HOW DOES AN EXPERIENCED performer memorize when learning a new piece quickly, in just a few hours of practice? To find out, a concert pianist recorded her practice as she learned Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy. She also provided detailed reports on the formal structure of the piece, the performance cues that she selected to attend to while playing, and other decisions about technique and interpretation. These reports were used to determine what she paid attention to during practice and where she had difficulty with memory retrieval. Retrieval practice was one of the main activities throughout the 4 3/4 hours needed to prepare the piece for performance. The pianist tried to play from memory almost from the start, used the musical structure to organize practice, and worked on performance cues to speed up retrieval from long-term memory. Performers practice memory retrieval, even when practice time is limited.
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