions on which people tend to hold quite strong views, not all of which are supported by scientific evidence. This chapter may help dispel some prevalent myths, drawing from current scientific knowledge (see also Runfola & Swanwick, 2002, and Gembris, 2002, for reviews).A commonly held view is that musical ability is a somewhat rare “talent” within the population. According to this view, only a few talented individuals can become musicians; thus a key task for the music profession is the detection or early identification of talent so that it may be properly encouraged and nurtured.Our assessment of the scientific evidence makes us question the value of thinking about talent in this way. The evidence we review here suggests that:
1. All normal human babies display an astonishing array of musically related skills and aptitudes, lying just beneath their apparently “helpless” appearances.
2. These skills show a typical developmental progression through childhood that is to a certain extent independent of training and education.

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