Proof at last: You play better in front of an audience

Proof at last: You play better in front of an audience


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2015

A pair of doctoral students at Hokkaido University, Japan, have published an extensive study on how listeners can affect performance. Haruka Shoda and Mayumi Adachi assess the negative effects of performer anxiety against the positive effects of so-called ‘social facilitation’ ad come up with an unequivocal conclusion.

Here’s how:

In Study 1, we prepared two types of recordings ofTräumerei performed by 13 pianists: recordings in front of an audience and those with no audience. According to the evaluation by 153 listeners, the recordings performed in front of an audience sounded better, suggesting that the presence of an audience enhanced or facilitated the performance. In Study 2, we analyzed pianists’ durational and dynamic expressions. According to the functional principal components analyses, we found that the expression of “Träumerei” consisted of three components: the overall quantity, the cross-sectional contrast between the final and the remaining sections, and the control of the expressive variability. Pianists’ expressions were targeted more to the “average” of the cross-sectional variation in the audience-present than in the audience-absent recordings. In Study 3, we explored a model that explained listeners’ responses induced by pianists’ acoustical expressions, using path analyses. The final model indicated that the cross-sectional variation of the duration and that of the dynamics determined listeners’ evaluations of the quality and the emotionally moving experience, respectively.

Read a full account of the study here.


audience pic