Musical expertise: Genetics, experience, and training

William Forde Thompson, Miriam A. Mosing, Fredrik Ullén

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter addresses the role of genetics, experience, and training in the acquisition of expert music performance. It discusses how the construct of expertise is defined across domains of performance, and thereafter reviews research on the acquisition of musical expertise, including work on musical prodigies who acquire high levels of expertise at very rapid rates. The chapter outlines the strategies and logic used within the field of behavior genetics and provides the evidence that genetic factors play a significant role in the acquisition of expertise. It explains the motivation to engage in the persistent and deliberate practice that is needed to achieve exceptional musical skill. Progress in performance ability is often monitored by evaluating several distinct skills, such as performing rehearsed music, sight-reading, playing from memory, playing by ear, and improvising. Although it is obvious that practice is needed to achieve high levels of music performance skill, evidence suggests that musical expertise cannot be explained solely by practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Music Cognition
EditorsRichard Ashley, Renee Timmers
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781351761949, 9781315194738
ISBN (Print)9781138721050
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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