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#2036962 - 02/21/13 01:13 PM Memorization process question
RonaldSteinway Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1510
Most of my memorization process is basically muscle memory.
There is a big chance that I will lose my spot and I will not be able to continue. That is why ,if possible, I always perform with music in front of me, but it just does not look cool performing that way. Do you guys memorize note by note and phrase by phrase until you really remember the notes that you need to press at any bar? Please do help on this. Thx in advance.

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#2036968 - 02/21/13 01:22 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
gooddog Online   content
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I've never tried to memorize note by note, but I do memorize structures within a piece such as starting notes in phrases, intervals, chords and scales. For example, I might remember to start a "chunk" on a F minor chord or perhaps begin a progression of thirds on a C. I sometimes practice a piece in chunks, backwards or forwards, to test my memory of those starting places. If I get lost, I can always return to one of my starting places and recover. Occasionally, I try to "write down" the piece in my head, but I've never actually tried to write it on paper. I can also visualize places in the score.
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Deborah

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#2036979 - 02/21/13 01:42 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: gooddog]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1510
Thx Deborah. It really helps to know the memorization process.

Are you able to hum the melody line from the beginning to end?
Is this one of the way to ensure we remember the flow of the music?

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#2037016 - 02/21/13 02:52 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Louis Podesta Online   content
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Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 780
RonaldSteinway:

First, it is completely historically valid to use the music. Bach, Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart did. In his later years Svyatoslav Richter peformed with the music, with a small lamp on the piano, and a page turner. And, very recently, Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic for the NY Times, wrote an entire article on the properness of doing so.

Secondly, regardless of whether you use the music or not, it is most important that you learn your music in terms of not just only the notes but also the underlyng harmonic structure.

That means that you go through every piece and you write in pencil above each chord what it is, using letter names just like a jazz or pop piece.

Once you do that, then you start to organize your fingers laterally on the keyboard according to what you see vertically on the score. Each key is a whole or a half step corresponding directly to that chord.

Once you get a sense of how the work is put together, then you will develop a more natural sense of flow.

I bet you can walk around your house in the middle of night without bumping into things. That is due that fact that you already know where everything is. The piano is no different.

If you know your music, even if you temporarily slip up, you will know where you are, and you will be able to continue. There has not been a concert pianist in history to whom it hasn't happened.

Accordingly, how you memorize a piece has a lot do with how it is compositionally put together. I memorize Bach, one hand at a time. Some teachers have you sing along. I find that tedious, but if you can't sing it, then you can't play it.(F.Busoni)

The fastest learners are those who can sight read it, sing it in their head, and follow the harmony all at the same time.

Good luck.

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#2037033 - 02/21/13 03:40 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Are you able to hum the melody line from the beginning to end? Is this one of the way to ensure we remember the flow of the music?

Yes, but for me, this comes effortlessly. The hardest part is interpreting the melodic lines. Sometimes I "play" the piano in my head, trying to identify the phrasing and rubato. Sometimes I "listen" to the music in my head but imagine an opera singer's phrasing. I find this very helpful but also extremely difficult.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I find it helps a great deal to memorize the left hand alone, especially if it is jumping around. I always try to identify patterns to help me memorize.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2037040 - 02/21/13 04:02 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Okanagan Musician Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 25
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
If you can hum a tune you heard on the radio (or iPod or whatever) you have it memorized - whether you realize it or not.

This may seem overly simplistic but personally I just play a piece enough times (or a section of it) that I've internalized the melody and can sing it in my head or out loud. This of course builds muscle memory too - simple repetition.

Many of us I think make memorizing a more difficult task than it need be. Do you hum the piece to yourself when you're away from the piano? Good chance you have it memorized...there might be one or two trouble sections where your fingers forget where to go next...but that skeleton is in place.
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#2037070 - 02/21/13 04:52 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
LadyChen Offline
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Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Canada
Muscle memory is the least reliable memory type. Have you ever read The Musician's Way? It talks about how to build a mental image of your repertoire -- the music becomes such an innate part of you that a memory slip is nearly impossible.

