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#2021661 - 01/26/13 01:22 PM The controversial area of memorizing in performance
music32 Offline
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#2021812 - 01/26/13 06:31 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
Fordsnack Offline
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Interesting, I like to memorise and always have for some reason. This might be why my sight reading is not so good... But I do feel I can get lost in the music more. Which I like
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#2022023 - 01/27/13 07:25 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
geraldbrennan Offline
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You know, if you went to a play, and half of the actors who did not / could not memorize their lines walked around the stage with their faces buried in the script, well, that would annoy the heck out of ME, anyway.
I don't see how this is any different. I know there are some fine instrumentalists and conductors who are not blessed with good memories who will disagree that this is a performance deficiency, but to me it's no different than needing a script for your lines.
That said -- there are interesting tendencies that evolve with each of the two types. I am an example of a pianists with a great memory; I can read through a piece once and I don't need it again. BUT -- I am a terrible sight-reader, BECAUSE my memory is so good. The best sight-readers I know have poor memories. I once had a girlfriend who could play anything I gave her at sight and at speed. Once, after she sight-read a fugue from the WTC II at a nice clip, I asked her if she knew what a "fugue" was. She said she didn't know. She had a terrible memory and could not improvise to save her life, but wow, what a reader!
Of course the very best, have great memories yet have persisted in their studies to gain and maintain great sight-reading skills.
Maybe next lifetime...


Edited by geraldbrennan (01/27/13 09:04 AM)

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#2022053 - 01/27/13 09:03 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan
You know, if you went to a play, and half of the actors who did not / could not memorize their lines walked around the stage with their faces buried in the script, well, that would annoy the heck out of ME, anyway.
I don't see how this is any different. I know there are some fine instrumentalists and conductors who are not blessed with good memories who will disagree that this is a performance deficiency, but to me it's no different than needing a script for your lines.
I don't think the comparison to acting is particularly strong. The actors are supposed to be imitating real life where people don't speak from scripts and their emotional reactions and physical movements are far more important than in a piano recital. A better comparison might be listening to actors on the radio where I'd guess they almost always use scripts.

And then there is the obvious examples of orchestral performances, chamber music, or pianists playing contemporary music, where the score is almost always used. Also the historical fact that until a certain point in time pianists always used the score, and it was considered and insult to the composer not to do so.

I think memorization is a complicated issue and should be considered quite different for amateurs vs. professionals. I think amateurs should certainly be allowed/encouraged to use the score because the time it takes to memorize could be put to far better use in most cases. And I'd guess many amateurs would perform far better with the score because the anxiety over memory problems gets eliminated.

For professionals, the issue of memorization is far more complicated because it's usually a given that they are expected to perform from memory.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/27/13 09:05 AM)

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#2022063 - 01/27/13 09:22 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: pianoloverus]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan
You know, if you went to a play, and half of the actors who did not / could not memorize their lines walked around the stage with their faces buried in the script, well, that would annoy the heck out of ME, anyway.
I don't see how this is any different. I know there are some fine instrumentalists and conductors who are not blessed with good memories who will disagree that this is a performance deficiency, but to me it's no different than needing a script for your lines.
I don't think the comparison to acting is particularly strong. The actors are supposed to be imitating real life where people don't speak from scripts and their emotional reactions and physical movements are far more important than in a piano recital. A better comparison might be listening to actors on the radio where I'd guess they almost always use scripts.

And then there is the obvious examples of orchestral performances, chamber music, or pianists playing contemporary music, where the score is almost always used. Also the historical fact that until a certain point in time pianists always used the score, and it was considered and insult to the composer not to do so.

I think memorization is a complicated issue and should be considered quite different for amateurs vs. professionals. I think amateurs should certainly be allowed/encouraged to use the score because the time it takes to memorize could be put to far better use in most cases. And I'd guess many amateurs would perform far better with the score because the anxiety over memory problems gets eliminated.

For professionals, the issue of memorization is far more complicated because it's usually a given that they are expected to perform from memory.


