Visual-auditory and Force Feedback in Piano Playing to Improve the Regulatory Processes and Performance of Students

Gaertner, Henriette
Professor, University of Music of Trossingen, Trossingen, Germany

Pozzo, Renzo
PhD in Medicine, Professor, Department of Medical and Biological Sciences, University of Medicine of Udine, Udine, Italy

Feedback methods in educational psychology and the regulatory mechanisms of physiological systems are a currently studied topic (McPherson, Hattie, Bazanova, Vedsted). We discuss several studies dealing with the application of feedback to piano playing. The analysis refers to the perspective of the interaction between teacher and learner, focusing on how technology can improve the learning process (Hammond) and on the optimal combination of information (visual perception) about the forces acting on piano keys, as well as on the pedals associated with sound quality and its subjective perception (Gaertner). Hammond’s methodology encompasses elements of case study (interpretation/understanding of piano teaching and learning in higher education) and action research (intervention/change through the application of technology-mediated feedback). Additional types of visual-auditory feedback provided information about MIDI parameters, for example: (1) sizes and gaps found in the MIDI note display that can be associated with rhythmic accuracy (see examples in Figures 1a and 1b); (2) MIDI note asynchrony associated with articulation; (3) the presence or absence of MIDI notes associated with melodic accuracy; and (4) MIDI note colours associated with dynamics (intensities). Three teacher-student pairs participated in the investigation. The qualitative analysis of video data addressed three main categories: speech, practice and feedback. The results of this study underline the notion that effective piano learning and teaching happens in the presence of specific feedback, when verbal or non-verbal behaviour is combined with a parameter (music, performance or technology), in order to make clearer to the student his learning strategy and piano performance. In Gaertner’s approach, force-time curves were obtained by pressure sensors applied on keys and pedals. In addition, motion sequences were captured by video cameras associated with sound recordings, in order to evaluate the quality of performance (scaled questionnaire with 5 criteria). Students and professional soloists played some bars from classical pieces (Schumann, Galuppi). They were supervised by a teacher using the traditional verbal information method (VIN) and a visual feedback method (FBIN= full inspection of the time-functions and acoustical records). The time structure of the overlap-time phase for musical intervals and the force quotients at 150 ms after the force onset for each key stroke seem to be relevant for the optimization of participants’ learning strategies. These improvements are significantly greater using the FBIN method compared with the traditional one (VIN).
Keywords: visual-auditory feedback, piano playing, teaching, keyboard, pedal
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