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#2168409 - 10/19/13 08:51 AM How do you memorize?
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5044
As I mentioned in my 'core repertoire' thread, I've been memorizing the pieces I've decided to keep in my long-term repertoire, ever since I bought my own piano three years ago. Whereas previously, the music I could play from memory were pieces I didn't actually set out to memorize, but they just somehow became 'embedded' in my memory from regularly playing them over years and years, partly because I was using some of them to warm up on.

If you're into memorizing pieces for your concerts, auditions etc, (or just for your own pleasure, as in my case) is there a specific method you use that always works reliably? People have mentioned what seems to me to be very time-consuming methods like copying out the music, or analyzing each and every harmony and the way they fit (which, I have to say, seems to be feasible only for music no later than early-Romantic period, after which the complexity of harmony and often indeterminate tonality makes it impractical for memorizing purposes).

I wondered how professional concert pianists do it - then I read a recent article by Stephen Hough, in which he implied that it was almost entirely muscle memory, and reliant on using a fingering system that you wrote into the score right from the start of learning the piece. And then, someone posted a link to an article where there was a quote by John Browning: "Students often seem to think that there is some secret formula that the masters use to learn a work. If there is, I never found it. I simply play a piece over and over until I know it by heart." This statement implies 100% muscle memory. Yet the author of the article doubted that it was as straightforward as that, and assumed that the theory and analysis of music was somehow also involved, even if Browning might not have been consciously aware of it.

Thinking back on how I set about consciously memorizing a new piece, I know that first, I have to be able to play it well, with the score in front of me. By then I'd be familiar with some patterns that my hands make at the keyboard that have become second nature, and I can look away and play automatically without having to think about it. Eventually, the rest slot into place, aided by remembering specific harmonic changes and chord/arpeggio progressions at key points in the piece. And so on, until I can play the whole piece from memory. But I've never tried to memorize any atonal piece which has no recognizable patterns on the keyboard.....frankly, I'm not sure I'd be able to, even if I wanted to (which I don't - yet).

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#2168428 - 10/19/13 09:53 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Aside from being a pianist, I am also a drummer. I started when I was 11 years old and do you know how I learned songs? Every night I would go to sleep with that certain song playing on repeat. My brain absorbed it all night long while I slept. I didn't even consciously try to learn the song, yet, after a week of doing this, I had every nuance down to the T. (We're talking about Led Zeppelin's "Achilles Last Stand" here. This is a 10-minute assault -- not a simple track.)

A couple years later, I had picked up guitar a little, and I was pretty good at it. I tried to force-memorize "Since I've Been Loving You" because I wanted to play it so badly. I wasn't trying to memorize each individual note, I just improvised of course -- it's a blues piece. I was trying to simply memorize the structure of the piece, but I could not do it to save my life, and it was making me very frustrated. It was only until I started passively listening to the song that its structure became ingrained into my memory.

My point is that, from my experience, memorization is a natural process that will happen if you just let it. Forcing it is counter-productive. Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it. Also, I try to memorize the harmonic structure of the piece by consciously thinking what key I'm playing the whole time. With every single modulation, think about what key you're changing to, etc. Eventually you will be able to predict key modulations many measures ahead. grin

This is just what works for me.

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#2168439 - 10/19/13 10:29 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
A Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/15/13
Posts: 257
Loc: St Louis
My teacher and I set goals of section by section memorization. While a lot of it is knowing a section by heart, there are those few lines that trip me up. Then, I need to repeatedly play that portion, first with sheet music, then without. Also, my teacher comes up with clever ways to memorize a small portion, such as noticing the similarity in notes/rhythm from 2 lines before if I didn't notice it.
_________________________
Pieces:
Soler sonata r.48
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#2168451 - 10/19/13 11:02 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
beeboss Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 1198
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: JoelW

My point is that, from my experience, memorization is a natural process that will happen if you just let it.


My experience in the exact opposite of this, I can never memorise anything unless I put in some special effort to keep it in my brain. Reading from music seems to bypass my memory. For a long time I thought I was incapable of memorising but I have developed some strategies that seem to work ok. Now I realize that memory is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it is. I suppose it is different for each of us though, different strategies will have different rewards depending upon where our strengths lie.
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#2168472 - 10/19/13 11:50 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1061
I've read books containing interviews with professional pianists where the question was asked how they memorize pieces. The professional pianists had the same range of answers that you would typically find in answers on this forum. For example, some relied almost completely on muscle memory, some were very wary of muscle memory because it is likely to fail; some could see the entire score in their mind, others couldn't do that at all.