Not to mention the fact that actors also have prompters to give them lines if they forget any. I don't think that can be done with piano as easily (how would they fit a prompter *and* a piano in that little box??).
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#2022066 - 01/27/13 09:32 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
music32 Offline
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I would love to add your quote to my blog, as I am interested in player feedback..
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#2022067 - 01/27/13 09:34 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: pianoloverus]
music32 Offline
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another thought-provoking, valuable set of insights.
Thanks for sharing. Certainly as you say, in the chamber music realm, using music is customary.
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#2022069 - 01/27/13 09:37 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: Morodiene]
music32 Offline
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your post prompted my memory of Christopher O'Reilly turning pages with an iPad on Public TV.
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#2022092 - 01/27/13 10:16 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
bennevis Online   content
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I think that once pianists became 'stars', as originated by Liszt: solo concerts, piano sideways on to the audience so that they could see not just his noble profile but also his flying hands and his expressive (and noble) face......the die was cast. A star can't share the limelight with a lowly page-turner, nor have any attention directed away from him and his playing (as would occur if he kept looking at the score).

Even solo violinists and cellists (playing solo Bach etc) and singers have got in on the act. A Lieder recital is more like a soloist (the singer) with piano accompaniment than a chamber concert, so whereas a violinist playing the Franck Sonata would use the score as well as his partner, the singer wouldn't - even when singing Wolf, where the piano part is often as (if not more) important than the singer's.

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#2022128 - 01/27/13 11:13 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
geraldbrennan Offline
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"I would love to add your quote to my blog, as I am interested in player feedback.."

Of course.
GB

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#2022151 - 01/27/13 11:45 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan
That said -- there are interesting tendencies that evolve with each of the two types. I am an example of a pianists with a great memory; I can read through a piece once and I don't need it again. BUT -- I am a terrible sight-reader, BECAUSE my memory is so good. The best sight-readers I know have poor memories. I once had a girlfriend who could play anything I gave her at sight and at speed. Once, after she sight-read a fugue from the WTC II at a nice clip, I asked her if she knew what a "fugue" was. She said she didn't know. She had a terrible memory and could not improvise to save her life, but wow, what a reader!
I don't see how one can sight read a piece with some difficulty and then have it memorized unless if one is talking about photographic memory. Presumably one hasn't sight read all the notes, rhythms, etc. correctly the first time if one is a poor sight reader, so one would be memorizing errors. I also think it's a big mistake to not use the score until one has memorized every marking in the score in addition to the notes.

I think that in general all pianistic skills(technique, musicianship, sight reading, memorizing, etc.) tend to move mostly in parallel. They are all related. Most very good pianists are very at all of them and most beginners or less talented pianists are not so good in all these areas. Of course, one can always find exceptions to the above, e.g. a pianist with great technique but poor sight reading skill or poor musicianship. But I think those are the exceptions rather than the rule.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/27/13 11:50 AM)

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#2022177 - 01/27/13 12:41 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
Saranoya Online   content
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Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan
I am an example of a pianist with a great memory; I can read through a piece once and I don't need it again. BUT -- I am a terrible sight-reader, BECAUSE my memory is so good.


I have this problem as well. I read through a score once, or even just hear a piece played from start to finish once or twice, and I'm inclined never to look at the score again.

When I started taking lessons again five months ago, I explicitly asked my teacher never to play a piece for me before I had worked through it myself, because if she did, I would never learn to sight-read. She's been pretty good about sticking to that rule, and yet, my sight-reading still hasn't improved much. I still find myself looking at the score once, and then moving on from there without it.

Do you have any ideas about how to avoid this trap? Because I literally can't seem to do it -- look at the score and play at the same time, I mean. I always loose my place, and so it becomes simply easier for me to ignore the score, even before I can actually play through a piece.
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#2022179 - 01/27/13 12:47 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: Saranoya]
bennevis Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
I still find myself looking at the score once, and then moving on from there without it.

Do you have any ideas about how to avoid this trap? Because I literally can't seem to do it -- look at the score and play at the same time, I mean. I always loose my place, and so it becomes simply easier for me to ignore the score, even before I can actually play through a piece.


