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Introduction to the Psychology of Music: From Performance to Perception and Experience

  • Module Tutor: Dr Hauke Egermann
  • Level: C/4 (1st year students), I/5 (2nd year students), H/6 (3rd year students)

Aims and content

Music Psychology aims to explain and understand musical behaviour and experience, including the processes through which music is created, perceived, responded to, and incorporated into everyday life (Tan, Pfordrescher, Harré, 2010). Accordingly, this module will introduce students to the basic mechanisms underlying these human capacities. We will start by engaging with the functionality of the auditory system and from there, elaborate on the perception and cognition of musical elements, such as melody, timing (rhythm, meter, tempo), harmony, timbre and higher level structures like compositional form and expressiveness. Subsequently, we will focus on basic principles underlying listener experience (aesthetics, emotion, and preferences). Finally, the module will provide a short introduction to the mechanisms that underlie musical performance skills, like sensorimotor learning, training, and musical talent. During the course of this module, students will also be introduced to basic principles of empirical research methods.  


Students will give a short group presentation based on a music psychological study, subsequently to be written up (approximately 1000 words) (20%).  

The written submission will consist of an essay of approximately 4000 words on a topic agreed in tutorial.  Alternatively, students also have the option to conduct a small empirical research project, documented in a written research report of approximately 2000-3000 words (80%).


The module will include the following literature:

  • Hallam, S., Cross, I., Thaut, M. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. Oxford: University Press, 2009
  • Hodges, D., & Sebald, D. Music In the Human Experience: An Introduction to Music Psychology. New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Juslin, P.N. & Sloboda, J.A. (eds.). Handbook of Music and Emotion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Lehmann, A. C., Sloboda, J. A., & Woody, R. H. Psychology for musicians: Understanding and acquiring the skills. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Tan, S., Pfordresher, P. and Harre, R. Psychology of Music: From Sound to Significance. London: Psychology Press, 2010.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module all students should:

  • have a knowledge and understanding of how the human mind processes music including the perception of pitch, timbre, timing, expectation, emotion and aesthetics and the mechanisms underlying musical performance skills;
  • be able to evaluate the methodology of empirical studies from the field of Music Psychology;
  • and be able to apply this knowledge in their own professional approach to teaching, composing and performing music.

First years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcomes A1-A7.

Second years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrateLearning Outcomes B1-B7.

Third years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrateLearning Outcomes C1-C7.