Physical: It involves multi-parallel processing -- seeing notes on the score, translating them into motor commands
and aurally monitoring the results, sending feedback to the brain,
Information is constantly being input through our senses -- eyes, ears, skin (finger tips) to the brain
where is it processed and coordinated then output to motor control in a matter of milliseconds. -- Our brain is like a computer.
(more exactly, the computer is like our brain!)
Mental: A good musician can "see" what they hear and "hear" what they
see. Many great pianists (like Horowitz, Robinstein ..)
do a lot of mental practice away from the piano using imagery.
Auditory imagery is the ability to hear music in our mind's ears.
Visual imagery is the ability to see the music score in our mind's eyes.
Motor imagery is the ability to feel the movement
necessary to produce sound without actually executing them.
Combine mental and physical practice leads to great performance.
Now neuroscience research shows that motor imagery, or mental motor practice is the most effective kind of imagery, almost as effective as as actual practice.
The combination of mental and physical practice leads to greater performance improvement that does physical practice alone.
Mental training is extensively used the the field of sports, such as Gymnastics, figure skating and diving. and are proved to be
efficient and successful.
Many other scientific finding on motor imagery consistently show the motor imagery is almost identical to physical practice. Used in connection with physical practice, It is
far more superior to physical practice alone.
I myself use a lot of mental practice away from the piano. And it
proved to be very fruitful. It can speed up the learning process and
memorization. I am an advocate of teaching piano using both mental and physical