With my current teacher, I have to have my piece memorized the second time I bring a piece in to a lesson. My memorization process is very similar to yours.

I did memorize an atonal piece before (Shoenberg's 6 Kleine Klavierstucke). It wasn't that bad. For me I have work at memorizing the parts where the hands shift to another position on the keyboard, and for those instances I memorized some combination of the key note name (pinky goes on E) and the physical/visual layout of my hand on the black and white keys.

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#2168477 - 10/19/13 11:56 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
Happy Birthday stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2168492 - 10/19/13 12:35 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
JanVan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/13
Posts: 51
I memorize music quite easily.

It is remembering the fingering that I often have trouble with. Especially those places where there are unusual finger combinations or position changes.

Almost all mistakes I make when playing are caused by not remembering fast enough which finger I should use even when I know exactly which note it should go to.

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#2168498 - 10/19/13 12:43 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: stores]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.


To add, the point is that you need much more than muscle memory - because it WILL fail you sooner or later. A cough from the audience, flicker of the lights, someone's cellphone going off, nerves, you name it - any of these things happen, and you'll be screwed. Of course natural memorization occurs and that's good, but you also better know what you're doing.. can you start from any bar, any beat of the piece? Can you play the left hand alone from memory? How about the bass line alone, melody alone?

There's a lot to solid memorization, and it will pay off in the end if you do all the work for it.
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2168500 - 10/19/13 12:44 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Arghhh]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5044
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
..... some were very wary of muscle memory because it is likely to fail; some could see the entire score in their mind, others couldn't do that at all.


For me I have work at memorizing the parts where the hands shift to another position on the keyboard, and for those instances I memorized some combination of the key note name (pinky goes on E) and the physical/visual layout of my hand on the black and white keys.

I've found that any method I use for memorizing could fail, at any time.....

For instance, when I memorized the Schumann/Liszt Widmung (which is now my favorite party piece), I remember the transition into the central calm section by knowing that it's in E major - so, once I got my hands into the chord, everything would flow OK. But when I did a video recording for a website earlier this year, suddenly, my memory blanked out and I couldn't remember what key I was supposed to be in. My hands automatically went towards E, but I thought it couldn't be right, because the piece is in A flat - I'd just finished the first section with that chord. So, it must be E flat, the dominant - it's logical.......oops! cry Muscle memory was the correct one, but when I blanked out, I allowed my 'logical harmonic sense' to overrule my fingers' own inclination.

Moral of this incident is: if you blank out, let your hands go free and do as they will - it's more likely to be correct......

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#2168508 - 10/19/13 01:00 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: stores]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.


I also talked about memorizing the harmonic structure.

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#2168513 - 10/19/13 01:09 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Pogorelich.]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.


To add, the point is that you need much more than muscle memory - because it WILL fail you sooner or later. A cough from the audience, flicker of the lights, someone's cellphone going off, nerves, you name it - any of these things happen, and you'll be screwed. Of course natural memorization occurs and that's good, but you also better know what you're doing.. can you start from any bar, any beat of the piece? Can you play the left hand alone from memory? How about the bass line alone, melody alone?

There's a lot to solid memorization, and it will pay off in the end if you do all the work for it.


How exactly does everything you mentioned negate the effects of nerves? I assume your proposing an intellectual kind of memorization -- one that isn't just muscle memory? Has it ever occurred to you that nerves don't just affect us physically, but mentally too? That's why actors can forget their lines during stage fright. That's also why nervous pianists can forget where to even start their piece -- they don't even remember the visual aspect. Nerves affect EVERYTHING. All of these memorization techniques don't do much good if you can't deal with panic. Nerves are okay, but panic is what messes us up.

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#2168517 - 10/19/13 01:17 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17964
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: bennevis
[...]For instance, when I memorized the Schumann/Liszt Widmung (which is now my favorite party piece), I remember the transition into the central calm section by knowing that it's in E major - so, once I got my hands into the chord, everything would flow OK. [...]


Using this "for instance," as an example of clues in the miusic : besides remembering that the middle section is in E major, remembering that the last note of the first section is A-flat and that the first note of the next section is G-sharp (same note becomes the median of the new key) might help if you think consciously enough about it while practicing.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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#2168526 - 10/19/13 01:47 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.