I worked with a colleague recently who took a similar approach with me -- he had me take the first phrase of a piece, and describe it out loud. I had to describe what it sounded like, what the physical movements felt like, basically everything BUT the notes on the page. Afterwards, I was able to work through my pieces on my own, memorizing in this way, and it's true -- a memory slip is waaay less likely when you learn music in this way.

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#2037092 - 02/21/13 05:17 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5375
Loc: Philadelphia
I agree with a couple posts here that using one type of memory alone is not good enough to memorize something as complex as a piece of music.

When I memorize something, I memorize the notes (visual), the movements (kinesthetic), the music melody/line/etc (aural), and I try to anticipate where the music is going (cognitive). Sometimes, to give my fingers a break, I will listen to a recording to help with the aural and cognitive sense of the music, and if I add the score, I'm adding a visual element as well. If it's a truly difficult piece, I'll watch a video repetitively and practice another memorization skill, imitation. (Not necessarily to play exactly like the performer, but to imitate the performer's movements.) But I haven't had to use that one in many years. The more advanced you get, the less you have to rely on imitation.. but at the beginning, especially, it can help quite a bit.
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#2037126 - 02/21/13 06:02 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
RonaldSteinway Offline
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Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1510
All, thx for the advice. I will try all these methods.

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#2037176 - 02/21/13 07:39 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: Okanagan Musician]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18290
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Okanagan Musician
If you can hum a tune you heard on the radio (or iPod or whatever) you have it memorized - whether you realize it or not.
[...]


In this case, surely the "it" refers only to the melody and not to the piece. If I know the melody (themes) of a piece well, that doesn't necessary mean that I have all the complex harmonies, the accompaniment patterns in both the right and left hand, the various inversions of chords all memorized, too. There are more complexities to memorize than just the melody line.

Regards,
_________________________
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#2037214 - 02/21/13 08:47 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: BruceD]
Okanagan Musician Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 25
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Okanagan Musician
If you can hum a tune you heard on the radio (or iPod or whatever) you have it memorized - whether you realize it or not.
[...]


In this case, surely the "it" refers only to the melody and not to the piece. If I know the melody (themes) of a piece well, that doesn't necessary mean that I have all the complex harmonies, the accompaniment patterns in both the right and left hand, the various inversions of chords all memorized, too. There are more complexities to memorize than just the melody line.

Regards,


Great point. However at this point association often sets in. Generally memory in songs is triggered by a few different "points" in the piece - these points are usually the beginnings of sections and important phrases.

Being able to memorize the entire melody is a great starting point, because it sets your trigger points in place already. From there it is often easier to remember what left hand/embellishments/accompaniments go with particular points in the melody.
_________________________
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http://www.takeonlinepianolessons.com


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#2037454 - 02/22/13 11:24 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Personally I prefer not to use music for many reasons, among them, turning pages, how many books can you carry and how about poor lighting.

The more you study the more you will uncover what you don't understand and eventually conquer it.

Find the difficult passages and know exactly what finger plays which key.

It's very rewarding to know a score by memory that you once found difficult to sight-read....or to even play it with the score for that matter.

rada

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#2037687 - 02/22/13 07:11 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: BruceD]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8026
Originally Posted By: BruceD
There are more complexities to memorize than just the melody line.



No lie. If there even is a melody to sing - I sure can't sing Chopin's Op. 10, no. 1, for just one of an endless number of examples.

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#2037732 - 02/22/13 09:22 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
The more music theory I learn, the more I can break down a piece analytically in both macro and micro respects and while I've proven I can memorize music without the use of this knowledge, I find doing so incomparably easier and quite simply better through an exhaustive analysis (this understanding also translates to how to play the piece).

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#2037894 - 02/23/13 10:38 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: wr]
Piano Again Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: BruceD
There are more complexities to memorize than just the melody line.



No lie. If there even is a melody to sing - I sure can't sing Chopin's Op. 10, no. 1, for just one of an endless number of examples.





