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#1109251 - 01/04/05 04:25 AM Let's talk about memorizing
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
I tend to *not* memorize my pieces. The last piece I memorized was something I played in a recital (maybe 3 years ago.) It was only 4 pages long and I didn't have any problem memorizing it. But after I hadn't played it for a long time, and went back to play it again, I found I couldn't play it from memory and I couldn't sight-read it either. I basically had to relearn it completely (although it seemed harder the second time because I felt like I should know it only I didn't, if you know what I mean).

Since then I have not memorized any of the pieces I've played in recitals and have used the music during the recital etc. I have found that by always being able to follow the music with my eyes, I tend to look at my hands less, and it has helped me a bit with my stage-fright (something for another topic!) And because I'm always looking at the music (and less at my hands) I also feel that it has helped me to learn new music more quickly because I am so used to always watching the score.

Another benefit is that since I have a close and continuous relationship with the sheet music, I am able to retain more songs in my current repertoire (if that makes sense). Also, using the sheet music has forced me to learn how to turn pages while playing, which has come in handy.

However, I have a song that is 8 pages long (have to turn a page three times during the song) that I want to record, and I don't want the sound of me turning the pages to be a part of the recording. So it seems like I should probably memorize this just for that reason.

I am also working on another song (George Winston's Variations on the Canon, anyone know it?) It's 6 pages long, and I'm having a lot of trouble with it because there are so many variations through the piece, I get mixed up with which variation comes up where. When I play on a grand piano (I have an upright at home), I get lost when I look at the music because it's in a different position/height on the grand. So I feel like it would be beneficial to memorize this piece, but my attempts to so far have not been particularly successful.

In the past when I memorized pieces, it was never difficult and seemed to happen almost naturally so that I would find myself looking at the music less and less until I finally just didn't put the score on the music stand at all.

But that was before I developed this addiction to playing the longest pieces I can find! Now I feel dependent on the sheet music in a way I never did before, and I don't know how to get away from that.

On the other hand, as I mentioned, it seems that being able to always read thru the score helps with maintaining more pieces in my playable repertoire (something that is very important to me).

So tell me what you do to memorize longer music, and keep pieces playable after you have moved on to something else.

Any thoughts on the pros and cons of playing from memory would also be appreciated!

Sorry this is soo long, just like all my musical selections... \:\(
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#1109252 - 01/04/05 04:34 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I question this all the time. I tend to memorize quickly but as you mentioned, if I haven't played it in a long time, I forget it and, because I was playing from memory rather than sight reading, it has to be learned all over again!! Although once relearned the second time it's less of a problem. Sight reading also proves better when my teacher says "O.K. start here!!!" From memory that's harder to do. Looking forward to other thoughts on this.
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1109253 - 01/04/05 07:22 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
 Quote:
Originally posted by ShiroKuro:
However, I have a song that is 8 pages long (have to turn a page three times during the song) that I want to record, and I don't want the sound of me turning the pages to be a part of the recording. So it seems like I should probably memorize this just for that reason.
[/b]
Can't help you with the memorizing; I am terrible at it myself but my sight-reading is excellent!

Concerning page-turning for long scores, what you could do is to photocopy all the pages and stick them in one long strip so you would not need to turn the pages. This is assuming that your music desk is long enough to accommodate the whole strip. An alternative is to have someone else act as a page-turner. If the page-turning is done slowly enough, there would be minimal noise. You would then only need to memorize the bits just before and just after the page turns.

These 2 techniques are used by professionals all the time.

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#1109254 - 01/04/05 07:52 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
If you want to memorize a piece permanently, then memorize it, then forget it, then memorize it again from scratch.

If you check over at Pianoforum.net, you'll find a LOT of advice on memorization techniques and problems. One I've seen is to conduct a thorough harmonic analysis of the piece and memorize it that way in addition to just the notes. For example, if you know that it transitions from E to G at one point, then you have another point to turn to if you forget the notes.

The way I like to memorize a piece that I want to add to my repertoire is to do it as Chang suggests. That is to memorize it as I learn it. So by the time I have the notes under my fingers, it's memorized. That way, the whole time I'm reinforcing the hand/finger movements, smoothing out the jumps and transitions, and working on the dynamics, I'm reinforcing the memorized notes because I'm not referring to the score all the time.