How do you actually learn a piece, if you ignore the score after one read-through, unless you have a photographic memory?

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#2022186 - 01/27/13 12:55 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: bennevis]
Saranoya Online   content
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@ bennevis: I don't know. I guess "I read it once" doesn't really adequately explain what I do.

It's more like, I read the first four bars once (or the first three, or the first two, or sometimes maybe the first eight, depending on what makes the most sense in the context of the phrasing of the piece), and then I play them, and once I know what they sound like, I don't need to even remember which specific notes were in them, because I can hear those two or three or four or eight bars in my mind.

Then I move on to the next few bars in the same way, until I reach the end.

The trouble is, because I easily remember melodies, but not necessarily specific notes (my musical hearing is not absolute), sometimes I hear a piece on the radio, or play through the score once and then forget about it for a while, and when I try to play it on the piano later, it comes out in the wrong key.

Also, it sometimes leads to quirky mistakes. Recently I was learning one of the Burgmüller opus 100 pieces (n° 5), which ends its melody in the left hand on the first repetition of the first theme, and in the right hand on the second repetition of same. Until my teacher pointed it out to me, I never realized that I was playing the ending of the second repetition in the wrong hand, one octave too low.
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#2022197 - 01/27/13 01:31 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: Saranoya]
bennevis Online   content
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Maybe what you should do is to start learning pieces where the accompaniment is just as important as, or integrated into, the melody so that you can't just play half by ear, half by memory which is what you seem to be doing. Like Schumann's Arabeske, Op.18 for example, or Rachmaninoff's Prelude in D, Op.23/4, or Brahms's Intermezzo in A, Op.118/2, all of which are somewhat above the level of the pieces you're playing, but are immediately appealing, and most importantly get you to learn to read scores and sight-read properly. Bach's polyphonic music (two- and three-part Inventions etc) will also do the trick.

Otherwise, you will find it difficult to progress beyond your current level.

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#2022205 - 01/27/13 01:43 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: bennevis]
Saranoya Online   content
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I think I know what you're getting at, bennevis, and I also think that my teacher has already caught on to the same drift. She gave me 'Impertinence' by Handel to study a while ago. It's a simple piece, but it does have two melodic lines (left and right hand) that are pretty much independent of each other.

I learned that the same way I learn anything else, though. I have no trouble holding two distinct melodic lines in my memory at the same time. I just have trouble immediately translating what I see on the page into a key press on the piano.

But maybe if I try one of the pieces you suggested, I will be forced to read from the page because the distinct melodic lines are too complicated to remember (even with the occasional mistake) after one try. I will definitely keep your suggestions in mind. Thanks!
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Tchaikovsky 39/9

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#2022261 - 01/27/13 04:11 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: Saranoya]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan
I am an example of a pianist with a great memory; I can read through a piece once and I don't need it again. BUT -- I am a terrible sight-reader, BECAUSE my memory is so good.


I have this problem as well. I read through a score once, or even just hear a piece played from start to finish once or twice, and I'm inclined never to look at the score again.

When I started taking lessons again five months ago, I explicitly asked my teacher never to play a piece for me before I had worked through it myself, because if she did, I would never learn to sight-read. She's been pretty good about sticking to that rule, and yet, my sight-reading still hasn't improved much. I still find myself looking at the score once, and then moving on from there without it.

Do you have any ideas about how to avoid this trap? Because I literally can't seem to do it -- look at the score and play at the same time, I mean. I always loose my place, and so it becomes simply easier for me to ignore the score, even before I can actually play through a piece.


There are books you can buy with lots of sight reading examples. You only play them once or twice, and then move on. If you are an advanced player, then you buy an inexpensive compilation of intermediate pieces and use that. This is separate work from learning your repertoire.
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#2022450 - 01/27/13 09:47 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
music32 Offline
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Thanks...
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#2022466 - 01/27/13 09:58 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
JoelW Offline
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For me, I prefer watching pianists play from memory. When one plays from a score it makes them seem unprepared and isn't as exciting.