To add, the point is that you need much more than muscle memory - because it WILL fail you sooner or later. A cough from the audience, flicker of the lights, someone's cellphone going off, nerves, you name it - any of these things happen, and you'll be screwed. Of course natural memorization occurs and that's good, but you also better know what you're doing.. can you start from any bar, any beat of the piece? Can you play the left hand alone from memory? How about the bass line alone, melody alone?

There's a lot to solid memorization, and it will pay off in the end if you do all the work for it.


How exactly does everything you mentioned negate the effects of nerves? I assume your proposing an intellectual kind of memorization -- one that isn't just muscle memory? Has it ever occurred to you that nerves don't just affect us physically, but mentally too? That's why actors can forget their lines during stage fright. That's also why nervous pianists can forget where to even start their piece -- they don't even remember the visual aspect. Nerves affect EVERYTHING. All of these memorization techniques don't do much good if you can't deal with panic. Nerves are okay, but panic is what messes us up.



Why so nasty/defensive? Do you really think my teacher, who has performed for over 40 years, doesn't know what he's talking about? He taught me all of this, and it's true.

Yes, nerves can affect you in many ways, but haven't you noticed that the MORE prepared you are, and the more you know a piece, the less nervous you'll be? Through the ways I mentioned, and more, your memory will be a lot more solid, and you won't be panicking as much at all. I have the feeling that you think that what I said is a bad thing - why?! Shouldn't you aim to be the most prepared you can be? I'm not saying it'll eradicate nerves, but it'll make helll of a lot better to deal with them, as well as distractions.
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2168530 - 10/19/13 01:55 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Pogorelich.]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.


To add, the point is that you need much more than muscle memory - because it WILL fail you sooner or later. A cough from the audience, flicker of the lights, someone's cellphone going off, nerves, you name it - any of these things happen, and you'll be screwed. Of course natural memorization occurs and that's good, but you also better know what you're doing.. can you start from any bar, any beat of the piece? Can you play the left hand alone from memory? How about the bass line alone, melody alone?

There's a lot to solid memorization, and it will pay off in the end if you do all the work for it.


How exactly does everything you mentioned negate the effects of nerves? I assume your proposing an intellectual kind of memorization -- one that isn't just muscle memory? Has it ever occurred to you that nerves don't just affect us physically, but mentally too? That's why actors can forget their lines during stage fright. That's also why nervous pianists can forget where to even start their piece -- they don't even remember the visual aspect. Nerves affect EVERYTHING. All of these memorization techniques don't do much good if you can't deal with panic. Nerves are okay, but panic is what messes us up.



Why so nasty/defensive? Do you really think my teacher, who has performed for over 40 years, doesn't know what he's talking about? He taught me all of this, and it's true.

Yes, nerves can affect you in many ways, but haven't you noticed that the MORE prepared you are, and the more you know a piece, the less nervous you'll be? Through the ways I mentioned, and more, your memory will be a lot more solid, and you won't be panicking as much at all. I have the feeling that you think that what I said is a bad thing - why?! Shouldn't you aim to be the most prepared you can be? I'm not saying it'll eradicate nerves, but it'll make helll of a lot better to deal with them, as well as distractions.


Woah woah, nasty? I'm just talking! You're the one being defensive for interpreting my post as nasty. I'm just talking, really. smile

I agree that the more prepared you are, the less nervous you'll be but what about if one doesn't get phased by performance? Do they really need to use all of these techniques if they're comfortable in front of an audience? What if they're even good at harnessing nerves? I'm not claiming to be a great performer or anything, but my first performance was when I was 16. I performed Clair de lune and I didn't have any lapses -- and I was really nervous.

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#2168532 - 10/19/13 01:57 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 350
Originally Posted By: bennevis
And then, someone posted a link to an article where there was a quote by John Browning: "Students often seem to think that there is some secret formula that the masters use to learn a work. If there is, I never found it. I simply play a piece over and over until I know it by heart." This statement implies 100% muscle memory.


No, that path to memorization does not imply that muscle memory is the sole resource employed. Many things happen when we play through our pieces. Our understanding of the piece's contruction improves, as does our aural image. If a famous pianist tells you that he "only uses muscle memory," that statement can only mean that he's made no conscious or deliberate attempt to strengthen or activate other parts of the mnemonic apparatus, probably because he does not need to.

