A research project at the University of Texas at Austin tested 17 piano majors to see how accurately they could learn a musical passage under controlled conditions. The performance results were then checked against how each pianist had practiced, and the researchers came to the following conclusions about those who had played the most accurately:
1. Playing was hands-together early in practice.Much of what I talk about in lessons involves slowing down, finding mistakes, practicing in smaller chunks, and repeating passages until they're right. It was a pleasant surprise to see this type of method backed up in research.
2. Practice was with inflection early on; the initial conceptualization of the music was with inflection.
3. Practice was thoughtful, as evidenced by silent pauses while looking at the music, singing/humming, making notes on the page, or expressing verbal “ah-ha”s.
4. Errors were preempted by stopping in anticipation of mistakes.
5. Errors were addressed immediately when they appeared.
6. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.
7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct).
8. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials.