Thinking and Playing Music: Intentional Strategies for Optimal Practice and Performance distills cutting-edge teaching and learning methods for musicians of all levels, investigating topics in cognitive science that apply directly to musical development. Containing over one-hundred musical examples, many from the standard piano repertoire, Sheryl Iott uses accessible language to impart practical suggestions that anyone can incorporate into their practice.
Maximizing efficiency and effectiveness while cultivating an observant, experimental approach can help musicians make the most of their time and potential while avoiding tension, injury, and burnout. Aligning efforts with inherent mental processes can make learning faster, deeper, and more secure while freeing up attentional space, allowing for creative, personal expression in performance. The book addresses:
Also included are sample lesson plans, workshop templates, and sample practice assignments.
Sheryl Iott is an active solo and collaborative performer, speaker, and adjudicator. Iott is on the faculty of Interlochen Arts Camp and has served on the faculties of Grand Rapids Community College, Hope College, Michigan State University, and Calvin College. She is also a member of the College of Examiners for the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto. Frequently published in music education and piano pedagogy books and magazines, Iott’s current research is focusing on music cognition and cognition-enhanced practice strategies.
List of Figures
1 The Beginning Musician: Practice Is Play
Music and the Brain
Aural Cognition, Language Acquisition, and Musical Processing
Music Perception and Preparatory Audiation
Optimal Teaching Strategies for the Young Beginner
2 The Intermediate Musician: Fluent Music Reading and Early Problem Solving
From “Beginner” to “Intermediate”
Beginning Music Reading: Bringing Meaning to the Score
[Long-Term] Working Memory, Chunking, and Template Theories
Execution, and Benefits, of Mental Practice
“Theory”—When, How, and Why
More Relevant than Learning Styles: Personality, Character, and Motivation
3 Practice Strategies for Musicians of Burgeoning Independence
If You’re Not Thinking, You’re Not Practicing
Don’t Do It Again Until You Know Why
Audiation Pause = Learning Pause
Patterns and Mental “Chunking”
4 Specific Practice Strategies for the Intermediate Musician
Preparatory Practice Strategies
Tempo and Rhythm
Think It Then Play It
Benefits and Challenges of These Types of Practice Strategies for the Intermediate Musician
5 The Advanced Musician: The Cognition of Expertise
Mindful Practice and Avoidance of Excessive Automatization
Knowledge Representation, Working Memory, and Skilled Visual Processing
Long-Term Memory: Retention and Retrieval
Multiple Intelligences and Rule Learning
(Creative) Problem Solving
Impact of Mood on Problem Solving and Success
Motor Control and Development, and the Risks of Excessive Automaticity
Multimodal Imagery and Musical Memorization
Deliberate, Distributed, Interleaved Practice
Self-Monitoring and Self-Evaluation
6 Conceptual Solutions to Technical Problems (They Are All Technical Problems)
Practice Tools and Strategies for More Challenging Problems
What to Think About When
Scaffolding and Hypermeter
Mental Practice, Mapping, and Memorization
7 Practice Strategies for Solving Physical Problems
Physical Practice: Chunking, Gestures, The Chart, and Fingerings
Chunking » Gesture
Gesture » Detail
To the Thumbs
Fingerings and How They Help Form Meaningful Units
Above Strategies in Sequence and Combination
8 How Intentional Practice Benefits Performance
Appendix A: Sample Lesson Plan and Practice Sheet: Beginning Musician
Appendix B: Sample Practice Assignments: Intermediate Musician
Appendix C: The Integrated Lesson
Appendix D: Practice Strategies by Category and Figure Numbers
Appendix E: Areas of the Brain Involved in Language and Music Production and Comprehension
Appendix F: Workshop Templates
About the Author
Thinking and Playing Music synthesizes research and Iott's own experience as a pianist and teacher in a way that is effective, compelling, and interesting.
Thinking and Playing Music is thoroughly researched, emits the kind of wisdom accrued through years of practical experience, and is chock-full of vivacious prose and vivid examples. It will help fill a lacuna in music studies, lending studio pedagogy the focus and scholarly heft it warrants.
This book does what few do: it bridges the gap between the challenges faced by students and teachers and the science of learning. Such science-based learning makes students efficient and joyful.
There are times that we know there is research that would help us perform and teach better, but it's just too difficult to wade through the information. Sheryl Iott has done all that work for us in her new book, Thinking and Playing Music. Not only has she done all the difficult work for us, but she has also written it in a style that is easy to read and has connected the dots, so our practicing and teaching can be more insightful and effective…. Iott is an experienced performer and teacher and interlaces personal anecdotes throughout the book. This helps keep the tone readable and the material relevant. While this book is a pleasure to read because someone has "done the research for you," it is also enjoyable to read because you know the author is walking the journey with you.
In accessible language, Iott imparts constructive, specific advice using over 100 musical examples and score images. In addition, there is an extensive bibliography and an index for ease of finding specific topics. As easy to read as it is practical and thought-provoking, this book contains much wisdom and specific instruction for students and teachers alike. Highly recommended for learners and teachers of every level!
This book is applicable to musicians of all instruments, but pianists will find it especially useful […] Iott’s book, grounded in both scientific study and practical experience, is one any musician will find compelling and valuable.
Iott has done remarkable work synthesizing cognitive science and learning theory in a way that encompasses both teaching and deliberate practice, and any teacher interested in helping students learn
how to practice effectively would find a great deal of valuable information. Indeed, much of what Iott writes about learning can be applied to areas other than music; for example, I drew inspiration for new approaches to information literacy instruction from her discussion of the concepts underlying a foundational, rule-based approach to learning scales and arpeggios. This book is recommended for academic libraries serving faculty and students in music performance, education, and pedagogy programs.