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#2022486 - 01/27/13 10:44 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
ChopinAddict Offline
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I don't really care if a pianist uses the score or not as long as he/she plays well.
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#2022535 - 01/28/13 12:13 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: ChopinAddict]
music32 Offline
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agree
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#2022569 - 01/28/13 01:56 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
erjamo Offline
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I know there are some fine instrumentalists and conductors who are not blessed with good memories who will disagree that this is a performance deficiency


Edited by erjamo (01/28/13 01:56 AM)

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#2023014 - 01/28/13 06:40 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
geraldbrennan Offline
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Re: Pianoloverus

"And then there is the obvious examples of ... pianists playing contemporary music, where the score is almost always used."

Fascinating point, here.
I would maintain that no matter if it's Xenakis, Webern or whoever, if the pianist actually is able to understand the essence of the piece and take the work to heart, it's no harder to memorize than Mozart. I do not dispute that many, maybe even most, pianists who play this repertory, use the score, but because they are not able to take this sort of repertory to heart and are not sufficiently clear about what the composer is saying.

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#2023020 - 01/28/13 07:02 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan

Fascinating point, here.
I would maintain that no matter if it's Xenakis, Webern or whoever, if the pianist actually is able to understand the essence of the piece and take the work to heart, it's no harder to memorize than Mozart. I do not dispute that many, maybe even most, pianists who play this repertory, use the score, but because they are not able to take this sort of repertory to heart and are not sufficiently clear about what the composer is saying.
My guess is that not many would agree with this. Maybe Realplayer and Brendan, two PW members who perform a lot of contemporary music, will give us their thoughts about this. I cannot see how music that is generally considered more complex rhythmically and harmonically than other music would be just as easy to memorize.

I specifically remember that the American woman pianist(can't remember her name even though I've heard her twice in recitals)well known for her performances of contemporary music used the score when she played a contemporary work on her Carnegie Hall debut some time ago. I don't think many would accuse her of not being sufficiently clear about what the composer said or not taking the work to heart.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/28/13 07:04 PM)

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#2023022 - 01/28/13 07:06 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: geraldbrennan]
bennevis Online   content
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Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan


Fascinating point, here.
I would maintain that no matter if it's Xenakis, Webern or whoever, if the pianist actually is able to understand the essence of the piece and take the work to heart, it's no harder to memorize than Mozart. I do not dispute that many, maybe even most, pianists who play this repertory, use the score, but because they are not able to take this sort of repertory to heart and are not sufficiently clear about what the composer is saying.


In that case, you'd lump Maurizio Pollini - one of the most intellectual pianists of our time - into that category of 'not able to take this sort of repertory to heart and not sufficiently clear about what the composer is saying'. He's the only major pianist who routinely programs Stockhausen, Boulez, Nono etc in his concerts. And he always uses a score for such music. Many other pianists just talk about their enthusiasm for such music but never play it.

There is a very good reason why pianists (unless they have photographic memories) use scores for this sort of music - because there is often no clear pattern of notes (try memorizing Boulez's Sonata No.2....) or harmonic progressions to latch on to.

An analogy I can relate to is chess: I can easily remember a complicated chess position after a couple of minutes of looking at it, and reproduce it on another chessboard (as well as remember complete games that I've played recently) - as long as the position is logical, such as would occur in a normal chess game. I can also play 'blindfold' games, i.e. without sight of the board. Any good chess player can do the same. But if the position on the board is entirely random and could not possibly have occurred in a game, I'd have great difficulty if there are more than a few pieces on it - because there is no clear pattern or logic to the arrangement of the pieces. I probably wouldn't do any better than someone who can't play chess.

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#2023067 - 01/28/13 08:37 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: music32]
jdw Offline
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I would respectfully suggest that people with great memories (who memorize without even trying) are not likely to be the best judges of whether memorization is essential to fine artistic understanding of a piece. What basis is there for comparison, in that case?

One could make the same point about those incapable of memorizing. It seems to me that the best informed would be those who have tried it both ways.

