Emotional communicability in improvised music: The case of music therapists

Avi Gilboa, Ehud Bodner, Dorit Amir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Musical improvisation is considered an efficient way to express emotions in music therapy. We examined the ability of music therapists (MTs) to convey emotions and their ability to accurately decode the emotional content of musical improvisations. Twenty-one MTs improvised on emotions they found difficult or easy to express in life, using or not using an emotional imagery technique. Fifty-five judges, some being MTs others nontherapists, evaluated the emotional content of the improvisations. Results showed that neither experience in therapy, nor musicianship or gender of the improviser were connected to emotional communicability (EC). Emotions that were reported as easy to express in life were communicated more accurately than those difficult to express in life. Emotional imagery did not facilitate and, to some extent, hindered emotional communicability. Some emotions were found to be difficult to express (e.g., anger) in comparison to others (e.g., happiness). MTs decoded the emotional content of the improvisations more accurately than nontherapists. Implications for the practical musical and emotional training of music therapists are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-225
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006


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