Sensory Contributions to Piano Learning for Novices


Previous research has examined the sensory contributions involved in expert piano playing, however, limited research has examined the role of sensory information in novice piano learning. This study investigated the relative contributions of auditory and visual feedback in piano acquisition among novice participants. Novice piano learners (n = 10, age = 21.1, 5 males, 5 females) played sequences in 3 sensory-training conditions (Audiovisual, Visual Only, Audio Only). On Day 1 participants performed a pre-test, an acquisition period, and an immediate retention test. On Day 2 participants performed a 24-hour delayed retention test. In the pre-test, participants were presented with three 7-note sequences at 120 bpm and were instructed to reproduce the sequences. In the acquisition phase, participants practiced the three sequences at both 60 and 120 bpm, with each sequence randomized to one of the three sensory-training conditions. During the acquisition phase, participants were given visual feedback of their accuracy (% of correct trials) and their timing performance (i.e., the inter onset interval IOI) as a percent difference between performed and presented sequence. The immediate and delayed retention were the same as the pre-test. Analysis of the IOI revealed that participants were significantly better in the Visual compared to the Audiovisual and Auditory sensory-training conditions in both immediate and delayed retention tests. This data suggests that training in Visual Only conditions leads to greater timing performance than Audio Only and Audiovisual training conditions, reflecting better learning. Thus, providing visual cues early in novice piano learning may be beneficial.