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#1861730 - 03/14/12 01:12 PM Memorization vs Sight reading
Isabelle7007 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/11/12
Posts: 11
Loc: UT
Looking at some recitals, some on Youtube, it seems that memorization is more the norm. I'm 42 and my memory isn't the greatest (and I've only had a year of lessons at the age of 8, but taught myself after that). Anyway, memorizing a song seems intimidating to me. How do y'all do it? A few bars at a time? Or do you practice so much by sight-reading that memorization falls into place after so long?

Just wondering. I'm trying not to feel discouraged and overwhelmed, but it seems to me memorization would be better because it would be easier to put a lot of feeling into a piece, not to mention finding/reaching the notes more readily.

Help! I'm just getting back into the swing of things after several years without a piano. I'd love to be able to memorize some challenging pieces!
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~Belle~

1995 Young Chang Pramberger Signature Series Bubinga


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#1861744 - 03/14/12 01:29 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
ClavBoy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/11
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
Hi

I've the same problem like you, I'm 48 years old. There are so many tips on how to memorize, but the only thing having found that works for me is to repeat the pieces over an over again.
It helps also to hear the piece from a recording as often as possible.
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Working on:
Schumann: From Foreign Lands and Countries, op. 15; Burgmüller op. 100, Arabesque; Tchaikovsky op. 39 no. 15, Italian Song

Dreaming of:
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Satie: Gnossienne No. 1. Maybe a bit earlier



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#1861747 - 03/14/12 01:33 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Isabelle7007 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/11/12
Posts: 11
Loc: UT
Forgive me, I just found a thread called "Memorization" which is very helpful.

That said, it's funny that I remember beginnings of songs from my high school years...MacArthur's Park, Sesame Street (don't laugh), even a couple Chopin pieces. But I really REALLY want to have a full song memorized from start to finish. My mom is a great pianist and I don't think she has anything memorized, then again she can play by ear as well as sight read very quickly. She plays a lot of Chopin, beautifully but sight reading the entire pieces.

I guess one of my goals is to be able to sit down at any piano, anywhere, and play something really well from start to finish.

I'm impressed by the pianists on this beginner's board! It is very inspiring to me as I get back into playing again.
_________________________
~Belle~

1995 Young Chang Pramberger Signature Series Bubinga


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#1861749 - 03/14/12 01:35 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
[cross-posted!]

Isabelle7007, there are some tips for memorization on the recent Memorization thread. (ah, I see you've found it.)

I wouldn't call it memorization vs. sight-reading. I would call it memorization vs. reading. To me, sight-reading is what you do the first time you see a piece. After that, when you're practicing or performing with the music in front of you, it's reading but not sight-reading.


Edited by PianoStudent88 (03/14/12 01:36 PM)
Edit Reason: cross-post
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#1861752 - 03/14/12 01:41 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Isabelle7007 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/11/12
Posts: 11
Loc: UT
Thanks, Clavboy. Sucks to have memory issues in your 40's, huh?!?! I'm going to take your advice and listen to recordings of the pieces I am learning, I think that'll really help cement it into my thick head! smile
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~Belle~

1995 Young Chang Pramberger Signature Series Bubinga


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#1861756 - 03/14/12 01:43 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Isabelle7007 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/11/12
Posts: 11
Loc: UT
Good point, PianoStudent 88.
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~Belle~

1995 Young Chang Pramberger Signature Series Bubinga


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#1861757 - 03/14/12 01:45 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1451
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I think it is different for for each individual. I did not start learning piano and reading music until ~ 6 years ago. Because my "sight read" is so poor, I tend to end up memorizing as a result.

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#1861764 - 03/14/12 01:51 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
What fascinates me is that people are able to substitute memorizing for reading. You never hear people say, "My reading is poor, but my memorization is even worse, so I've had to work on my reading."
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#1861788 - 03/14/12 02:19 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 639
Loc: Chicago
Here is what I hope will be encouragement. I'm mid-50s and have been playing jazz for 5 or 6 years. I don't play by ear, but decided a year or so ago that I needed to play most pieces by memory (you don't see many jazz musicians using music!). What I've found is that with each piece I memorize, it becomes easier. I can memorize most pieces very quickly now. Jazz, of course, is different becuase you are memorizing chord progressions, and there is a logic to them that you learn. Classical memorization is much more complex becuase every note has to be perfect. However, I do believe that memorization is a skill that one can get better at simply by doing it.

