Getting into the musical zone: trait emotional intelligence and amount of practice predict flow in pianists
Frontiers Media SA -- Frontiers in Psychology
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00853
  1. optimal experience
  2. altered states of consciousness
  3. music performance
  4. autotelic personality
  5. emotion

Being “in flow” or “in the zone” is defined as an extremely focused state of consciousness which occurs during intense engagement in an activity. In general, flow has been linked to peak performances (high achievement) and feelings of intense pleasure and happiness. However, empirical research on flow in music performance is scarce, although it may offer novel insights into the question of why musicians engage in musical activities for extensive periods of time. Here, we focused on individual differences in a group of 76 piano performance students and assessed their flow experience in piano performance as well as their trait emotional intelligence. Multiple regression analysis revealed that flow was predicted by the amount of daily practice and trait emotional intelligence. Other background variables (gender, age, duration of piano training and age of first piano training) were not predictive. To predict high achievement in piano performance (i.e., winning a prize in a piano competition), a seven-predictor logistic regression model was fitted to the data, and we found that the odds of winning a prize in a piano competition were predicted by the amount of daily practice and the age at which piano training began. Interestingly, a positive relationship between flow and high achievement was not supported. Further, we explored the role of musical emotions and musical styles in the induction of flow by a self-developed questionnaire. Results suggest that besides individual differences among pianists, specific structural and compositional features of musical pieces and related emotional expressions may facilitate flow experiences. Altogether, these findings highlight the role of emotion in the experience of flow during music performance and call for further experiments addressing emotion in relation to the performer and the music alike.