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#1124298 - 11/24/07 08:09 PM "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
saerra Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 842
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Hi everyone,

I was looking through the Fundamentals book posted here ( http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/chapter_1 ) - and found the section on "Keyboard Memory"! ( http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/1.III.6.10.3 )

Wow! Is anyone else using this?

I'm not sure if I'm doing it 100% correctly, but it looks like it's going to be a huge help for me. I'm still having intermittent problems with my hands/forearms, so I can't practice as much I'd like (*really sad about that*). It's frustrating, because things take sooo much longer when you can't just sit down and play for hours on end ;\) and... of course when I don't practice enough to get them, I go to my lesson and things fall apart like a bad train wreck (yikes) and... blah!

So I started last week with memorizing and mentally practicing a little piece that I was having some problems with...

My mental practice focuses on:

- First hands separate, then later hands together (in my head)

- obviously, being able to "hear" the music in my head as I "play"

- physical memory - trying to remember the actual physical feelings of how far over fingers went, how much stretching, what keys to press, etc. Some of this is also verbal, as in "two keys up" or "thumb goes to where the middle finger was"

- visual - I try to keep a picture of the keyboard so I can "see" what keys I'm pressing. This is the hardest part for me (!) - not sure why, but it seems like it's useful - if I just remember "go two keys up" - I easily lose track of where I am (what pitch that is) - but if I can *see* the keyboard and visualize my fingers moving two keys up, as I feel them... then - it becomes much easier (almost trivial) to remember the notes themselves, because I just do a mental visual check!

One other thing I've been trying to do when I'm first learning the piece and beginning to memorize it, I will sometimes play one hand on the keyboard, and the other "in my head" to see if I can get them right and match them up. It's interesting...

Anyway - doing the music and physical stuff together, even for hands-together, is do-able for me, but when I add the visual, I slow WAY down and have to go very slowly for now (though I guess with practice this will get better).

I've ALSO started practicing with my eyes closed and found it has helped me focus much better on what I'm hearing, and what my fingers are feeling (and I think relaxing my hands more, since I can't see the keys - I can't really keep my hands lifted above the keyboard - or I lose my place! So I'm relaxing my hands and staying in more constant contact with the keys... I think...)

Anyway - just wanted to share my excitement over discovering this, and see if anyone else is using it, and what you might be doing different, or any other suggestions to add on.

I think it's helpful, b/c I've been relying mostly on physical/finger memory, and have recently been seeing how painfully that can go very very wrong ;\) especially if you aren't careful to keep all the mistakes out when you first start studying a piece (oops).

\:\) Very cool stuff!

Thanks.

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#1124299 - 11/24/07 08:48 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1547
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
Hey Saerra--

Thanks for posting that. I imagine you're referring to the Change book, and I just printed it out so I have it near my chair but haven't looked at it yet. I really do need some help with memory in various ways. The piece I played for this last online recital is giving me intermittent memory problems, probably because I have memorized it using only tactile memory, not note or visual memory. I will read those sections and see if I can get some help.

Nancy
_________________________

Estonia 168, Yamaha UX3

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#1124300 - 11/25/07 06:36 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
westarm Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/09/07
Posts: 63
Loc: Indiana, USA
hi Saerra....i'm a real beginner but like you, have found Chang's book immensely helpful. one thing he stresses is relaxation and i've been trying to keep that in the forefront..a simple concept but like most things, easier said than done, but during those moments when i am relaxed, my practice time is well spent.

david
_________________________
"The human brain can be quite wasteful." Chang, Fundamentals of Piano Practice

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#1124301 - 11/25/07 08:28 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
saerra Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 842
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Hi Nancy - yes, the tactile memory gives me problems too... I'm still enough of a beginner that I get nervous playing in front of my teacher ;\) so... even with music in front of me, when things go bad... they go REALLY bad ;\) Hope the book helps!

David - yeah, I need to work on the relaxation thing, I should probably go read that section too - thanks for pointing it out!

So... nobody else is using this type of memory? It's really kind of cool/interesting, you can almost feel it strengthening the neural pathways ;\) ;\) ;\)

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#1124302 - 11/26/07 06:23 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1172
Loc: Cornwall, England
Hi saerra \:\) This is a very interesting topic and I'm definitely going to give the technique some attention.

