Publication of the week: Dr Philip Fine

13 July 2015

Philip A. Fine, Karen J. Wise, Ricardo Goldemberg & Anabela Bravo, “Performing musicians’ understanding of the terms ‘mental practice’ and ‘score analysis'”, Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain 25.1 (2015), 69-82. DOI: 10.1037/pmu0000068.

Musicians commonly speak of mental practice and score analysis in referring to strategies widely used by performers. However, these terms may not be universally understood in the same way. To address this, 89 experienced musicians were surveyed as to their views and experiences concerning mental practice and score analysis, using a mixture of closed/rating scale and open-ended questions. They were asked what they understood by these terms and what information these strategies enabled them to obtain from the score. Results suggest that mental practice and score analysis are both considered useful, though mental practice more so. Content analysis identified the main characteristics of mental practice as: occurring away from the instrument; involving several types of imagery, often in real time; and focusing on performance preparation, particularly aspects of execution and realisation. During mental practice, the score tended to function more as a memory aid, an orientation guide, and as a point of reference for interpretation. Score analysis was considered more theoretical, though still relevant for performance preparation at a range of levels from exploratory to detailed. During score analysis, information primarily increased musical understanding of the piece, and related to both structural (e.g., form, harmony) and aesthetic (e.g., tempo, phrasing) aspects. The findings are discussed in terms of the current understanding of mental practice and score analysis in the literature, and the relationship between them. Mental practice and score analysis do have similarities, such as their benefit to performance preparation, and distinctions, for instance, concerning their specific aims. However, they may be best considered as lying on a continuum of strategies for performance practice and enhancement, rather than as two distinct behaviours.

The abstract is available on the Psychomusicology website, and the full text of the article can be read on BEAR (Buckingham E-Archive of Research).

Dr Philip Fine is Senior Lecturer in Psychology. The late Dr Anabela Bravo was his post-doctoral researcher at Buckingham on a grant from the Portuguese Government, and Dr Ricardo Goldemberg worked with him at Buckingham in 2014 as visiting research fellow, funded by the Brazilian Government.