Musicians anticipate the effects of their actions during performance. Online musical imagery, or the consciously accessible anticipation of desired effects, may enable expressive performance when auditory feedback is disrupted and help guide performance when it is present. This study tested the hypotheses that imagery 1) can occur concurrently with normal performance, 2) is strongest when auditory feedback is absent but motor feedback is present, and 3) improves with increasing musical expertise. Auditory and motor feedback conditions were manipulated as pianists performed melodies expressively from notation. Dynamic and articulation markings were introduced into the score during performance and pianists indicated verbally whether the markings matched their expressive intentions while continuing to play their own interpretation. Expression was similar under auditory-motor (i.e., normal feedback) and motor-only (i.e., no auditory feedback) performance conditions, and verbal task performance suggested that imagery was stronger when auditory feedback was absent. Verbal task performance also improved with increasing expertise, suggesting a strengthening of online imagery.

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