Motor Learning Research Forum

The National Forum on Motor Learning in Music is funded by the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Professorship, the Center for Music Learning at The University of Texas at Austin. The Forum is an ongoing research consortium devoted to questions about motor skill development and procedural memory. This approach to collaborative research, though common in most disciplines with a long-established tradition of research activity, is a departure from the typical course of research in music, in general, and in music education, in particular. Our hope is to create a model that will focus on interesting, meaningful questions that contribute to our fundamental understanding of human cognition and behavior.

Participating members in the original consortium included faculty from the University of Washington, The Ohio State University, Louisiana State University, University of the Pacific, Temple University, Bowling Green State University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, VanderCook College of Music, and faculty and graduate students at The University of Texas at Austin. Pooling intellectual and fiscal resources in this way promises to generate a more active community of scholars and increase the value of the effort and funding devoted to the subject. Such an infusion of research activity in the literature of our discipline is intended to inspire future research collaborations in music.

Motor Learning Research Forum Group Picture


  • Sarah Allen, PhD, Southern Methodist University
  • Melissa Becker, Lochhaven University
  • James Byo, PhD, Louisiana State University
  • Ruth Brittin, PhD, University of the Pacific
  • Mary Ellen Cavitt, PhD, Texas State University
  • Elaine Colprit, PhD, Bowling Green State University
  • Eugenia Costa-Giomi, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Carla Davis Cash, PhD, Texas Tech University
  • Steve Demorest, PhD, University of Washington
  • Robert Duke, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
  • James Fidlon, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Jacqueline Henninger, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Beatriz Ilary, PhD, University of Southern California
  • Judith Jellison, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Steve Morrision, PhD, University of Washington
  • Martin Norgaard, PhD, Georgia State University
  • Paige Rose, PhD, University of Central Arkansas
  • Roseanne Rosenthal, EdD, VanderCook College of Music
  • Laurie Scott, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Deborah Sheldon, PhD, Temple University
  • Amy Simmons, PhD, Texas State University
  • Laura Stambaugh, PhD, Georgia Southern University

Meeting Schedule

6:00-7:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks, Light Supper


Martin Norgaard  How jazz musicians improvise: The central role of auditory and motor patterns.  It is well known that jazz improvisations include repeated rhythmic and melodic patterns. What is less understood is how those patterns come to be. One theory posits that entire motor patterns are stored in procedural memory and inserted into an ongoing improvisation. An alternative view is that improvisers use procedures based on the rules of tonal jazz to create an improvised output. This output may contain patterns but these patterns are accidental and not stored in procedural memory for later use. Based on a previous qualitative investigation, I suggested that both processes may be used at different times. The current study used a novel computer-based technique to analyze a larger body of improvised solos by the jazz great Charlie Parker. Results show that 82% of the notes played begin a five-note interval pattern and 56% begin interval and rhythm patterns. The mean number of times the five-note pattern on each note position is repeated in the solos analyzed was 29. The sheer ubiquity of patterns and the pairing of pitch and rhythm patterns support the theory that pre-formed structures are inserted into improvisation. (15 min)

Sarah Allen, Carla Cash, Amy Simmons, and Robert Duke  Effects of practice procedure on music performance and memory consolidation. All of our research in music learning and memory consolidation to date has required musicians to practice target sequences by repeating them from beginning to end. Of course, this is unlike how most musicians typically practice. In this experiment assessing improvements realized during active learning and off-line consolidation, we allowed participants to practice the target melody in any way they wished within specified intervals of time. (15 min)

Robert Duke, Sarah Allen, Carla Cash, and Amy Simmons  Effects of model performances on music skill acquisition and overnight memory consolidation. Having noted individual differences among participants’ learning curves in earlier investigations, and having noted that participants varied in the apparent effort during active practice that they devoted to increasing their performance speed, we tested the effects of hearing a model performance presented prior to practice. At the beginning of the training session, half the participants heard a recording of the target melody they were about to practice, performed at a speed that was faster than most participants would be able to attain in the allotted practice time.  (15 min)

Laura Stambaugh  Using MIDI wind controllers for data collection. A pilot study included six saxophone/clarinet majors who practiced scales and a short etude on a Yamaha WX5 and their primary instrument. Using Cubase software with the WX5, graphic and numeric data were collected for pitch, duration, and volume.  (15 min)


James Byo  Visual Attention to the Musical Score Under Conditions of Priming and Sound: An Exploratory Study. The purpose was to examine the nature of musicians’ visual attention while studying and reading multi-part musical scores. Using eye tracking technology, the eye movement of 30 undergraduate and and graduate students was examined. (15 min)

Roseanne Rosenthal  Thoughts on how we talk to ourselves while practicing music. Is there a way to classify nuanced descriptions of instrumental musicians' talk when they think out loud during practice? I will briefly explore this topic through the lens of the revised Bloom's taxonomy of learning. (15 min)

Beatriz Ilari  Musical entrainment in pre-schoolers: A cross-cultural investigation. This study investigated musical entrainment in 3.5-year-olds in Brazil and Germany, under 3 different conditions (drumming with total view of a co-drummer, drumming with partial view of a co-drummer, and drumming alone but in the presence of a co-drummer). Results revealed differences in drumming synchronization according to conditions and culture. Implications for music education will be presented. (10 min)

Paige Rose  Effects of manual/pedal movement, tempo, and gender on accuracy of steady beat in Kindergarten students. Participants (N=128) performed the steady beat by either patting or stepping to musical examples representing slow, medium, and fast tempi. I will discuss results of previous pilot testing and my plans for future research. (10 min)

Steve Demorest and Bryan Nichols  The effect of focused instruction on Kindergarteners’ singing accuracy.  We tested 78 kindergartners on a battery of singing accuracy tasks and analyzed the results in two ways.  1) Were there background variables that predicted singing accuracy scores? and 2) Were there differences in performance depending on the singing task? (15 min)