To answer your question, I try to memorize from the very beginning. After reading through a piece a few times, I'll put the score on top of the piano (not the music rack), standing up to look at it as needed, so that I'm forced to get each passage into my brain and ear before playing it too many times. This requires some discipline and restraint, but it accelerates the learning process, at least for me.

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#2168535 - 10/19/13 02:01 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
I just don't see anything wrong with doing the work and being safe..
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2168536 - 10/19/13 02:02 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Lemon Pledge]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Lemon Pledge
Originally Posted By: bennevis
And then, someone posted a link to an article where there was a quote by John Browning: "Students often seem to think that there is some secret formula that the masters use to learn a work. If there is, I never found it. I simply play a piece over and over until I know it by heart." This statement implies 100% muscle memory.


No, that path to memorization does not imply that muscle memory is the sole resource employed. Many things happen when we play through our pieces. Our understanding of the piece's contruction improves, as does our aural image. If a famous pianist tells you that he "only uses muscle memory," that statement can only mean that he's made no conscious or deliberate attempt to strengthen or activate other parts of the mnemonic apparatus, probably because he does not need to.


That's right. When I learn pieces, I don't memorize by 100% muscle-memory! I have visual, muscle, aural and harmonic memorization of every piece I play. I also make sure I can play the piece WAY under tempo because that way there is no muscle memory carrying you along. It forces you to actually know the notes.

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#2168581 - 10/19/13 04:26 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: BruceD]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5044
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: bennevis
[...]For instance, when I memorized the Schumann/Liszt Widmung (which is now my favorite party piece), I remember the transition into the central calm section by knowing that it's in E major - so, once I got my hands into the chord, everything would flow OK. [...]


Using this "for instance," as an example of clues in the miusic : besides remembering that the middle section is in E major, remembering that the last note of the first section is A-flat and that the first note of the next section is G-sharp (same note becomes the median of the new key) might help if you think consciously enough about it while practicing.

Regards,

The beginning of new sections is usually where my memory goes blank, if it's going to, and I realized after that incident (which was embarrassing because I decided to stop and get out my score, but if I was performing, I'd have to find a way of modulating back to the right key without stopping....) that I needed better methods than just remembering the correct key. Composers aren't always logical in their key changes....

The odd thing was that this particular piece had never given me problems with memory before, and I'd played it countless times from memory, including in front of audiences. Memory lapses (or maybe more correctly, 'blackouts' in this case) can occur when one least expects it.

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#2168583 - 10/19/13 04:38 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Lemon Pledge]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5044
Originally Posted By: Lemon Pledge
Many things happen when we play through our pieces. Our understanding of the piece's contruction improves, as does our aural image. If a famous pianist tells you that he "only uses muscle memory," that statement can only mean that he's made no conscious or deliberate attempt to strengthen or activate other parts of the mnemonic apparatus, probably because he does not need to.


Concert pianists often just say something along the lines of "if you play a piece often enough, eventually you'll remember it" without specifically saying whether it's pure muscle memory - probably because they can't tell for certain whether it is.

But I'd guess that many factors go towards the memorization process, including the fingering (which they never deviate from, or it would spell disaster), the patterns on the keyboard, the movement and positioning of the hands, as well as specific key changes, beginning of new sections etc, that they remember as 'staging posts' which they can always (re)start from if things go wrong.

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#2168636 - 10/19/13 06:19 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
Happy Birthday stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Simply play what you're learning over and over as you learn it and you will memorize it.


That's muscle memory at work, which, of course, is necessary, but not at all reliable completely. You'd better hope that what you're playing over and over is correct, as well.


To add, the point is that you need much more than muscle memory - because it WILL fail you sooner or later. A cough from the audience, flicker of the lights, someone's cellphone going off, nerves, you name it - any of these things happen, and you'll be screwed. Of course natural memorization occurs and that's good, but you also better know what you're doing.. can you start from any bar, any beat of the piece? Can you play the left hand alone from memory? How about the bass line alone, melody alone?

There's a lot to solid memorization, and it will pay off in the end if you do all the work for it.


How exactly does everything you mentioned negate the effects of nerves? I assume your proposing an intellectual kind of memorization -- one that isn't just muscle memory? Has it ever occurred to you that nerves don't just affect us physically, but mentally too? That's why actors can forget their lines during stage fright. That's also why nervous pianists can forget where to even start their piece -- they don't even remember the visual aspect. Nerves affect EVERYTHING. All of these memorization techniques don't do much good if you can't deal with panic. Nerves are okay, but panic is what messes us up.



