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Practicing Perfection

Memory and Piano Performance



















“I write to congratulate you (and your co-author, Gabriela Imreh) on a marvelous book! Really, this is a gem of both research and writing—and a totally unique contribution to the literature on expertise. . . Your three voices come across marvelously, each adding a very distinctive tone to a most harmonious intellectual piece.” KENNETH KRESSEL, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY AND DIRECTOR RUTGERS UNIVERSITY


"Of all the interdisciplinary collaborations of late between psychologists and performers, surely the most fruitful . . . has been that of the American-Romanian concert pianist Gabriela Imreh with cognitive psychologist Roger Chaffin and his wife the social psychologist Mary Crawford. I would go so far as to say that the report of their research should be required reading for every pianist, piano student and teacher in the land.”



“This study of how a concert pianist prepares a new piece for performance is a collaboration between the pianist (Imreh), a cognitive psychologist (Chaffin), and a social psychologist with an interest in post-positivist methodology (Crawford). Centering on a description and analysis of how pianist Gabriela Imreh learned the third movement of J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto, the authors relate the pianist’s account of how she learns to the psychologists’ interpretation of the process.” MUSIC EDUCATORS JOURNAL


“It contains interesting quotes from the writings of historically significant pianists and teachers, Imreh's own comments about the process during the learning period, and insights as the concert pianist prepares for the final goal, the recording. Recommended for all inclusive music libraries and for undergraduate and graduate libraries in institutions emphasizing performance, this book will also be useful to psychology students who study memory and memorization.”



“How do concert pianists commit to memory the structure of a piece of music like Bach’s Italian Concerto, learning it well enough to remember it in the highly charged setting of a crowded performance venue, yet remaining open to the freshness of expression of the moment? . . . Chaffin, Imreh and Crawford’s innovative and detailed research suggests that the key to this skill is a declarative mental roadmap aiding musical performance.”



“This book has been an invaluable resource for me as I have searched for ways to understand how expert memory works and how I can strengthen it to prepare for solo performance. It has changed not only the way I practice, but also how I conceptualize the various levels of memory. I highly recommend this for people who are serious about desiring a career as a performer.” (FIVE STARS) CUSTOMER REVIEW, AMAZON.COM


“This book is amazing. It's a close examination about how professional pianist practices. I had a breakthrough thanks to the things I learned in this book.”






*Chaffin, R., Imreh, G., Crawford, M. (2004). La pratique de la perfection: comment un pianiste concertiste prépare sa performance, Medecine des Arts, 48, 33-35


*Chaffin, R., & Imreh, G. (2003) Effects of expertise on the learning of a new piece: A case study of a concert pianist, Music Perception.


*Chaffin, R. & Imreh, G. (2002). Practicing perfection: Piano performance as expert memory. Psychological Science, 13, 342-349.


*Chaffin, R. Crawford, M., Imreh, G. (2002) Performing gender. Feminism & Psychology, 12, 182-189.


*Chaffin, R. & Imreh, G. (2001). A comparison of practice and self-report as sources of information about the goals of expert practice. Psychology of music, 29, 39-69.


* Chaffin, R. & Imreh, G. (1997). "Pulling teeth and torture": Musical memory and problem solving. Thinking & Reasoning: Special Issue on Expert Thinking, 3, 315-336.


*Imreh, G. & Chaffin, R. (1996/97). Understanding and developing musical memory: The view of a concert pianist. American Music Teacher, 46, (3), 20-24, 67.


*Imreh, G. & Chaffin, R. (1994). Memorizing for piano performance. Piano Journal, 15, 16-19.




*Chaffin, R., Imreh, G., & Lemieux, A. Effects of memory retrieval on skilled performance: A case study. Article in preparation for Motor Behavior.


*Chaffin, R., Imreh, G., & Crawford, M. Practicing Perfection: How a Concert Pianist Prepares for a Performance. Article in preparation for USA Today Magazine.




Presto from Italian Concerto in F major by Johann Sebastian Bach​


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