Quality of network support for the deliberate practice of popular musicians

Manuel Laengler*, Markus Nivala, Jasperina Brouwer, Hans Gruber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


To become an expert in music, an individual goes through different phases of deliberately practising domain-specific activities with the support of actors within his or her network. These network actors are often referred to in the research literature as "persons in the shadow," because they are for the most part unnoticeable to an audience. Systematic research on popular music does not touch upon who these persons in the shadow are and how they support deliberate practice. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine which network actors have supported popular musicians to deliberately practice their craft during childhood, the period of apprenticeship, and throughout their careers, along with the type of support that was provided. A mixed-method egocentric network analysis, combined with quantitative and qualitative analyses of data from interviews with five experts and five intermediate-level popular musicians, has shown that band members and instrumental teachers were perceived as being most supportive of musicians' deliberate practice during childhood and period of apprenticeship. However, during the musicians' careers, band members were perceived as being most supportive. Experts differed from intermediate-level musicians as follows: (a) experts had contact with a larger pool of band members and instrumental teachers during their careers; (b) their networks, especially of band members in different formations and instrumental teachers, changed constantly and frequently throughout their careers; (c) they were regularly confronted with unfamiliar musical content, which expanded their musical knowledge. In this article we suggest that future research should investigate how change in networks influences deliberate practice and the acquisition of expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1029864920938451
Number of pages23
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Publication statusPublished - 25-Jul-2020


  • Deliberate practice
  • developmental phases
  • expertise
  • music
  • persons in the shadow
  • social networks

Cite this