I'd also add that the first time I memorize something, it's always a bit tenuous. I then come back, a days or weeks later, and re-memorize it, and it gets firmer. It's really only after playing a piece by memory for months and months that it can become second nature.

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#1861798 - 03/14/12 02:37 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
There are three posts with memorizing tips on the Let's Talk Cocktail Piano in the Pianist Corner - Non-Classical. That link should take you to the first of them, and then there are two more right after it. It's in the answers to question #2.
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#1861834 - 03/14/12 03:17 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
frankeric Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/24/11
Posts: 50
Loc: colorado
Isabelle7007, ah to be 40 anything.....
Anyway, I started from scratch at 60,first 3 years on tenor sax, and now I'm on piano no sax. 1-2 hrs/day 7 days/wk. Memory is a big deal for me, since I have not memorized any complete song even though there are some I've played 100's of times!
I guess I've put the memory thing aside and I'm consentrating on technique. Why didn't I take this up in my 40's I'll never know.
Hang in there....
frank

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#1861845 - 03/14/12 03:33 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1419
Loc: Georgia, USA
You guys in your 40s are just kids - wait until you reach your late 50s...

I was relying too much on memorization last year at this time. My memory is not what it used to be. It was adding too much stress to my playing. So I have been concentrating on improving my reading skills since then. Not so much sight reading, but playing difficult pieces that I have been working on for a while by reading the music and not looking so much at my hands.

I think having to look at my hands so much was what lead to relying on memory - obviously I can't focus on my hands and the music at the same time. But I think I have successfully broken that habit except in the worst cases (like fast octaves in the left hand). And I am happier without the stress of memorizing...

Sam

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#1861868 - 03/14/12 04:12 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4240
Loc: Arizona.
I think I would find it more difficult to NOT memorize a piece than to memorize it. Seriously, whenever I try and improve my sightreading abilites (which have nowhere to go but up) I have to force myself to stay on the page instead of just playing from memory or winging it.

Since I've done this so many times with the same results, I have come to the conclusion that I seem to do much better memorizing a piece than I would sightreading it.

I have a huge problem with sightreading in that I easily get lost because I'm probably not paying full attention since my mind is thinking about so many other things (like how certain improvisations might sound in a given section).

Different strokes for different folks. We are all very different and thus learn things in a very different manor. It's all good though.

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#1861940 - 03/14/12 05:20 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PLMS Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/13/12
Posts: 6
A lot of times when people play by memory they are really playing chords. It is very hard to play an intricate song completely by memory. Most of the time when people play like this they are playing chord progressions. They know the progressions in the song and then embellishing on the melodies in the song and adding other parts that fit.

What I do is memorize the chord progression, then I memorize the melody or the key part to the song. Then I can play just about anything that fits in that chord and scale. It looks like to people that I am playing a very difficult piece and that I have it all memorized, when really I just know the progression and the melody. Hope this helps.
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#1861948 - 03/14/12 05:25 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
sorry, posted on wrong thread.


Edited by PianoStudent88 (03/14/12 05:26 PM)
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#1862001 - 03/14/12 07:06 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: PLMS]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: PLMS
It is very hard to play an intricate song completely by memory.


I believe it's hard to play an intricate piece any other way.

Practically all the pieces I've learned since I started piano lessons in the seventies, I still play today. There are no pieces in my repertoire that I play from the score, only those I'm learning. I know pretty much every note, its touch, its volume and its articulation.
I very much doubt I COULD play a Bach fugue from the score.
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#1862007 - 03/14/12 07:15 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: PianoStudent88]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
What fascinates me is that people are able to substitute memorizing for reading. You never hear people say, "My reading is poor, but my memorization is even worse, so I've had to work on my reading."
For some of us working on reading is far more frustrating than memorizing. I have some vision issues related to migraines that are worse some days than others. On better days I can read some music fine if the font is reasonably sized and uncluttered, some days I have to stare intensively to determine what line or space the note is occupying. Some days I just can't stand to look at the music at all. As long as I need to stare to figure out what note I'm playing I may as well try to memorize it.
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I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.


