Does Retrieval Practice Enhance Memorization of Piano Melodies?1

  • Issue: Volume 61, No.2
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Any music educator understands the importance of a solid music education. Research has shown that learning and performing music provides cognitive and neuroscientific benefits, such as enhanced speech processing, verbal and visual memory, working memory, mathematical skills, processing speed, and reasoning performance. Considering these cognitive and neuroscientific changes, it is clearly beneficial for individuals to receive musical training on an instrument, including learning to memorize music.

The motivation for this study was to investigate a particular strategy for memorizing music, that of retrieval practice, a study technique whereby novel material is studied and tested afterwards by means of a practice quiz, prior to a final test.

Retrieval practice involves retrieving information from long-term memory, which requires effort, into working memory. When compared to simply restudying information, the act of retrieving information from memory has been shown to improve long-term retention of that information. This finding is known as the “testing effect.”

Decades of cognitive psychology research has shown retrieval practice to be one of the most effective strategies to optimize learning in verbal domains. However, there are currently no studies that systematically investigate the use of retrieval practice for memorizing music. Hence, the current study provides a starting point, using a standard retrieval practice experimental design in a controlled investigation to focus on the effectiveness of this paradigm in music memorization.

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Last modified on Monday, 18/04/2022

Paula Telesco, Meltem Karaca, Hannah Ewing, Kelsey Gilbert, Sarah Lipitz, and Jude Weinstein-Jones

Paula Telesco (PhD, The Ohio State University) is an Associate Professor of Music Theory and Aural Skills at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Her research interests are music theory and aural-skills pedagogy, music cognition, the history of music theory, and musical enharmonicism.

Meltem Karaca is a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Her research interests are memory, metacognition, and self-perceptions of aging.

Hannah Ewing earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Kelsey Gilbert is a PsyD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Hartford. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she was a student researcher in cognitive psychology. Her current research interests are eating disorders and weight stigma.

Sarah Lipitz is Doctoral candidate in Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University.

Jude Weinstein-Jones, PhD is a former cognitive psychologist and co-author of “How We Learn: A Visual Guide.” They now work in community health.

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