The singing melody is in the left hand ... with occasional countermelody amongst the right hand arpeggios.
_________________________
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#2037895 - 02/23/13 10:39 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: LadyChen]
Piano Again Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
Originally Posted By: LadyChen
Muscle memory is the least reliable memory type. Have you ever read The Musician's Way? It talks about how to build a mental image of your repertoire -- the music becomes such an innate part of you that a memory slip is nearly impossible.

I worked with a colleague recently who took a similar approach with me -- he had me take the first phrase of a piece, and describe it out loud. I had to describe what it sounded like, what the physical movements felt like, basically everything BUT the notes on the page. Afterwards, I was able to work through my pieces on my own, memorizing in this way, and it's true -- a memory slip is waaay less likely when you learn music in this way.


This is the best advice on this thread! Thanks!
_________________________
Recovering cellist, amateur pianist.


Check out my blog !


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#2038116 - 02/23/13 06:13 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Scordatura Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 135
Loc: Suffolk, UK
"Muscle memory" (better termed "proprioceptive memory", because it also comprises memory of what your joints are doing when your muscles contract) is essentially stored data specifically about the individual movements you've been making in the course of practising a passage, nothing more. It forms unconsciously and automatically as an inevitable consequence of just making the movements. The pianist's problem when playing is how to gain access to this data reliably and just in advance of when it's needed. I think the key to understanding how revolves around the general principle that all purposeful, voluntary movements are made and learned in the context of trying to achieve some very specific goal - which for the musician, is invariably some succession of well-defined, especially desired sounds. Your ability to mentally recall the particular sounds you wish to play next, automatically (i.e. by a formed association) accesses the "address" in the brain where the proprioceptive data needed for configuring each of the succession's required movements is stored. This ability to recall a passage's sounds mentally is clearly stated or alluded to in what everyone has posted here so far.

Being able to imagine the pitches of a passage's melody (or, at any rate, of the most salient voice of a passage) is usually sufficient to reliably accomplish this accessing. For me personally, though, I like to be able to imagine the complete sound that will be emerging from the piano following each playing-movement, as I find doing this causes my movements to be far more accurately controlled. But consciously absorbing them is much more exacting and painstaking work than just absorbing the sounds of a single voice, in my experience - especially in the case of atonal pieces!

Almost all of my practising time on a piece is spent trying to absorb and recall each sound in as much detail as I hear it in actual audible terms. By the time I'm satisfied I can do that, I generally find I've learned, along the way, an efficient movement for producing each sound faithfully and that I simply know which keys to move to next without any conscious consideration at all - so long as I'm able to keep my attention focused on the memorized sounds going on inside my head.

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#2038252 - 02/24/13 01:43 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
memorisation process

And all because of bum sight-reading skills.

Nobody memorizes a book ...
from the age of 6 years we learn to read the words ...
and can read a whole page from Harry Potter in 30 seconds flat.

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say
that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
They were the last people you’d expect to be involved
in anything strange or mysterious,
because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”
(thank you JK Rowling)

So why the blight with reading a keyboard score?

Please chaps ... dump any persnickety response
lumbering through the history of music.

Why can we read a book but not a keyboard score?

without sounding like the piano needs retuning.

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#2038254 - 02/24/13 01:52 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: btb]
RonaldSteinway Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1510
Originally Posted By: btb

Why can we read a book but not a keyboard score?


Reading a book is totally different from reading a keyboard score.

Reading a keyboard score needs much more processing capability.
When we read a keyboard score we need to:
1. Need to know the notes.
2. Need to know how many counts.
3. Need to know the location of the note.
4. Our muscle need to be instructed where to press.
5. Need to read both LH and RH.

All of these have nothing to do with memorizing the notes.

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#2038260 - 02/24/13 02:17 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Neatly put Ron ... but questioned
“Reading a book is totally different from reading a keyboard score.

Reading a keyboard score needs much more processing capability.
When we read a keyboard score we need to:
1. Need to know the notes ... (letters of alphabet).
2. Need to know how many counts (long or short word)
3. Need to know the location of the note ... (grammar).
4. Our muscle need to be instructed where to press (eyes read).
5. Need to read both LH and RH (two eyes capture instantly).