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#1862030 - 03/14/12 07:52 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Dazzie2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 82
I started off learning sight reading but now I don’t see the point in sight reading or see the point in having any sheet to read music off , I am happy to play by ear and if I am feeling lazy I can look online for guitar music chords and again make it my own and find the melody’s . I think when you don’t have sheet I put my own notes down on paper first the chords or progression and then the melody notes but that depends on the songs . I am still new to playing piano and by ear but i have created about 3 songs by ear now and i am more than happy with them.


Edited by Dazzie2 (03/14/12 07:55 PM)

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#1862157 - 03/14/12 11:06 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
MaryAnn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/11
Posts: 388
Loc: Japan
Unless you're in a situation where you HAVE to memorize pieces, I don't think it's a problem not to memorize. Like mr. super-hunky, I have a tendency to memorize things just because I've practiced them so much. I think it's far more important to be able to read music, so when your memory fails, you can find your place and keep going.

Having said that, when you're learning things that are at the limit of your playing, memorizing means you can look at your hands rather than the music. I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it gets me through.

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#1862481 - 03/15/12 12:29 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: MaryAnn]
Isabelle7007 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/11/12
Posts: 11
Loc: UT
Thanks to all who replied, your responses were very helpful. I decided I am going to start memorizing one of the pieces I'm working on, but refer to reading the music for the vast majority of what I play.
_________________________
~Belle~

1995 Young Chang Pramberger Signature Series Bubinga


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#1862571 - 03/15/12 02:34 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
Originally Posted By: PLMS
A lot of times when people play by memory they are really playing chords. It is very hard to play an intricate song completely by memory. Most of the time when people play like this they are playing chord progressions. They know the progressions in the song and then embellishing on the melodies in the song and adding other parts that fit.

What I do is memorize the chord progression, then I memorize the melody or the key part to the song. Then I can play just about anything that fits in that chord and scale. It looks like to people that I am playing a very difficult piece and that I have it all memorized, when really I just know the progression and the melody. Hope this helps.


I agree. There are many patterns, like stride, walking bass, arpeggios, breaking up the chord within the octave in a rhythmic pattern, which can be easily transferred from song to song. They of course have to be memorized within several keys (theoretically, that is, in order to transpose and since some songs sound better in some keys than others) and perfected technically and that takes some time and practice, but not nearly as much as memorizing a piece from scratch each time without a repertoire of moving parts to draw on. And once you have the moving parts down, you can concentrate on the more subtle variations and accent embellishments that a song needs to retain its individuality.

Originally Posted By: MaryAnn
I think it's far more important to be able to read music, so when your memory fails, you can find your place and keep going.

Having said that, when you're learning things that are at the limit of your playing, memorizing means you can look at your hands rather than the music. I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it gets me through.


I think a lot of professional musicians would disagree with you on which is more important. I've heard more than one say that they'd rather be able to play by ear than read music. And looking at your hands is definitely not a bad thing in any sense, except as it relates to acquiring sight reading skills. It helps you focus more on technique and develops hand-ear coordination. But if you are only interested in playing from scores written and arranged by other people, then reading is a valuable skill. However, IMO, it is one that to be useful in playing unfamiliar music of any sophistication, takes a lot more time and effort to develop than PLMS's method does.


Edited by Starr Keys (03/15/12 02:45 PM)

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#1862629 - 03/15/12 04:29 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
zingmatter Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/21/07
Posts: 7
Loc: Glasgow, Scotland
I'm not a great reader and I memorize everything but I don't find it all that difficult - it seems to be about seeing the piece in blocks/sections that have an underlying chord or scale (I've played the guitar for many years so this is how my brain works). Oddly, I found Bach's prelude No 1 (relatively simple) harder to memorize than Chopin's Nocture Op 9 No 2 - just seemed harder to spot the "structure". It's different for everyone I suspect.

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#1862792 - 03/15/12 09:26 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: MaryAnn]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1888
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: MaryAnn
Unless you're in a situation where you HAVE to memorize pieces, I don't think it's a problem not to memorize. Like mr. super-hunky, I have a tendency to memorize things just because I've practiced them so much. I think it's far more important to be able to read music, so when your memory fails, you can find your place and keep going.

Having said that, when you're learning things that are at the limit of your playing, memorizing means you can look at your hands rather than the music. I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it gets me through.


I think this pretty much sums it up.

If you can play a piece while following along with the notation that gives you a comfort level that you don't have if you play from memory.

