Music Learning

Practicing a musical instrument as a process of goal realization: The role of affect and implementation intentions


Instrumental practice is an act of learning, often referred to as ‘self-teaching’, because musicians need to behave like their own teachers taking responsibility for the aims, musical contents, time allocation and strategies in their practice. A large number of studies have shown that practicing musical instruments leads to acquisition of expert musical skills, enhances intellectual and linguistic capacities, improves memory and social skills. However, not every instrumental student engages in practice and gains all these benefits. Many students are not persistent in their practice, and quickly give up from learning an instrument. Therefore, research is needed to discover the underlying causes of this problem.


We propose to treat practice as a process of goal realization. Goal realization requires that a person engages in forming goal intention, plan the goal realization, act on the chosen goal, and evaluate the results of action. We also propose that affect – the consciously accessible feelings evident in moods and emotions – can influence how people realize their goals. In the current project, we aim to study how to foster students’ goals striving in musical learning and to explore the role of affect in this process.


Given the numerous advantages of instrumental practice, it is worth looking for the basic motivational mechanisms that explain engagement in such practice. So far it remains unclear, why some learners are not persistent in their practice, and how affect influence practice-related goals realization. A better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for instrumental practice undertaking will make it possible to provide accurate psychological support for instrumental students.


Principal investigator: Zofia Mazur

Supervisor: Mariola Laguna




  • Mazur, Z., & Lawendowski, R. Creating, practicing and reacting to music: A content analysis of research. Annals of Psychology, in press.
  • Lawendowski, R., & Mazur, Z. (2019). The psychology of music in Poland: Theoretical considerations and current directions in empirical research. Annals of Psychology, 22(2),
  • Mazur, Z., & Łaguna, M. (2019). The role of affect in practicing a musical instrument: A systematic review of the literature. Psychology of Music, 47(6), 848-863.






  • Mazur, Z., Łaguna, M. (2019, June). Wykorzystanie metody systematycznego przeglądu literaturydo analizy związku pomiędzy afektem a ćwiczeniem gry na instrumencie [Using a systematic review of the literature in analysing the relationship between affect and practicing a musical instrument]. Poster presented at 28 Kolokwia Psychologiczne PAN, Gdańsk.
  • Mazur, Z., Laguna, M. (2018, July). Affect and practicing a musical instrument: A scoping review of the literature. Poster presented at the European Conference on Personality, Zadar, Chorwacja.

  • Mazur, Z. (2018, July). Pozytywny afekt a ćwiczenie gry na instrumencie: Przegląd zakresu literatury [Positive affect and practicing musical instrument: A scoping review of the literature]. Poster presented at the 3rd Conference of Positive Psychology, Warszawa.

  • Mazur, Z. (2018, May). Afekt a ćwiczenie gry na instrumencie: Systematyczny przegląd literatury – wyniki wstępne [Affect and practicing a musical instrument: A systematic review of the literature – preliminary findings]. Oral presentation at the Polish Conference on Psychology of Music: Psychomuzy, Katowice.




Grant funded by The National Science Center / Narodowe Centrum Nauki, no. DEC-2018/29/N/HS6/02641.