Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The contextual interference hypothesis holds that simple motor skill tasks are best learned when practiced under blocked, or repetitive conditions, but that retention and transfer are best accomplished when the skill has been practiced in varied conditions. The purpose of this study was to measure the effects of contextual interference practice conditions on the acquisition, retention, and transfer of a complex task—right hand lead percussion sticking technique among university musicians. All participants (N = 120) demonstrated rhythmic competency for the task, and were necessarily unable to perform the sticking technique with accuracy at the start of treatment. Three treatment groups experienced an acquisition phase, in which they learning sticking patterns in blocked, varied, and control conditions. All participants took part in two retention and transfer tasks, with the objective of employing correct sticking patterns and rhythms. The first occurred five minutes after acquisition. The second followed latency periods of thirty minutes, one hour, six hours, or twenty-four hours. Performances were evaluated according to rhythm and pattern accuracy. Evidence of a contextual interference effect resided in the acquisition phase, where varied participants experienced more error than blocked counterparts; however, in subsequent retention and transfer tasks, the rhythm and pattern accuracy for both groups was equivalent. Primary performance area had a significant effect on rhythm and pattern accuracy during the pretest, retention, and transfer tasks; vocalists scored significantly below instrumentalists. Effects of posttest retention and transfer latency timings were absent. Overall, slight increases in rhythm accuracy and significant increases in pattern accuracy occurred from pretest to retention. These increases may indicate that the visual image of the music or kinesthetic feel of the task could have enhanced the music motor skill retention in this study. Both rhythm and pattern accuracy scores declined during the transfer task, and could be attributed to the interference of pattern on rhythm within a complex task. Observation of control participants’ acquisition phases and all participants’ sight reading preparation revealed that most participants’ approaches to self-structured practice were simplistic with regard to problem solving.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

James L. Byo

Included in

Music Commons