Angela Yarnell MEMT 898 Daugherty Fall 2009 Research Analysis 1 Duke, R., Simmons, A.L., Cash, C.D. (2009).

It's not how much; it’s how - characteristics of practice behavior and retention of performance skills. Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 56 (4), p. 310-321. Purpose of the study: The purpose of this study was to discover if practice quality and strategies employed by advanced pianists could predict the quality of their performances of a challenging excerpt 24 hours later. Researchers also describe the practice strategies of the top performers in the sample. Research questions posed: • What are the practice behaviors of advanced pianists who learn new material efficiently? • Is the total amount of practice time, number of total practice trials, or number of complete practice trials predictive of performance success? Primary methodology of this study: quantitative (descriptive) Participants: Performers: N=17 Number of Group(s): 1 Methodology Summary: Advanced pianists at a university’s school of music were asked to practice a 3-measure excerpt for as little or as long as necessary prior to a performance of the excerpt at a prescribed tempo the next day. Participants were videotaped during the practice and performance sessions. MIDI data from the keyboard on which they played was collected for analysis. Video recordings were viewed to collect the following numerical data: total practice time, number of performance trials, number of complete performance trials, number of correct performance trials, number of near-correct performance trials, the sum of correct and nearcorrect performance trials, number of incorrect performance trials, the percentage of complete trials that were correct, the percentage of complete trials that were correct and near-correct, and the percentage of all trials that were correct. Videos were viewed again and detailed accounts of practice behaviors were notated. Using the audio recording only, the researchers placed performances in rank order based on tone, character, and expressiveness. The top three pianists on 15 trials were identified and their practice videos were then analyzed first. The behaviors of these top three performers were clearly different from the 14 lower-ranked performers. The strategies used by the performers were listed by apparent effectiveness.

Conclusions: For these performers under these conditions, practice strategies employed were more determinative of success in performance than the total time or number of performance trials. The best performing pianists took no less time to learn the excerpt. The top performers went about learning the passage in a different way than the lower-ranked pianists. The high-ranked performers shared specific behaviors in practice: errors were immediately isolated, corrected, and put back into context and tempi were varied systematically and logically. The top performers had just as many errors at the beginning of practice as the others, but their handling of the errors when they occurred was different. Recommendations for future research: Identify good models for effective practice and further investigate the practice behaviors of effective learners at all levels. Evaluation/assessment of this research study: The present study makes an important contribution to the knowledge of advanced pianists practice strategies and provides much insight into the learning process of this group of performers. The study had a unique design of freedom in practice followed by performance trials that led to discovery of an interesting set of information in a short amount of time. Replication of this method could be applied to vocal research. Generalization/transfer possibilities: Solo practice and performance is very different from group rehearsal and performance for many valid reasons, however, the decisions made by effective soloists can provide insight for ensemble directors and perhaps provide a model for teaching students to be more independent and thoughtful learners. This was a study of advanced pianists’ practice behaviors. There is a need for future research to investigate effective practice behaviors of intermediate and advanced solo singers. Playing with both hands together and with inflection early in practice were two of the hallmarks of top performers in the present study. Research is needed to determine if it would be beneficial then for choral students to practice with the voice parts together early in the learning process as well. I have always remembered Dr. Duke’s presentation at KCOMPTEP over a decade ago when he stressed to our pre-service teacher group that we must find ways to ‘get to the good stuff’ early on in music study, both in terms of beginners, and in each new piece in later studies. This study seems to support this opinion that inflection and expression in music needs to happen early on in the rehearsal of new music if it is to be fully realized in the performance. Although the present study findings only address advanced pianists, one could investigate expressiveness in voice practice. Only the top-ranked pianists under investigation incorporated expressive elements early in the learning of new material. This study does not address how rewarding it is to integrate musicality early in learning a new piece, but it corroborates Dr. Duke’s impassioned speech on its effectiveness in creating thoughtful performers. In this study, the best performers stopped before a possible error rather than play it incorrectly, and actual errors were immediately and systematically corrected. My study of intermediate solo singers found that singers do not detect or correct their own errors consistently. An extension of this research is needed to determine the effectiveness of choir online learning modules used as tools for practice outside of rehearsal when students are practicing alone. If students can detect and quickly correct errors, private practice may be useful. If students practice incorrectly, they

may do more harm than good as they repeat and memorize errors. For group practice it is obvious that we find and eliminate errors quickly, but even more important that we teach our students how to anticipate errors and self-evaluate so they might become more efficient at practice outside of rehearsal. Clearly we as directors cannot allow autopilot or run-throughs as these poor repetitions may be retained in some way and be detected in the final product. Identification and targeted practice of short but difficult passages was shown effective in this study under these circumstances, but more research specific to choral and solo singing is needed in this area. One of the most interesting aspects of this study was that top performers did not use less time to prepare; they just went about learning differently and were able to perform at a higher level as a result. Practice behaviors should be studied and modeled in ensemble situations so that students can become more thoughtful and effective in their private practice as well as be more involved in the group learning process. As directors, we must teach musical independence, which comes about through effective and efficient practice.

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