1. #1

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    Interesting study from a few years back: Nichols, Bryan E.; Wöllner, Clemens; and Halpern, Andrea R.. "Score one for jazz: Working memory in jazz and classical musicians." Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain (2018) : 101-107. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/216952826.pdf

    Jazz musicians rely on different skills than do classical musicians for successful performances. We investigated the working memory span of classical and jazz student musicians on musical and nonmusical working memory tasks. College-aged musicians completed the Bucknell Auditory Imagery Scale, followed by verbal working memory tests and musical working memory tests that included visual and auditory presentation modes and written or played recall. Participants were asked to recall the last word (or pitch) from each task after a distraction task, by writing, speaking, or playing the pitch on the piano. Jazz musicians recalled more pitches that were presented in auditory versions and recalled on the piano compared with classical musicians. Scores were positively correlated to years of jazz-playing experience. We conclude that type of training should be considered in studies of musical expertise, and that tests of musicians’ cognitive skills should include domain-specific components
    Our focus in this article is working memory (WM), the ability to maintain information for a short time in the face of competition for resources and to update it constantly as new information arises. In music, all listeners, regardless of training, need WM to relate incoming notes to the ongoing tonal schema, to parse meter, and to understand phrases, among other things. But for professional musicians, having a good WM would seem to be even more important, given that the profession places high demands on many aspects of auditory processing. Even setting aside the memorization of pieces from a score or by ear, musicians learning new pieces or playing in an ensemble need to keep track of motives, anticipate repetitions, and integrate across modalities, such as the visual-motor loop so important to pianists. String, wind, and brass players need to constantly monitor auditory feedback to adjust their tone and attack, and singers have the added memory burden of integrating language with all these other musical demands (often in a nonnative language). Further, error detection relies on the ability to process heard versus expected pitches in WM (Stambaugh, 2016). Musical performance also places demands on attention, and we know that good WM is related to good selective and divided attention. (

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  3. #2

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    Hi, Z,
    Just another ridiculous study by a "Publish or Perish" professor looking to add to his gobbledygook resume. The thesis ,to any educated person/musician, is patently absurd. A musician's skills are not heightened, lessened, or effected by genre. Simple. Do you honestly think Rubenstein, Casals, Segovia, Heifitz, or Perlman are/were any less capable with their "working memory span" than say Coltrane, Baker, Joey D, or Wes? What about Bach, Beethoven, Wagner? Do you realize why that is such a absurd statement? Do you think Jazzers just appeared in the early 1920's in America and displaced the skills, talents and artistry of 700 years of Classical composition and performance? I guess some people just believe anything they read . . . if it's printed . . . it must be true. Wow, this is another classic from our growing population of pre-programmed New Age android robots!
    Play live . . . Marinero

  4. #3

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    Some things to consider...

    - it looks like all this testing was done on student musicians, not musicians in general, not professionals, not others with decades of practice and performance experience.

    - the group distinction between classical and jazz musicians is analytically difficult, for dozens of reasons, even more if you dig deeper.

    However, I think the description of what's going on with the musician's "many aspects of auditory processing" rings true and is the right direction for exploring this.

    Maybe there are differences early in the process (as students) that disappear later in the process (with experience, integration, internalization, mastery)?

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    Some things to consider...

    - it looks like all this testing was done on student musicians, not musicians in general, not professionals, not others with decades of practice and performance experience.

    - the group distinction between classical and jazz musicians is analytically difficult, for dozens of reasons, even more if you dig deeper.

    However, I think the description of what's going on with the musician's "many aspects of auditory processing" rings true and is the right direction for exploring this.

    Maybe there are differences early in the process (as students) that disappear later in the process (with experience, integration, internalization, mastery)?
    No argument that this study has a lot of limitations and one has to take it with a grain of salt. It would be interesting to extend the study to professionals. Students often get course credit for participating in such research..

    For those interested, the paper quotes a lot of some interesting related prior research including these two:

    In one of the few studies comparing jazz to classical musicians, Tervaniemi, Janhunen, Kruck, Putkinen, and Huotilainen (2016) and Vuust, Brattico, Seppänen, Näätänen, and Tervaniemi (2012) looked at preattentive processing in jazz, classical, and rock musicians (and also nonmusicians). They examined electroencephalography (EEG) signatures for detecting various kinds of deviants in a series of target melodies. Although the musician groups showed some similarities, one of the interesting findings from our perspective is that the jazz musicians were superior to the classical in detection of two kinds of auditory deviants: single pitches and melodic phrases
    (Both of these studies had a relatively small number of participants, the Vuust had a larger number at 60. Both used pros.)

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    Hi, Z,
    Just another ridiculous study by a "Publish or Perish" professor looking to add to his gobbledygook resume. The thesis ,to any educated person/musician, is patently absurd. A musician's skills are not heightened, lessened, or effected by genre. Simple. Do you honestly think Rubenstein, Casals, Segovia, Heifitz, or Perlman are/were any less capable with their "working memory span" than say Coltrane, Baker, Joey D, or Wes? What about Bach, Beethoven, Wagner? Do you realize why that is such a absurd statement? Do you think Jazzers just appeared in the early 1920's in America and displaced the skills, talents and artistry of 700 years of Classical composition and performance? I guess some people just believe anything they read . . . if it's printed . . . it must be true. Wow, this is another classic from our growing population of pre-programmed New Age android robots!
    Play live . . . Marinero
    Certainly it is not a definitive study. Take it or leave it. But it is also fallacious to point to musical "edge cases" (geniuses like Bach and Wes) as a counter to a study about "average" musicians.

    But really, you need to learn how to post your disagreements without insult.