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#1002645 - 12/04/04 08:58 PM Why can't I memorize Bach?
teachum Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/19/04
Posts: 2913
Loc: idaho
I'm happy to report that some Bach pieces are finally getting easier for me,(for some reason Bach has always been hard for me) but WHY can't I memorize Bach? I'm a very good memorizer, in fact, it's a fault. I have always tended to rely to much on memory rather than continuing to read the music. I can memorize a Chopin Nocturne, but not Bach. Very strange. Anyone have any ideas?
_________________________
You will be 10 years older, ten years from now, no matter what you do - so go for it!

Estonia #6141 in Satin Mahogany

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#1002646 - 12/04/04 09:36 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
ilikemozart Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 372
Loc: California USA
My guess is because it is like doing "finger exercises" and the melody isn't as obvious. My instructor is having me play Bach to strengthen my fingers. The inventions are a challenge to me.

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#1002647 - 12/04/04 10:34 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Look at the bright side, you have something to use for sight reading practice. ;\)

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#1002648 - 12/05/04 08:54 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
Bach is harder to memorize and even if i did memorize a Bach piece, i will forget it without playing it for a while. i think unless you can memorize a Bach piece HS, you will just have to relearn it after a while, because of the polyphonic nature of Bach music.

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#1002649 - 12/05/04 08:56 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
it's impossibler
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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#1002650 - 12/05/04 09:02 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
HannahT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/04
Posts: 199
Loc: UK
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
...because of the polyphonic nature of Bach music. [/b]
That is eggsactly why.
_________________________
why was the mushroom invited to the party? because he was a FUN-GUY! :p

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#1002651 - 12/05/04 05:46 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
teachum Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/19/04
Posts: 2913
Loc: idaho
You're right, Bob. That is the positve side of it. But I still like to memorize things. :rolleyes: Glad I'm not alone in this.
_________________________
You will be 10 years older, ten years from now, no matter what you do - so go for it!

Estonia #6141 in Satin Mahogany

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#1002652 - 12/05/04 09:57 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Just a theory - the harpsichord and clavichord were admirably suited to compositions with single note outlines - however the strike-mechanism of "pluck and twang" eventually lost out to the piano with it's superior note damper and sustaining pedal.

The clavichord's inability to smash ot those glorious mighty chords of Beethoven and Brahms (without making the dog howl) challenged Bach to stretch his limited armour to the limit - the WTC exemplifies an extensive integration of single-note polyphonic outlines.

The difficulty in sight-reading and memorizing Bach lies in the resultant spotty or fragmented nature of the elaborate polyphonic weave - try grasping the meanderings of 5 voices!!

Thank goodness for the pianoforte which introduced the compacting effect of chords.

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#1002653 - 12/05/04 10:09 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
i start to think seriously that hand separate memorization may be the key to memorize Bach pieces.

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#1002654 - 12/06/04 10:04 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
Cool Nerd Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/25/03
Posts: 136
Loc: Charlotte, NC
So how about the other side? I have the opposite problem. Bach seems easier for me to memorize if I follow the fingering. I hear and see the melodies and patterns. Pieces with complex chord, like Brahms and Beethoven, are harder for me to memorize as is most popular music. Those darn chord changes are hard to remember! I'd love to know why this happens and what to do to improve.
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#1002655 - 12/09/04 07:02 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
i found this article online, and thought that it may help us not only memorize Bach's music but music in general as well:

http://www.siue.edu/MUSIC/html/ruths.html

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#1002656 - 12/09/04 07:24 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
i start to think seriously that hand separate memorization may be the key to memorize Bach pieces. [/b]
Exactly.. I find it easiest to take a bar or two at a time, first figure out the necessary fingering, and then learn each voice seperately, using the proper fingering. Then add voices together one at a time.. For example in a 3voice invention, learn the top, middle and bottom seperately. Then play the top and middle together. Then play the middle and bottom together. Then play the top and bottom together and then all 3 together. You really get a change to hear the harmonies that way and it helps in memorization.

-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#1002657 - 12/09/04 08:59 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
Paul, thanks for suggestions. i actually learned 3-part invention no.2, but since i haven't played it for a while, i start to forget part of it. i learned it a few bars at a time, tried HS a few times and then played HT many times to memorize it and then moved onto next few bars. i never really memorize the whole piece HS though, which got me thinking that i might need to do that in order to remember it better.

btw, 3-part no.2 is not difficult, which seems even easier to me than 2-part invention 13.

