Maintaining excellence: deliberate practice and elite performance in young and older pianists

J Exp Psychol Gen. 1996 Dec;125(4):331-59. doi: 10.1037//0096-3445.125.4.331.


Two studies investigated the role of deliberate practice in the maintenance of cognitive-motor skills in expert and accomplished amateur pianists. Older expert and amateur pianists showed the normal pattern of large age-related reductions in standard measures of general processing speed. Performance on music-related tasks showed similar age-graded decline for amateur pianists but not for expert pianists, whose average performance level was only slightly below that of young expert pianists. The degree of maintenance of relevant pianistic skills for older expert pianists was predicted by the amount of deliberate practice during later adulthood. The role of deliberate practice in the active maintenance of superior domain-specific performance in spite of general age-related decline is discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills*
  • Music*