Eye-movement efficiency and sight-reading expertise in woodwind players

Katie Zhukov, Sieu Khuu, Gary E. McPherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The ability to sight-read traditional staff notation is an important skill for all classically trained musicians. Up until now, however, most research has focused on pianists, by comparing experts and novices. Eye movement studies are a niche area of sight-reading research, focusing on eye-hand span and perceptual span of musicians, mostly pianists. Research into eye movement of non-piano sight-reading is limited. Studies into eye movement of woodwind sight-reading were conducted in the 1980s and early 2000s, highlighting the need for new research using modern equipment. This pilot study examined the eye movements of six woodwind (flute, clarinet) undergraduates of intermediate-to-advanced skill level during sight-reading of scores of increased difficulty. The data was analysed in relation to expertise level and task difficulty, focusing on numbers of fixations and fixation durations. The results show that as music examples became more difficult the numbers of fixations increased and fixation durations decreased; more experienced players with better sight-reading skills required less time to process musical notation; and participants with better sightreading skills utilised fewer fixations to acquire information visually. The findings confirm that the efficiency of eye movements is related to instrumental and sightreading expertise, and that task difficulty affects eye movement strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Eye Movement Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Expertise
  • Eye movement
  • Fixation
  • Fixation duration
  • Sight-reading
  • Task difficulty

Cite this