Training the musical attention: Towards a new generation of methods in music education


  • Laszlo Stacho Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, Hungary



musical expressiveness, mental/attentional strategies and processes, phenomenology, musical attention training, Practice Methodology


A crucial aspect of musical ability is a music-specific empathic capacity that enables the performer to uncover subjective meanings from musical materials and fully feel them during performance. Based on insights from both theoretical and empirical research into the psychology of music performance and from pedagogical practice, this capacity is thought to rely on a more general empathic ability and can be nurtured easily in most people, including those scoring rather poor on standard musical aptitude tests measuring “melodic”, “rhythmic”, or “harmonic” skills. In my paper, I present the theoretical bases of a new pedagogical approach for nurturing in musicians the capacity of feeling the elements of musical meaning in real time (in the act of performance): I introduce a new theory of musical expressiveness by defining, from a psychological point of view and from the perspective of the performer’s phenomenology, the various layers of musical meaning (the “what” system) and the temporal-attentional abilities that enable to express them in real time (the “how” system). The paper concludes with a short introduction to a novel implementation of the above model of performer’s phenomenological processes into performance teaching: a full training of musical attention called “Practice Methodology”.