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#1109255 - 01/04/05 08:17 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Siddhartha Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/08/04
Posts: 1244
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
 Quote:
Originally posted by Sandy Moore:
I question this all the time. I tend to memorize quickly but as you mentioned, if I haven't played it in a long time, I forget it and, because I was playing from memory rather than sight reading, it has to be learned all over again!! Although once relearned the second time it's less of a problem. Sight reading also proves better when my teacher says "O.K. start here!!!" From memory that's harder to do. Looking forward to other thoughts on this. [/b]
Memorize it thoroughly enough so that you could start from anywhere. My college teacher was a stickler for this, memorizing hands separately and hands together. So thorougly that you could write the piece out in its entirety away from the piano on manuscript paper.

For my senior recital (70 mins of music) I knew every piece that well. In preparation, every night while lying in bed, I would select one piece from my recital repertoire and go through it note by note in my head (hands separately and together). This was quite a feat when the selection du noir was Liszt's Dante Sonata.

I got to the point that it seemed obvious to me that memorization was an essential FIRST step in learning a piece and that music doesnt start until after that. Particularly for technically challenging pieces, in order for your technical apparatus to accomodate the skills, it must know precisely what it is expected to do. If you must read the note before playing it, then thats a major glitch in that chain, and results in much energy wasted and the learning of hesitations and extraneous motions.

but this approach isnt for everyone, I understand.
_________________________
I was born the year Glenn Gould stop playing concerts. Coincidence?

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#1109256 - 01/04/05 11:24 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I play recitals entirely by memory. I feel more secure if I can look at my hands, and I tend to lose my place in the music a lot. I envy those who read well and don't have these problems, but memory comes easy for me and I rarely have to devote time to it.

Regarding memorization, Sid and I are on the same page. One additional thing I would say is that it helps to start from the end and learn the piece backward. So you start learning the last few lines, memorizing them. Then you start learning/memorizing a few lines before that, playing through to the end. And so on, until you have the whole piece from the beginning.

When you perform it from memory, you will be increasingly confident and comfortable and secure as you wind through to the end. If I make a mistake, I tend to be better able to brush it off because the "easy" parts are coming. This has helped me immeasurably, and you always finish strong!

Regarding reviving previously memorized pieces, the only answer for me is to never give up a piece you want to have in your fingers. Use old pieces to warm up daily and they'll stay in your fingers. For pieces I discard, I like to go back to them and use them for site reading. Right now, I have two pieces in my fingers -- maybe 10 minutes of music.

Here's a theory. When people say they aren't good at memorizing, could they really say that the piece is not very challenging for them? When a piece is hard, I have to spend so much time learning to play it that the memory comes automatically. Like I said, it's just a theory.

Hang in there. Eight pages -- that's *long!* I've never even attempted a piece longer than four.
_________________________
Vote For Cindy!!

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#1109257 - 01/04/05 11:41 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Jerry Luke Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 969
Loc: Tillamook, Oregon
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
One additional thing I would say is that it helps to start from the end and learn the piece backward. So you start learning the last few lines, memorizing them. Then you start learning/memorizing a few lines before that, playing through to the end. And so on, until you have the whole piece from the beginning.[/b]
Excellent! I will begin using this method immediately! \:\)
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#1109258 - 01/04/05 11:51 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
When I was first learning CPE Bach's "Solfeggietto", I practiced it so much WITH the music - I practiced little sections over and over to get the technical challenges refined, like the coordination of the sustain and una corda pedals my teacher added in measures 7 & 8. It's still a challenging piece for me that I stumble over and wonder if I'll ever get it all ALLEGRO.

Anyway, one day I decided to see how much I could play without the music. I was really suprised how much I remembered! I wasn't intentionally trying to memorize - my main focus was to master the technical challenges. When I went to my next lesson, I played what I could without the music and my teacher was amazed how much more musically I played and that my tension was gone. That was a real turning point for me. Now when I practice the piece, I do it without the music. I still can't play the whole piece without making a mistake or being unsatisfied with my dynamics, but then I tend to be hard on myself.

