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An exploratory analysis of the role of gesture in instrumental music teaching and learning

An exploratory analysis of the role of gesture in instrumental music teaching and learning

For the 5th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) Lilian Simones (SARC), Dr Schroeder (SARC) and Dr Matthew Rodger (Psychology) wrote about the first of a series of studies investigating the role of gestures during teaching and learning to play the piano as part of a PhD research at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in collaboration with the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast (funded by DEL).

The case study combined qualitative and quantitative approaches and provides insights into the role of hand gestures in teacher and student communicative interaction during piano lessons and their impact for teaching and learning. Participants were required to teach/learn two small extracts of contrasting pieces during their usual lessons, according to skill level. Initial data was collected by video recordings of piano lessons. The analysis was based on the type and frequency of gestures employed by teachers and students in association with lesson activities, verbal and non-verbal content of the lessons. In addition, the adequacy of McNeill’s classification of spontaneous co-verbal gestures (1992, 2005) and Jensenius, Wanderley, Godoy & Leman’s  (2010) functional musical gestures classification, for use in this context was tested.


Spontaneous gestures co-occurring with the piano teaching process were found and termed as spontaneous co-musical gestures. Whilst having similar communicative purposes as McNeill’s spontaneous co-verbal gestures (1992, 2005) they differ in form/shape and in the nature of the communicative function.

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