I'm always amazed that the great classical pianists are able to perform so much difficult repertoire without the music in front of them. Last night I was watching a DVD series of Alfred Brendel playing several of Schubert's Sonatas, as well as other works by the same composer... and this is only a very small part of his extensive repertoire. It's hard for me to comprehend how these players are capable of such incredible feats of memory, whilst I struggle to remember just one or two easy pieces. I wonder what techniques players like Brendel use to memorise so much music... I'd love to know their 'secrets!'

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#1124303 - 11/26/07 07:07 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
playadom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/06
Posts: 1366
Loc: New Jersey
A while back, I decided to try an experiment on this subject. I decided to learn Burgmuller's Arabesque (I think that's what it's called) from the score as quickly as I could.

It was interesting. When I tried it (without the score) at the piano, it was like looking at a photograph with one of color layers removed.

I also use this method to practice sometimes when I'm away from a piano, and doing nothing productive.
_________________________
Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.

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#1124304 - 11/27/07 03:26 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1172
Loc: Cornwall, England
I'm surprised this thread hasn't aroused more interest. It occurs to me that this MP (Mental Play) thing could[/b] be the 'holy grail' as far as the piano is concerned and could[/b] be the single most imporatant element that separates the great pianists from the rest of us .. just a thought \:\)

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#1124305 - 11/27/07 03:52 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Mental play is better than no play on one level. On another level a work IS only mental play - that was Schenker's view. Most don't realize that if you hear a work internally (from scratch - not a memorised version) you're hearing a purer version - one where the meaning has not needed to surmount the physical barrier.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1124306 - 11/27/07 11:40 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1451
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Very interesting.
I think I started doing this without even thinking about it, granted I am a beginner studying easy pieces. Sometimes as a lay down to go to sleep, I find myself looking at the score in my mind's eye and hearing the music. This is usually accompanied by an abstract version of a keyboard (can’t quite explain it), but I rarely see my hands playing the actually keys.
I wonder, if you are using MP and you are in the key of B flat for example, and you come across a an E or B in the score, do you think B flat or E flat, or do you just think B or E in the key of B flat (I know weird question).?

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#1124307 - 11/27/07 12:14 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
 Quote:
Originally posted by Triryche:
I wonder, if you are using MP and you are in the key of B flat for example, and you come across a an E or B in the score, do you think B flat or E flat, or do you just think B or E in the key of B flat (I know weird question).? [/b]
I struggled with trying to think "B flat, E flat" but I couldn't do it without throwing off the rhythm in my head, so I usually just think B, E. I don't think it's a problem as long as you picture the key in your head and know it's a flat. The one exception (for me) is if a sharp or flat immediately follows a note, then I just think "flat," like B, flat, C.

I haven't noticed any problem with this on the piano, because I have the mental image of the key, but sometimes I try to transcribe melodies to the guitar, and fail because I miss sharps and flats.

If that's a weird question, then I'm just as weird as you!

lol!

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#1124308 - 11/27/07 01:12 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1451
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Cool!!
That is pretty much how I have been approaching it.
[EDIT]ADDED: this is the approach I use while playing the score at the piano, not with MP, I have not made a conscious effort to practice MP (yet).

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#1124309 - 11/27/07 01:19 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
 Quote:
Originally posted by bluekeys:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Triryche:
I wonder, if you are using MP and you are in the key of B flat for example, and you come across a an E or B in the score, do you think B flat or E flat, or do you just think B or E in the key of B flat (I know weird question).? [/b]
I struggled with trying to think "B flat, E flat" but I couldn't do it without throwing off the rhythm in my head, so I usually just think B, E. I don't think it's a problem as long as you picture the key in your head and know it's a flat. The one exception (for me) is if a sharp or flat immediately follows a note, then I just think "flat," like B, flat, C.

I haven't noticed any problem with this on the piano, because I have the mental image of the key, but sometimes I try to transcribe melodies to the guitar, and fail because I miss sharps and flats.

If that's a weird question, then I'm just as weird as you!

lol! [/b]
Yea, I have the same issue. If I think "B flat", then I lose it.

What I do is just think "flat" when I come to a B or E (or whatever in any key)instead of the note name and I seem to know somehow what the note is. It's odd, but I "see" Bb but I don't think it. Now, that's weird....
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#1124310 - 11/27/07 01:34 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
Interesting topic. I'm going to use these techniques in continuing the memory process on 2 of my pieces. I have a question after reading the keyboard memory article.