All of these have nothing to do with memorizing the notes.”
(See bracketed responses ... as in easily reading a book)

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#2038264 - 02/24/13 02:42 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5375
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted By: btb

Why can we read a book but not a keyboard score?


Reading a book is totally different from reading a keyboard score.

Reading a keyboard score needs much more processing capability.
When we read a keyboard score we need to:
1. Need to know the notes.
2. Need to know how many counts.
3. Need to know the location of the note.
4. Our muscle need to be instructed where to press.
5. Need to read both LH and RH.

All of these have nothing to do with memorizing the notes.

I disagree with this to a certain extent. If we were talking about reading a book out loud, I would disagree almost entirely (based on the way it's worded), but as long as we're not reading aloud, the motor skills function is not necessary for reading. Once we start reading aloud, it is every bit as difficult as sight-reading piano music with one exception, which I will discuss at the bottom.

First, most people read around 250-300 words per minute. The average word has 3.5-4.5 letters in it. That's about 1200 letters per minute. Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto, known for its many notes, still doesn't approach this figure. (Consider 30k notes, approx, at 43 minutes.. averages to nearly 700 notes per minute. Even if you take out the minutes the piano doesn't play, it averages less than 1000.)

We make up for reading by recognizing words instead of individual letters. However, for those who do not immerse themselves in musical scores, they do not pick up on groups of notes (chords, runs, arpeggios, groupings, etc). They simply see notes. Well, if you have to read all letters in order to understand words, you'd be reading books a LOT slower. So, now compound the idea that you don't recognize the "words" of music with the idea that there are nearly 3x the number of "letters", and the answer seems pretty clear.

Music is a language like any other, except we don't understand it as words, but rather process it as groups of sounds.

One major difference in processing power lies in the fact that we practice reading/speaking 8-12 hours a day since birth, but we certainly don't do that with music. Most of us read something every day we are alive, and I would wager nearly everybody speaks throughout the day. We also tend to speak in the language we read. These actions reinforce each other and make reading easier.

I would also wager that virtually nobody walks around reading scores of music for hours every single day. And I would quite easily wager that nobody puts their fingers on the keyboard as often as they speak. (For people with speech impairments, substitute sign language, writing with a notepad, etc.)

The second problem is voices. When we read/speak, there is only one voice we are trying to capture. It is either the voice of the character, your voice, or the voice of the person we're listening to. Processing multiple conversations simultaneously is something the brain is not hard-wired to be able to do. It can be practiced and learned, but you will still miss some things. The same goes for music: multiple "voices" create a particular sound with each passing bar of music, and the brain is not pre-wired to be able to deal with this. It has to be trained to internalize at least part of the process so it can consciously focus on one task.



All of this, of course, is disregarding the need to find the keys on the keyboard, which is both a similar, but also entirely separate, issue. Similar in that it is required for adequate sight-reading. Separate in that it has very little to do with the ability to literally read the "language" of music.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2038272 - 02/24/13 03:00 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: RonaldSteinway]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi Derulux ... you’d make a good lawyer for the Defence.

The problem with those who has been hard-wired into the
present system of notation is that they can’t see further than their nose ...
and settle for a crippled sight-reading lifetime.

But what if you change the form of a keyboard score ...
into an accurate graphic representation of the
PITCH, DURATION AND GROUPING OF NOTES ?


Makes the Rach PC3 a piece of cake.

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#2038293 - 02/24/13 06:12 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: Piano Again]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8026
Originally Posted By: Piano Again
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: BruceD
There are more complexities to memorize than just the melody line.



No lie. If there even is a melody to sing - I sure can't sing Chopin's Op. 10, no. 1, for just one of an endless number of examples.



The singing melody is in the left hand ... with occasional countermelody amongst the right hand arpeggios.


Uh...no, the bass line is not a singable melody, it's just a bass line. And the tessitura of the "countermelody" is out my range.

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#2038366 - 02/24/13 10:18 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: btb]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5375
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: btb
Hi Derulux ... you’d make a good lawyer for the Defence.

