What makes a good musical improviser? An expert view on improvisational expertise

Iwan Wopereis, Paul A. Kirschner, Jeroen Van Merriënboer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Abstract/Poster in proceedingAcademicpeer-review

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    Although improvisational expertise is considered an important constituent of modern musicianship, there is no consensus of opinion regarding its definition. As part of a PhD project on improvisation skill learning, we conducted a group concept mapping study to formulate a comprehensive view on improvisational expertise. The research questions of this study were: “What characterizes a good improviser?”, “Which characteristics are regarded important?”, and “Do different groups of experts have different opinions on defining and valuing improvisational expertise?” To answer these questions we invited 26 renowned improvisation experts (musicians, conservatory teachers, and critics/researchers) to participate. The experts successively generated, sorted, and rated 169 statements defining a good improviser. Multivariate analyses, including multidimensional scaling (MDS) of sort data, a hierarchical cluster analysis of MDS coordinates, and the computation of average ratings of statements resulted in a seven-cluster concept map. Central to the map and most valued were characteristics related to the concept of ‘self-regulation’. The six other clusters were (in order of value): ‘basic (music) skills’, ‘affect’, ‘risk-taking’, ‘creation of novelty’, ‘responsiveness’, and ‘ideal’. No differences were found between the groups of experts. The results, as well as the implications for instruction and future research will be elaborated upon in the paper.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication Abstracts: SEMPRE 40th Anniversary Conference
    EditorsElaine King, Evangelos Himonides
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages1
    ISBN (Electronic)978-1905351220
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2012
    EventSociety for Education, Music and Psychology Research 40th anniversary conference - London, United Kingdom
    Duration: 14 Sept 201215 Sept 2012


    ConferenceSociety for Education, Music and Psychology Research 40th anniversary conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • improvisation
    • music
    • concept mapping
    • expertise
    • improvisational expertise
    • multidimensional scaling
    • hierarchical cluster analysis


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