The conditions for learning musical interpretation in one-to-one piano tuition in higher music education

  • Carl Holmgren Luleå University of Technology, Sweden


Research has indicated that one-to-one teaching in higher music education in Western classical music typically favours technical over interpretive aspects of musicianship, and imitation of the teacher’s rather than the student’s explorative interpretation. The aim of the present study is to investigate students’ and teachers’ understandings of how musical interpretation of Western classical music is learned in this context. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with six piano students and four teachers in Sweden were conducted and hermeneutically analysed using haiku poems and poetical condensations. The analysis found that the conditions for learning musical interpretation centred upon students achieving a high level of autonomy, as affected by three key aspects of teaching and learning: (1) the student’s and the teacher’s understandings of what musical interpretation is, (2) the student’s experience of freedom of interpretation as acknowledged by the teacher, and (3) (expectations of) the student’s explorative approach. As none of these aspects were reported as being explicitly addressed during lessons, there might be a need for both teachers and students to verbalise them more clearly to support piano students’ development.

Original Articles
musical interpretation, higher music education, one-to-one tuition, Western classical music, poetry