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Imagine, Sing, Play- Combined Mental, Vocal and Physical Practice Improves Musical Performance

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Classical musicians face a high demand for flawless and expressive performance, leading to highly intensified practice activity. Whereas the advantage of using mental strategies is well documented in sports research, few studies have explored the efficacy of mental imagery and overt singing on musical instrumental learning. In this study, 50 classically trained trumpet students performed short unfamiliar pieces. Performances were recorded before and after applying four prescribed practice strategies which were (1) physical practice, (2) mental imagery, (3) overt singing with optional use of solfege, (4) a combination of 1, 2 and 3 or a control condition, no practice. Three experts independently assessed pitch and rhythm accuracy, sound quality, intonation, and musical expression in all recordings. We found higher gains in the overall performance, as well as in pitch accuracy for the physical practice, and the combined practice strategies, compared to no practice. Furthermore, only the combined strategy yielded a significant improvement in musical expression. Pitch performance improvement was positively correlated with previous solfege training and frequent use of random practice strategies. The findings highlight benefits from applying practice strategies that complement physical practice in music instrument practice in short term early stages of learning a new piece. The study may generalize to other forms of learning, involving cognitive processes and motor skills.

Original languageEnglish
Article number757052
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Steenstrup, Haumann, Kleber, Camarasa, Vuust and Petersen.

    Research areas

  • auditory imagery, brass pedagogy, deliberate practice, interleaved/random practice, motor imagery, solfege, trumpet, varied practice

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