Usually, when beginners memorize music it is because it allows them to look at the keyboard while they play it. However, after awhile you can only hold so many memorized pieces in YOUR MEMORY at a time and you begin to lose them. That is where playing from notation works better.

I used to memorize everything because it allowed me to play things that were difficult sooner. It is hard to play things while looking at the notation. But in the long run, I think it gives the best result.
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Don

Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, Ravenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D, Pianoteq 5

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#1862795 - 03/15/12 09:32 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I think it's useful to be able to play without looking at the keyboard. Some things will require a glance, such as a large leap. But developing a sense of where your hands and the keys are without looking gives you that much more flexibility. Among other reasons, you can't always realistically keep both hands in view.
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#1862818 - 03/15/12 10:28 PM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: dmd]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Originally Posted By: dmd
I used to memorize everything because it allowed me to play things that were difficult sooner. It is hard to play things while looking at the notation. But in the long run, I think it gives the best result.

Hmm, interesting. It works differently for me. I find that as I learned to read music more fluently, learning new pieces became much faster and easier. But I play more expressively when I have the music memorized.
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#1862962 - 03/16/12 07:47 AM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: PLMS]
Mike Mandaville Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/12
Posts: 93


Originally Posted By: PLMS


What I do is memorize the chord progression, then I memorize the melody...Then I can play just about anything that fits in that chord and scale. It looks like...I am playing a very difficult piece and that I have it all memorized, when really I just know the progression and the melody. Hope this helps.




This is what I do too, with the only difference being that I learn the melody first, and then the chords second.
.
.

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#1862973 - 03/16/12 08:21 AM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
pianoyutube Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/05/11
Posts: 18
Loc: Spain
I started to memorize all the music I play last year. It was an investment that has paid off. Being able to sit and play an hour or two, without sheet music, is very rewarding. You can directly play, wherever there is a piano available. In a music shop, school, friends house, etc..
I have 40 years. I think age is not such an important factor. Or maybe it's a matter of trust.
So I advise you start to memorize right now. The more you memorize, the faster your progress. That's been my experience.

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#1862994 - 03/16/12 09:17 AM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: tangleweeds]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1888
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
Originally Posted By: dmd
I used to memorize everything because it allowed me to play things that were difficult sooner. It is hard to play things while looking at the notation. But in the long run, I think it gives the best result.

Hmm, interesting. It works differently for me. I find that as I learned to read music more fluently, learning new pieces became much faster and easier. But I play more expressively when I have the music memorized.


I guess I didn't express myself quite right. I mean't to say it allowed me to play things that were difficult to play while reading music. That was because the skill of playing while reading music takes longer initially than playing while looking at the keys.

However, you are exactly right in that once that skill has been learned, then learning new pieces becomes much faster and easier. That is why I have decided to invest the time in attaining that skill.
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Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, Ravenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D, Pianoteq 5

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#1862999 - 03/16/12 09:26 AM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: Isabelle7007]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I did all three last night.

For most of the pieces I am practicing, I am reading them. Memorization takes an extra effort on my part, so I don't apply that to most of what I work on.

Then I sight-read Erik Satie's Gnossienne No. 2, to get a sense of how it goes. Obviously this is not a perfected performance, but it allowed me to get a taste of the music.

Then I worked on Satie's First Gymnopédie and memorized the final phrase; now I have the whole thing memorized. I'm still at the "thinking hard about each chord" phase of this piece. It will be a while before it's comfortable enough that I can focus on the subtler interpretation aspects, though I think it's time to start pushing myself in that direction.
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#1863049 - 03/16/12 11:31 AM Re: Memorization vs Sight reading [Re: pianoyutube]
PLMS Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/13/12
Posts: 6
Quote:
I started to memorize all the music I play last year. It was an investment that has paid off. Being able to sit and play an hour or two, without sheet music, is very rewarding. You can directly play, wherever there is a piano available. In a music shop, school, friends house, etc..


I agree.

Being able to sit down and play anywhere at any time is a must for any player. People who know you can play will always ask you, spur-of-the-moment, to play something. If you don't have something to play right then, they always think "they must not be THAT good." This is funny but, I always try and have the most impressive thing I can play ready for just that occasion.

Its like, I know the are going to ask me to play something, so I might as well have something ready to show off..... lol smile

Does anyone else do this?


Edited by PLMS (03/16/12 11:39 AM)
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