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#1002658 - 12/09/04 11:10 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
pianno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/04
Posts: 41
I have a certain technique that works fairly well. I just play the piece in question say 25-30 times over a period of time (a week maybe). Then I play through the entire piece with the right hand about 5-6 times and the same with my left hand. Works pretty good for memorizing. Though you might not have it all memorized after that week, you should just play it off memory and then correct your eventual mistakes by looking at the sheet music. Another important thing is to memorize all the difficult passages first and read yourself through the easy ones since they will come by themselves later on. Works for me anyway, but might be too time consuming for other players \:\)

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#1002659 - 12/09/04 11:55 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
signa -

you can actually approach it quite methodically, especially with counterpoint. Whether to literally learn the entire piece seperately first is debateable.. I find it works better for me to do so a phrase at a time, to retain context.. But whether you choose to go the whole piece or a phrase, here is a good routine to follow:

1. Re-write the entire score (notation software is very helpful) seperating each voice onto its own staff.

2. Determine what the proper fingering is and write it in for each voice.

3. Do as much an indepth a harmonic and structural analysis as you are capable of. You may want to break out the motives, retrogrades etc.. and write only those as an outline.

4. Learn each voice seperately using the fingering that will work for playing them all together. (This is very important, don't learn the voices seperately using any old fingering, it must be the fingering that will work for all three together)

5. Learn top/middle together.
6. Learn middle bottom together.
7. Learn top/bottom together.
8. Put them all together (I don't think the order of 5-7 matters, it's the seperations that are important)

Throughout this process, keep a log of what bars you worked on so that you can ensure completion and memorization in a methodical manner.

All the while you are doing this, SING outloud the voice as you are playing it, being as expressive as you can. Really, singing along with your playing is a HUGE help, both on being expressive in your playing, and in memorizing.

Now, I myself don't like to learn the whole piece as seperate voices first, I prefer to do it by phrase. So I'll go 2 or 3 bars at a time, ALWAYS remembering to join what I'm working on with the last beat of the last learned bar, and the first beat of the next bar I need to learn. This ensures continuity.

If you follow this process, always adding a beat or two joining bars/phrases and you methodically break it down as I stated and SING each voice as you learn it, you'll find it much simpler to learn and it will be so deeply ingrained in your head you'll be hearing it in your sleep and playing it with ease. At least it works like this for me, give it a try and see.

Finally, for some mind-blowing reading on learning/teaching inventions, check out these threads:

2+3pt Inventions: how to teach them

Ingredients of a Well-Played Two Part Invention


-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#1002660 - 12/09/04 12:10 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
Mikester Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/17/04
Posts: 1254
Loc: Minneesooota
Bach is hard to keep in the ole noggin. I noticed this when trying to pull off French Suite #2 from memory. You think you've got it, then, after not playing it for a month or more, it's out of the memory. But, thankfully, the fingers don't forget. Like if you pull out the score again, your fingers can keep up.

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#1002661 - 12/09/04 02:15 PM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mikester:
Bach is hard to keep in the ole noggin. I noticed this when trying to pull off French Suite #2 from memory. You think you've got it, then, after not playing it for a month or more, it's out of the memory. [/b]
i agree with that, and it's exactly what i meant. relatively speaking, i have less trouble to learn a Bach piece than keep it in memory for long time.

Paul, i see your point, but i was too lazy to do that ;\) .

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#1002662 - 12/10/04 04:33 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
Just curious.
In reading these posts, I get the feeling that most members must have had formal training in theory. I've taken fundamentals at university and sat in on the next level so the terminology is all familiar but I've never seen it in the "teach yourself" books that I've purchased over the years. Do most of you study theory on your own or take classes and how important do you feel it is to your piano progress. I've been told that most "kids" don't start serious theory till about grade 6 piano.
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1002663 - 12/10/04 07:36 AM Re: Why can't I memorize Bach?
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
Paul, i see your point, but i was too lazy to do that ;\) .
Sorry then I can't help you \:\) Only you can change that!

what was it Einstein said, "insanity is repeating the same thing over expecting different results" hehehe.

Sandy wrote:
 Quote:
Just curious.
In reading these posts, I get the feeling that most members must have had formal training in theory. I've taken fundamentals at university and sat in on the next level so the terminology is all familiar but I've never seen it in the "teach yourself" books that I've purchased over the years. Do most of you study theory on your own or take classes and how important do you feel it is to your piano progress. I've been told that most "kids" don't start serious theory till about grade 6 piano.
I haven't been formally trained in theory. I did do a music theory minor in college, but I wasn't there for music.. I continue to study it on my own, and with my teacher. Usually it involves studying theory as it relates to the pieces I am learning.

-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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