The purpose of this practice-led study is to explore advanced pianists’ process of
learning new repertoire. The study draws on accounts by professional pianists and
pedagogues as well as on case studies of the learning process in musicians. The
study also draws on literature on practice and memorisation. It incorporates the
author’s own documented process of learning Claude Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse.
Audio recordings and journal entries from each practice session during this learning
process were transcribed and a description of the learning process is presented
The process is divided into four stages. The first stage is initial learning, becoming
familiar with the score and working out fingerings. A subsequent first revision of the
score constitutes the second stage with the goals of solidifying the execution of
technical elements and rhythmic accuracy. The third stage is a second revision of
the score with the goal of committing the music to memory and further improving
technical execution. The fourth stage is aimed at polishing the piece with the goals of
bringing the piece up to performance tempo, incorporating interpretive and musical
elements, and further solidifying memory recall and technical execution of the music.
The results are discussed and compared with the literature. The study found that an
effective learning process reflects K. Anders Ericsson’s principles of deliberate
practice and expert memory. It found further that practice strategies which introduce
contextual interference into the process could be beneficial, as could also
concentrated, musical slow practice. Other beneficial techniques include mental
practice in order to strengthen memorisation.
Dissertation (MMus)--University of Pretoria, 2019.