Age-Related Changes Affecting the Learning of Music Performance Skills for Older Adults

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This paper surveys research relevant to the learning of music performance skills in mid to late adulthood with the aim of identifying how the process of teaching and learning these skills may differ at this age as compared with youth. First, research related to the acquisition of musical expertise is presented in order to establish what is known about the development of music performance skills. Next, theories and research findings related to characteristics of adult learning and musical skills are presented. Finally, basic research studies are presented that have examined age-related differences in learning and performing fine motor tasks such as those used when performing music. These studies indicate that learning occurs at all ages, although at slower rates with older adults due to changes in cognitive and psychomotor functioning. The findings are considered in relation to skills used when performing music and suggest that music learning and performance may be affected by age-related differences in music reading responses, practice effects, motor memory development, and aural capacities. Research findings also prompt suggestions for adaptations with older adults that may improve teaching and learning.

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