Ha! laugh I've been told that before. Most people who know me told me either to be a lawyer or play music professionally. Of course, being as stubborn as I am, I went an entirely different route. wink

Most of the time, I just like to point out different ways of thinking. But I always base my hypotheses on facts, and if someone brings to light facts/ideas I hadn't previously known or thought of, I consider them honestly and will quite often change my hypothesis to accommodate the new information(after some deliberation/discussion, of course).
_________________________
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#2038650 - 02/24/13 07:29 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: Derulux]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8026
Originally Posted By: Derulux

Music is a language like any other, except we don't understand it as words, but rather process it as groups of sounds.



Actually, it isn't a language like any other. One of the several reasons why it isn't: people have danced to music since prehistory, but do not dance to language.

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#2038710 - 02/24/13 10:18 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: btb]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8934
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: btb

Makes the Rach PC3 a piece of cake.

Take away all the empty cascades of notes, but what are we left with? I cannot think of one major piano concerto which has more padding than Rach 3. He says nothing new, but rewrites his 2nd concerto with extra guacamole and the bloated interior of an unhealthy burrito made with pork carnitas.

I was reading through Beethoven's Op. 53 this afternoon, which I performed some years ago, but Beethoven makes his point in a fraction of the time, and far more efficiently.

Some things remain a mystery.
_________________________
Jason

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#2038725 - 02/24/13 10:54 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: btb]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
Hi Derulux ... you’d make a good lawyer for the Defence.

The problem with those who has been hard-wired into the
present system of notation is that they can’t see further than their nose ...
and settle for a crippled sight-reading lifetime.

But what if you change the form of a keyboard score ...
into an accurate graphic representation of the
PITCH, DURATION AND GROUPING OF NOTES ?


Makes the Rach PC3 a piece of cake.


Gosh, btb, makes me wish you had some kind of examples handy for some kind of new graphical representation of scores.... But you wouldn't have anything like that to share, would you? smile smile smile

-J
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schne Mllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#2038726 - 02/24/13 10:54 PM Re: Memorization process question [Re: argerichfan]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: btb

Makes the Rach PC3 a piece of cake.

Take away all the empty cascades of notes, but what are we left with? I cannot think of one major piano concerto which has more padding than Rach 3. He says nothing new, but rewrites his 2nd concerto with extra guacamole and the bloated interior of an unhealthy burrito made with pork carnitas.

I was reading through Beethoven's Op. 53 this afternoon, which I performed some years ago, but Beethoven makes his point in a fraction of the time, and far more efficiently.

Some things remain a mystery.

I think his second concerto is a better piece of music, but I think the third works better as a real "warhorse" sort of concerto, where the soloist stands in front of the orchestra. There aren't really any moments in the second concerto where you can sort of stick out as being virtuosic. The fact that Rachmaninoff wrote his third in preparation for a concert tour I think reflects this. It really says the same thing as the second, just the language is less raw and is more introverted. It offers the soloist more possibilities in terms of varied expression and subtleties, which works for some performers (like Horowitz).
_________________________
Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

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#2038871 - 02/25/13 06:51 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: wr]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5375
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Derulux

Music is a language like any other, except we don't understand it as words, but rather process it as groups of sounds.



Actually, it isn't a language like any other. One of the several reasons why it isn't: people have danced to music since prehistory, but do not dance to language.

And before instruments, those people used their voices. wink
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#2038872 - 02/25/13 06:55 AM Re: Memorization process question [Re: Derulux]
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
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Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Derulux

Music is a language like any other, except we don't understand it as words, but rather process it as groups of sounds.



Actually, it isn't a language like any other. One of the several reasons why it isn't: people have danced to music since prehistory, but do not dance to language.

And before instruments, those people used their voices. wink


I always had the idea that we "process" music more as emotions than as groups of sounds...I guess it depends on what level you are looking at or what your point of view is...

Certainly motherese, which some evolutionary psychologists speculate is the origin of music, was all about emotional regulation and social connection.

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