The role of failure in developing creativity in professional music recording and production

Mark Thorley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
176 Downloads (Pure)


This study details the approach and results of a project which sought to apply the concept of “productive failure” in the learning of professional music recording and production. The approach was taken in response to the fact that although there is significant evidence that failure should be utilised in developing expertise for the music production and wider creative industries, factors often discourage this from taking place. Eleven Music Technology students were involved in a music production task where they took existing multitrack session recordings and produced a final master recording using whatever approach they thought appropriate. The results were then assessed for their success or failure by an industry professional. The manner in which creativity and thinking skills relevant to the practice of music production were developed were examined through the use of in-depth interviews (with the students and the industry professional). Results showed that the industry professional assessed the work as successful or failing in elements which came under the broad themes of technical approach and creativity. The student participants developed creativity and thinking skills under the themes of working with material from others, using influences or reference points, developing a personal vision, technical process, thought process and self-evaluation. In conclusion, the study shows that the inclusion of failure is beneficial to the learning of music recording and production, particularly through the development of critical listening and thinking skills, the focus on a personal creative vision, the necessity for technical skills to be developed to realise the most creative results, and the manner in which self-reflection serves to foster future development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-170
Number of pages11
JournalThinking Skills and Creativity
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Thinking Skills and Creativity. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Thinking Skills and Creativity, [30], (2018) DOI: 10.1016/j.tsc.2018.05.002

© 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Music production
  • Creativity
  • Creative Music Production
  • Thinking Skills
  • Failure in learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Education


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