New survey finds improvising jazz musicians are the most creative of all.

In some good news for jazz fans, a new study claims to show that jazz musicians are more creative, more musically active, and undertake a greater number of creative projects than musicians from a classical or folk background.

The recently published study from Austria sought to compare jazz practitioners with classical and folk musicians, to determine what differences, if any, exist with respect to their musical activities, creativity and personalities. The study involved 99 music students from the University of Music and Arts in Graz, Austria: 52 students of classical music, 25 students of jazz and 21 students of folk.

Questionnaires were used to gather data relating to the participants musical activities, specifically looking at the number of hours practiced per week, number of competitions participated in, and the number of concerts performed in per semester. Divergent thinking tasks were used to assess the student’s creative cognitive potential, testing their ability to conceive of creative outcomes for a given situation. Finally, personality tests were used to gain an insight into the participants attitudes, testing their responses to making mistakes and correcting errors, while also gauging the degree of perfectionism and motivation for learning and performing.

The study found that folk musicians practice far fewer hours than their classical or jazz counterparts (12 hours compared with 18 hours per week), but that jazz musicians perform at a greater number of concerts per semester. However, classical and folk musicians participated in more music competitions than jazz musicians, and folk musicians had a greater output of work than either jazz or classical performers.

Jazz players were found to participate in a greater number of creative musical projects, and to have enjoyed a greater number of creative musical achievements, than either classical or folk musicians. Jazz musicians also proved themselves more adept at generating new, multiple or alternative ideas to given situations, exhibiting a greater degree of divergent thinking and ideational creativity.

Finally, the study found that folkies were more extraverted than jazz and classical musicians, while classical musicians tended to be less open to new experiences. However, the groups exhibited similar scores in the fields of learning motivation, achievement motivation, perfectionism, and error behaviour.

The study puts forward the argument that the differences in divergent thinking could be down to the emphasis jazz places upon improvisation, while the differences in musical activities are most likely due to differences in formal and informal ways of practice and learning. Jazz musicians tended to attach more importance on informal practice and playing for fun, rating technical perfection and musical competition to be less essential to their practice.