Assessment of fine motor skill in musicians and nonmusicians: Differences in timing versus sequence accuracy in a bimanual fingering task

Anthony E. Kincaid, Scott Duncan, Samuel A. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


While professional musicians are generally considered to possess better control of finger movements than nonmusicians, relatively few reports have experimentally addressed the nature of this discrepancy in fine motor skills. For example, it is unknown whether musicians perform with greater skill than control subjects in all aspects of different types of fine motor activities. More specifically, it is not known whether musicians perform better than control subjects on a fine motor task that is similar, but not identical, to the playing of their primary instrument. The purpose of this study was to examine the accuracy of finger placement and accuracy of timing in professional musicians and nonmusicians using a simple, rhythmical, bilateral fingering pattern and the technology that allowed separate assessment of these two parameters. Professional musicians (other than pianists) and nonmusicians were given identical, detailed and explicit instructions but not allowed physically to practice the finger pattern. After verbally repeating the correct pattern for the investigator, subjects performed the task on an electric keyboard with both hands simultaneously. Each subject's performance was then converted to a numerical score. While musicians clearly demonstrated better accuracy in timing, no significant difference was found between the groups in their finger placement scores. These findings were not correlated with subjects' age, sex, limb dominance, or primary instrument (for the professional musicians). This study indicates that professional musicians perform better in timing accuracy but not spatial accuracy while executing a simple, novel, bimanual motor sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-257
Number of pages13
JournalPerceptual and Motor Skills
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2002


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems

Cite this