Is photographic memory where you can see the page of music with the musical notation? Is keyboard memory where you can see the piano keys in your mind that you will be playing? That's what I interpret this to mean, but someone please clarify.

In relearning piano as an adult I learned where all the notes were on the piano without first knowing their names. So the process of memorizing the keys and the sequence of playing them in my mind would be something I could try. It would be much easier than memorizing the sheet of musical notes.

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#1124311 - 11/27/07 08:21 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1522
Loc: Portland, Or.
I find CC Chang's book invaluable. It has certainly helped me tremendously.

My memorizing involves a lot of thinking about the names of the notes and the chords, and the various progressions. This helps get it in my memory. I got this suggestions from the Geiseking book, which stresses verbalization. Also, I watch my hands and the patterns of the chords, and this too helps me memorize.

My ear is not much help. It does tell me when I have hit something wrong, but it does not tell me where I have to go next.

When I really learn a piece well, photographic memory does kick in, but only after all of the other memory aids have done their work.

Some pieces are much easier to memorized than others. Bach, for me, is almost impossible.
Chopin is also difficult as he almost never repeats anything the same way. Either he adds grace notes in the right hand, or varies the bass, even though the melodic line remains the same. Keeping it all sorted out is a challenge.

Gaby Tu

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#1124312 - 11/27/07 10:48 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
saerra Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 842
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Neat... I'm interested in hearing how it works for those of you just starting to try it out! \:\)

joangolfing - yes, that's my understanding too re: photographic v. keyboard!

For everyone talking about Bb - Doesn't verbalizing note names slow you down? I am doing it right now too a little (very slowly) to try to clear up my "picture" of the keyboard, but I really have to slow down (mostly for the picture! Who knew my picture-memory was so awful!) - but I am hoping that as I get better, I will just see the keyboard and hear the music, not name the notes - b/c really, if you know what the notes are on the keyboard, it becomes redundant doesn't it (I can see it's a C or a Bb, no need to think the name). I'm guessing on faster passages, even naming notes w/o a flat/sharp will be too slow in your head?

Anyway, my update - my ability to practice in my head seems to have slowed down, I think I'm just trying to work through it and get it all straight (adding the visual really slowed it down alot!) - and I haven't had as much time to practice it as I wanted (due to work, argh!). Despite that, I feel a bit more confident about the little piece I'm working on - the real test will be in a couple nights when I have my lesson ;\) since last lesson it completely fell apart!

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#1124313 - 11/27/07 11:46 PM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1522
Loc: Portland, Or.
Saerra, verbalizing the note and chord names is used during slow practice--when first learning the piece. Eventually the name just pops into your head and fingers, and you don't have to actually verbalize them any longer.

I find now that I can recognize them at a glance, and the only ones that I verbalize are the odd ones---those with a lot of accidentals written in. Even these, eventually become familiar to you.

It is slow going at first, but it pays off in the long run. Also, I find it has helped my sight reading as I recognize them at a glance and my fingers go automatically to the right key. Gabu Tu

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#1124314 - 11/28/07 12:20 AM Re: "Keyboard Memory / Mental Play"
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
 Quote:
Originally posted by saerra:
For everyone talking about Bb - Doesn't verbalizing note names slow you down?
[/b]
Yes, it is slower, but I find verbalizing note names to be helpful when I first memorize a piece. I also verbalize finger numbers. Sometimes I even sing "A, B, D, G/B..." or "1, 3, 4, 4/2" to the tune of the song (talk about weird!)

Once the piece is memorized, I start doing HS mental play and transition to a visual "keyboard memory." Once I can picture my fingers hitting the keys, I only go back to verbalizations on sections I have forgotten.

When I can MP a piece HS (both verbally and visually), I work on HT. I usually concentrate on trying to "see" both hands in their respective positions at the start of each phrase. I haven't been able to MP whole pieces HT, but I've generally found it unnecessary, since muscle memory completes the phrases once keyboard memory starts them.

If you can skip verbalization and go straight to keyboard memory, great, but for me skipping verbalization results in a false auditory memory, and I find I don't really have the piece memorized after all.

lol!

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