In any case, I think the amount of time and effort the memorization will take has to enter the equation. If memorization is automatic, of course it's a no-brainer, you'll memorize. But if memorization takes a lot of investment, that is time that could be put to other use. Then it becomes a question of weighing its advantages against the possible benefits of doing some other kind of practice.
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#2023133 - 01/28/13 11:07 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: jdw]
RealPlayer Online   content
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I perform a lot of contemporary music and always from score. I have found there has been no problem internalizing the music, and have been doing this for the past 40 years.

Recently, there's been one piece that's been giving me trouble, even reading from score, and I have begun work on memorizing it. It's something about this piece's peculiar attributes that get my fingers bolloxed up in spite of having the score there, so I'm hoping memorization will solve that. It's not something I've run into before. If you saw it you might understand. I have to record it a few months from now.
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#2023310 - 01/29/13 07:44 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: pianoloverus]
Scordatura Offline
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Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 76
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: geraldbrennan
That said -- there are interesting tendencies that evolve with each of the two types. I am an example of a pianists with a great memory; I can read through a piece once and I don't need it again. BUT -- I am a terrible sight-reader, BECAUSE my memory is so good. The best sight-readers I know have poor memories. I once had a girlfriend who could play anything I gave her at sight and at speed. Once, after she sight-read a fugue from the WTC II at a nice clip, I asked her if she knew what a "fugue" was. She said she didn't know. She had a terrible memory and could not improvise to save her life, but wow, what a reader!
I don't see how one can sight read a piece with some difficulty and then have it memorized unless if one is talking about photographic memory. Presumably one hasn't sight read all the notes, rhythms, etc. correctly the first time if one is a poor sight reader, so one would be memorizing errors. I also think it's a big mistake to not use the score until one has memorized every marking in the score in addition to the notes.

I think that in general all pianistic skills(technique, musicianship, sight reading, memorizing, etc.) tend to move mostly in parallel. They are all related. Most very good pianists are very at all of them and most beginners or less talented pianists are not so good in all these areas. Of course, one can always find exceptions to the above, e.g. a pianist with great technique but poor sight reading skill or poor musicianship. But I think those are the exceptions rather than the rule.


+1, pianolover!

While it's true that people aren't all endowed with the same aptitudes, to my knowledge, no scientific study to date has ever brought to light any evidence suggesting that memorizing and sight-reading might be mutually excluding processes - and a sizeable amount of experimental research has been conducted into both abilities over the years. Current theoretical understanding of brain processes, too, doesn't offer anything that would predict that being good at the one necessarily prevents being equally good at the other - whereas it does offer explanations of why highly talented learners of skills tend to be able to develop - in parallel - all-round facility in their chosen field.

Research generally supports the widely held contention amongst musicians that sight-reading expertise results from doing a great deal of it over a very long period. Learners whose aptitudes lean towards taking in and processing external, visual information are likely to find sight-reading easier, more immediately rewarding and more of an enjoyable challenge than learners more naturally disposed to refer to internally stored information, and will tend to spend most of their practising-time working from score, to the neglect of developing competence and confidence in memorizing and retrieval skills - and vice versa as regards natural memorizers, of course.

Pedagogically speaking, the above is "old hat" and adds nothing new. Fortunately most instrumental teachers are aware of the musician's reliance upon both processes and of their vital role in ensuring learners don't neglect the weaker process in favour of the one they naturally prefer using.

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#2023407 - 01/29/13 11:59 AM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: RealPlayer]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19228
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: RealPlayer
I perform a lot of contemporary music and always from score. I have found there has been no problem internalizing the music, and have been doing this for the past 40 years.
What do you mean by "internalizing" the music?

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#2023430 - 01/29/13 12:43 PM Re: The controversial area of memorizing in performance [Re: pianoloverus]
RealPlayer Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2315
Loc: NYC
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: RealPlayer
I perform a lot of contemporary music and always from score. I have found there has been no problem internalizing the music, and have been doing this for the past 40 years.
What do you mean by "internalizing" the music?

Just getting to know it pretty cold and having the image of the piece and performance in my head.
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