The Effect of Musical Training on Bimanual Coordination:
An Examination of Wind Musicians and Pianists

C. M. Ramsden, J. J. Summers, & M. Taylor

School of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania


Research examining the effects of musical training on bimanual coordination has often employed polyrhythmic tapping tasks. These tasks require complex motor coordination, and research has shown that pianists perform polyrhythmic tasks more accurately than nonmusicians. Until recently, research findings indicated that pianists used an integrated strategy to perform polyrhythmic tasks, where the two hands are combined to form a single higher-order pattern (eg., Summers, Ford & Todd, 1993; Summers & Kennedy, 1992). However, Krampe, Kliegl, Mayer, Engbert and Vorberg (1999) found evidence that pianists used a parallel strategy to perform the task (both hands operating independently) at very fast tempos. Research to date has been restricted to examining the performance of pianists, and it has been suggested that pianists and musicians with other instrumental training have different approaches to bimanual movement (Christman, 1993).

This study elicited bimanual performance on polyrhythmic tasks from musicians trained in piano or in playing a wind instrument. The performance of pianists, wind players and nonmusicians on 5:3 and 4:3 polyrhythms, each at a fast and slow speed, was examined. There were 27 participants, with 9 per group. Both synchronous (auditory track for full trial) and continuous (3 cycles of auditory track only) paradigms were used. Measures of accuracy of tapping and of within-hand variance were determined for each group.