Musical potential

Gary McPherson and Susan Hallam

in Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298457
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Musical potential

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  • Cognitive Psychology



An ongoing controversy persists regarding the extent of individual variability in musical potential and the extent to which observable differences in acquiring musical skills result from social contexts that facilitate learning, genetic factors, or interactions between the two. This article outlines key elements of these debates and considers how ‘musical potential’ has been assessed. It argues that what children are born with enables rather than constrains what they will eventually be able to achieve. While a range of generalized abilities may come into play when learning music, a host of environmental and personal catalysts work in combination with teaching and learning processes to develop particular types of talent. These talents form the basis of the many professional, amateur, and informal forms of meaningful engagement that individuals can have with music.

Keywords: music; musical skills; learning; teaching; musical talent; musical engagement

Article.  5994 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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