Practice Does Not Make Perfect – No Causal Effect of Music Practice on Music Ability


The relative importance of nature and nurture for various forms of expertise has been intensely debated. Music proficiency is viewed as a general model for expertise, and associations between deliberate practice and music proficiency have been interpreted as supporting the prevailing idea that long-term deliberate practice inevitably results in increased music ability. Here, we examined the associations (rs = .18-.36) between music practice and music ability (rhythm, melody, and pitch discrimination) in 10,500 Swedish twins. We found that music practice was substantially heritable (40%򐮂%). Associations between music practice and music ability were predominantly genetic, and, contrary to the causal hypothesis, nonshared environmental influences did not contribute. There was no difference in ability within monozygotic twin pairs differing in their amount of practice, so that when genetic predisposition was controlled for, more practice was no longer associated with better music skills. These findings suggest that music practice may not causally influence music ability and that genetic variation among individuals affects both ability and inclination to practice.



Miriam A. Mosing1
Guy Madison2
Nancy L. Pedersen3
Ralf Kuja-Halkola3
Fredrik Ullén1
1Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet
2Department of Psychology, Umeå University
3Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet
Miriam A. Mosing, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Retzius v 8, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden E-mail:
Author Contributions M. A. Mosing developed the study concept, analyzed the data, interpreted the results, and drafted the manuscript. The study was designed and data were collected by G. Madison and F. Ullén. R. Kuja-Halkola and N. L. Pedersen provided statistical advice. All authors provided critical revisions and approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

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