Oral presentation - Musical Togetherness @ Vienna

I am going to present my latest results at Musical Togetherness Symposium between the 13th and the 15th of July in Vienna, Austria 🌵

Talk: click me 😉

Accepted abstract: “What makes listeners infer teaching intentions?”


Perceiving pedagogical intentions is vital when learning skills from others. Our previous research demonstrated that expert pianists systematically modulated their sound so as to teach musical expressive techniques such as articulation and dynamics (Tominaga et al., 2021, preprint). For example, pianists played slower and exaggerated each technique when they had an intention to teach.


Here we investigated whether the modulations that expert pianists produce when they intend to teach are also perceived by listeners as conveying pedagogical intentions.


Participants who had at least six years of musical training and knew expressive techniques of articulation and dynamics were included for data analysis (Experiment 1: N = 20, Experiment 2: N = 20). They listened to piano recordings where either articulation or dynamics was implemented. After listening to each recording, they were asked to judge whether or not each recording was produced to teach a designated expressive technique related to articulation or dynamics. We quantified recordings with regard to tempo, articulation and dynamics. We performed correlation and multiple regression analysis to investigate which features of piano performance made musicians infer teaching intentions. In Experiment 1, one simple musical scale was selected as stimuli. Experiment 2 aimed to replicate the findings of Experiment 1 with a more naturalistic piece.


The findings in Experiment 1 with a simple musical scale demonstrated that slower tempo contributed to musicians’ judgments as teaching regardless of technique. Moreover, performances with exaggeration of each technique (e.g., longer legato, shorter staccato for articulation; larger contrast between forte and piano for dynamics) were more likely to be judged as teaching. In Experiment 2 with a more naturalistic piece, we replicated the findings related to dynamics (in particular, larger contrast between forte and piano was associated with judgments of teaching).

Conclusions and Implications

Taken together, modulations of loudness (dynamics) seem to be reliably used to infer teaching intentions regardless of the complexity of a musical piece. Typical pedagogical behaviour such as slowing down may not necessarily be perceived as teaching when it comes to complex skills involved in artistic expression. We believe that these findings can inform discussions on musical togetherness because they contribute to our understanding of what listeners can infer about performers’ intentions.

Keywords: teaching, intention, skill transmission, musical expression