Memorizing silently to perform tonal and nontonal notated music: A mixed-methods study with pianists.

Musicians use silent music reading for memorizing, and this includes different types of mental imagery and analytical functions. The aim of this mixed-methods study was to address the effects of musical expertise, general level cognitive traits, and situational strategies on pianists’ performances after silent memorizing of notated music. We also compared pianists’ silent memorizing strategies between tonal and nontonal music. Thirty pianists performed short musical excerpts from memory after silently reading the notation for 1 minute. Following this, they described their memorizing strategies in an interview, and completed tests of cognitive style, aural skills, working memory, and music-processing style. The performances were assessed in terms of “recall rate” separately for both hands (accuracy of memorization) and “overall impression” (pianistic fluency and style). In tonal music, pianists’ aural imagery focused on imagining the melody, whereas in nontonal music, aural imagery typically focused on rhythmic aspects. In tonal music, conceptual strategies were related to traditional music analysis, whereas in nontonal music they were more piecemeal and atomistic in nature. According to linear mixed-effect models, right-hand recall rate was associated with higher aural skills, but left-hand recall rate was related to verbal cognitive style and analytical music-processing style, that is, more frequent use of music analysis in regular practice. Better performances in terms of overall impression were related to higher aural skills. Music education develops skills and strategies that are effective for memorizing, and beyond one’s working memory capacity. However, cognitive styles may also play a role in musicians’ silent memorizing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)