Seeing a drummer’s performance modulates the subjective experience of groove while listening to popular music drum patterns
Spontaneous rhythmical movements, like foot-tapping and head-bobbing, often emerge when people listen to music, promoting the enjoyable sensation of ‘being in the groove’. Here we report the first experiment to investigate if seeing the music maker modulates this experience. Across trials we manipulated groove level in the audio beats (high vs low), and manipulated the match between the audio beats and a concurrently observed point-light display (PLD) of the drummer. The visual display was either fully corresponding with the audio beats, or incompatible across three conditions: a static PLD, a corresponding but asynchronous PLD (0.5s time shifted); or a non-corresponding PLD (e.g. high groove audio paired with low groove PLD). Participants (n = 36) rated: (a) their desire to move; and (b) their perceived groove, purely in response to the audio beats, using 8-point Likert scales. The main effects of groove level and visual display were significant in both measurements. Ratings increased for high compared to low groove audio overall, and for the fully corresponding condition compared to the other visual conditions. Ratings of the desire to move also increased in the static compared to the non-corresponding condition, and the two-way interaction was significant. Desire to move significantly increased for high compared to low groove audio in the fully corresponding, static and asynchronous conditions, while this effect was absent in the non-corresponding condition. These findings identify the importance of seeing as well as hearing the musician for an enhanced experience of groove, which necessitates a multimodal account of music perception.