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How Motivation Influences Musical Resilience: An In-Depth Look

Welcome back to our Music Lab Newsletter! In this edition, we're exploring a fascinating and vital aspect of music education: the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on resilience. Drawing from psychological research, we'll delve into how these motivations influence our learning and perseverance in the realm of music.

Understanding Motivation in Music Education

Motivation in music, like in any other field, can be broadly categorized into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic.

1. Intrinsic Motivation: This type of motivation arises from within the individual. According to Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination Theory (2000), intrinsic motivation is driven by an inherent interest or enjoyment in the activity itself. In the context of music, this could mean practicing because you find joy in music-making or because it fulfills a creative urge. Research suggests that intrinsic motivation is linked to higher creativity, better problem-solving, and greater psychological well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

2. Extrinsic Motivation: Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards or pressures. This might include practicing to win a competition, to please a teacher, or for social recognition. While this motivation can be effective in the short term, studies have shown that it may not sustain long-term engagement (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999).

The Role of Resilience in Music Education

Resilience, or the ability to recover from setbacks, is crucial in learning an instrument or mastering musical skills. According to a study by Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2007), individuals with a "growth mindset" – the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – show greater resilience. This is particularly relevant in music, where progress often involves overcoming challenges and setbacks.

How Different Motivations Influence Resilience

- Intrinsic Motivation and Resilience: Individuals driven by intrinsic motivation are likely to view challenges as opportunities to improve and learn. They tend to have a growth mindset and are more resilient in the face of difficulties. A study by Gillet, Vallerand, and Rosnet (2009) in the field of sports psychology found that intrinsic motivation was positively related to persistence and performance.

- Extrinsic Motivation and Resilience: Extrinsic motivation, while effective in initiating action, may not foster the same level of resilience. When the external reward is removed or the external pressure is too high, motivation can wane. A meta-analysis by Deci, Koestner, and Ryan (2001) indicated that external rewards could undermine intrinsic motivation, potentially affecting long-term resilience and persistence.

Balancing Motivation for Sustained Musical Engagement

For a sustainable and resilient journey in music education, balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivations is key. Encouraging students to find personal meaning and enjoyment in music can foster intrinsic motivation. Simultaneously, external rewards and recognition can be used judiciously to motivate and celebrate achievements without overshadowing the intrinsic joy of music-making.

Enhancing Intrinsic Motivation in Music Education

Improving intrinsic motivation is key for sustained engagement and resilience in music learning. Here are some strategies:

  • Self-Reflection: Encourage students to explore what aspects of music genuinely interest them. Is it a particular genre, the act of creating, or the emotional expression? Understanding these personal interests can spark intrinsic motivation.

  • Goal Setting: Setting personal goals, rather than only external achievements, can enhance intrinsic motivation. Goals might include mastering a specific piece, improving a technical skill, or expressing a particular emotion through music.

  • Autonomy: Allowing students some choice in their learning process can bolster intrinsic motivation. This could involve choosing pieces to learn, picking practice schedules, or selecting performance opportunities.

  • Community and Connection: Being part of a musical community where experiences and passions are shared can reinforce intrinsic motivation. Collaborating with others, sharing music, and participating in group performances can make the musical journey more personally rewarding.


Understanding the nuances of motivation and its impact on resilience is critical in music education. By fostering an environment that values both intrinsic joy and external achievements, we can support learners in building resilience and maintaining a lifelong engagement with music.

Stay motivated and resilient in your musical journey!

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