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Preview, perception and motor skill in piano sight-reading

Evans, David (2008) Preview, perception and motor skill in piano sight-reading. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Ten skilled and eleven less skilled sight-readers, advanced adult pianists, undertook two sets of studies. First, controlled preview experiments measured dependence of maximised sight-reading tempo on preview size with monophonic, two-part and four- part notation. Secondly, monophonic experiments measured isolated, sight-reading related perceptual and motor sub-skills: a transcription based error detection task and a test of visually unmonitored, unrehearsed output. All experiments employed tonally coherent and incoherent materials, with the aim of testing the theory that the ability of skilled readers lies in their use of larger preview than less skilled readers, courtesy of their greater sensitivity to musical structure. The skilled group sight-read consistently faster than the less skilled group, achieving larger effective preview with monophonic and four-part, but crucially not with two- part materials. Extra preview use with the former materials was found to be a source of only small gains, the evidence overall indicating skilled readers' faster performance to have been primarily dependent on a more efficient processing of smaller preview amounts than less skilled readers. Both skill groups demonstrated similar, limited tempo responses to the structural distinction in experimental materials, with no structural effect on preview for skilled readers. These results suggest, therefore, that the skilled group's superior performance was primarily due to perceptuo-motor factors. This finding is confirmed by the skilled group's faster performance on the two sub- skill studies. On the perceptual study, both groups display similar patterns of response and sensitivity to structure. In terms of motor skill, compared to less skilled readers, skilled readers are either better at unrehearsed output, non-visually monitored performance, or both. Finally, individual participant data suggest sight-reading to be a complex combination of skills: many participants show significant variation in performance across the studies, and there is evidence for a number of different factors limiting skill development amongst less skilled readers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Music (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.489658
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 28 May 2014 11:49
Last Modified: 28 May 2014 11:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6109

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