I believe that for me, "mastering" small sections at a time is the best way to memorize. It may not work for everyone but it seems to work for me. \:\)
_________________________
"Cats make purrfect friends"

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#1109259 - 01/04/05 06:51 PM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Cindy, *memorizing* backwards is a good idea! I often *practice* backwards, working on sections from end to beginning (as opposed to starting at the beginning) but I hadn't thought about doing that as part of my memorizing.

Yeah, 8 pages is long, and it's too long to tape end-to-end. The most I can do sheets end-to-end is 5 pages (another downside to uprights) I have a 6 page one that I set up so I only have to turn the page once (I made my own "book," it works really well because there's a slow part in the middle and that's where I turn.)

Bob, is Chang the person who wrote a book titled something like "The Art of Practice?" Can you tell me about that book? Do you recommend it?

So how does one memorize a piece as it's learned? As I said earlier, in the past I always memorized things naturally (or effortlessly?) So if memorizing doesn't come naturally, what are some memorization techniques?

Also, do you think working on more than one piece at once is a barrier to memorizing?
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#1109260 - 01/04/05 07:01 PM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Chang is writing "The Fundamentals of Piano Practice". You can find it HERE free. It is VERY highly recommended and it will change the way you practice for the better!

"So how does one memorize a piece as it's learned?"

Simple. You learn to not have to look at the music the same way you learn to play without looking at the keys. Stop looking at the music! \:\) When you're learning the piece, you usually learn it in sections. So as you're getting the notes under your fingers, stop looking at the music.

"what are some memorization techniques?"

I mentioned some earlier, but it would be best to do a search over at Pianoforum.net. You'll find a plethora of tips.

"do you think working on more than one piece at once is a barrier to memorizing?"

Shouldn't.

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#1109261 - 01/04/05 07:16 PM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Bob, thanks for that link. It looks like it's hundreds of pages long, so I am thinking about printing it out in sections to read.

More questions for everyone:

What do you think the benefits of memorization are? Do you think memorization is necessary? Is it a necessary step in "completing" a piece? Is it a necessary part of practice in general? What do you miss if you never memorize a piece? Is there anything to be gained by not memorizing?
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#1109262 - 01/04/05 07:46 PM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Download the PDF file.

The benefits are numerous. With it memorized, you can focus a LOT more on other things besides reading like dynamics, relaxation, finger/hand/arm/sholder position, etc. You *know* the piece more and if you don't know the piece, then you don't know the piece. ;\)

"Is there anything to be gained by not memorizing?"

Well, your sight reading skills certainly are going to be better and you'll save a bit of time.

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#1109263 - 01/05/05 02:24 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
It's funny how you think about something for long enough, and you become unable to see the most obvious thing.

I just realized that I do not have to memorize *all* the pieces I'm playing and that are in my playlist, I can just memorize some. Duh :rolleyes:

This would certainly end my feelings of guilt over not memorizing, and help me regain/develop my memorization skills. Having songs that I am not memorizing would still allow me to work on my sight reading, as well as keep a fairly full play list without devoting all of my practice time just to maintenance.

Now back to the problem at hand, I have decided I'm going to try to memorize the 8-page one so I can record it.

Thank you (again!) Bob, I will check on Pianoforum.net for more tips. That site makes my eyes so tired though, why the black background? Am I the only one who's bothered by that? (then again, I don't like to read a lot of text on the computer, that's why I'll probably be printing out Chang's stuff, from what I could see, it looks like it's worth the paper)
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#1109264 - 01/05/05 02:57 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3515
Loc: not in Japan anymore
P.S. I checked in Piano World's FAQ for the pianists corner, and found this interesting suggestion for memorizing: Make a map of the music. Sounds simple, but I have never heard of this (or thought of it).

Does anyone here do that with your music? What kind of info do you put on the map? Is it notation information? For example, break the music up into sections and put only the first measure of each section on the map? Or simply a map with words?
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#1109265 - 01/05/05 07:20 AM Re: Let's talk about memorizing
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Regarding the black background, there is an active thread there about how to change your settings so you get a light background.

It doesn't seem to work for Mozilla users like me, though . . . ;\)
_________________________
Vote For Cindy!!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post...QvjrL_blog.html

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