Why so nasty/defensive? Do you really think my teacher, who has performed for over 40 years, doesn't know what he's talking about? He taught me all of this, and it's true.

Yes, nerves can affect you in many ways, but haven't you noticed that the MORE prepared you are, and the more you know a piece, the less nervous you'll be? Through the ways I mentioned, and more, your memory will be a lot more solid, and you won't be panicking as much at all. I have the feeling that you think that what I said is a bad thing - why?! Shouldn't you aim to be the most prepared you can be? I'm not saying it'll eradicate nerves, but it'll make helll of a lot better to deal with them, as well as distractions.


Woah woah, nasty? I'm just talking! You're the one being defensive for interpreting my post as nasty. I'm just talking, really. smile

I agree that the more prepared you are, the less nervous you'll be but what about if one doesn't get phased by performance? Do they really need to use all of these techniques if they're comfortable in front of an audience? What if they're even good at harnessing nerves? I'm not claiming to be a great performer or anything, but my first performance was when I was 16. I performed Clair de lune and I didn't have any lapses -- and I was really nervous.


It wasn't just Pogo... I found you to be overly defensive as well. What she's saying is that, if panic does rear it's ugly head, then you've several defenses at the ready. It's best to be as prepared as possible. I know several pianists with incredible memory and STILL go through all the steps. You should have several "pick-up spots", be able to play each hand alone, be able to start at any measure (start playing for some masterclasses and see how invaluable this skill is), be able to play your work at half speed (and hands separately this way as well... not as easy for most as you'd think) and these are for starters. Nerves, of course, can be our worst enemy, but airtight preparation will help get around them (and will, most likely, calm you before you ever begin).

By the way, since you felt the need to throw it in... I played the entire suite when I was nearly half sixteen in recital and felt completely at ease. I had great teachers who made sure I was prepared... and I was.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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#2168637 - 10/19/13 06:22 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
Happy Birthday stores Offline
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Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: JoelW


That's right. When I learn pieces, I don't memorize by 100% muscle-memory! I have visual, muscle, aural and harmonic memorization of every piece I play. I also make sure I can play the piece WAY under tempo because that way there is no muscle memory carrying you along. It forces you to actually know the notes.


Well then, you ARE aware of these things. Since you are, for the benefit of those who aren't in the know, pass on your knowledge rather than tell them to "play it over and over...blah blah blah and you'll learn it". You know better.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2168638 - 10/19/13 06:29 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: stores]
JoelW Offline
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Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW


That's right. When I learn pieces, I don't memorize by 100% muscle-memory! I have visual, muscle, aural and harmonic memorization of every piece I play. I also make sure I can play the piece WAY under tempo because that way there is no muscle memory carrying you along. It forces you to actually know the notes.


Well then, you ARE aware of these things. Since you are, for the benefit of those who aren't in the know, pass on your knowledge rather than tell them to "play it over and over...blah blah blah and you'll learn it". You know better.


I just sort of assumed that everyone naturally learns these things when they play. I don't actually individually practice these things. It all happens as I learn. Maybe it's the way I do it -- one measure at a time, starting slowly and being aware of what's going on. After reading some posts here, I'm now aware that memorization doesn't come as easily to everyone.

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#2168640 - 10/19/13 06:30 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
pianoloverus Offline
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I have quite a few books that consist of collections of interviews with pianists. I can't remember which one this refers to, but in one of them the interviewer asked many of the pianists about memorization. I was very surprised that quite a large number of them said they didn't know how they did it. I had assumed most high level professionals were pretty sophisticated and self aware of what they were doing regarding memorization.


Edited by pianoloverus (10/19/13 06:39 PM)

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#2168642 - 10/19/13 06:38 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
BDB Online   content
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One of the things that makes a high level professional is that they have mastered certain skills so well that they cannot understand people not being able to do them. That is why the best performers may not be the best instructors.
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#2168645 - 10/19/13 06:50 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
patH Offline
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Registered: 03/09/13
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Loc: Germany
To memorize a piece I learned from sheet music, I play it over and over again, and eventually, if the harmonies are not too complicated, it will sink in.

I guess it's muscle memory. Because sometimes, when I play and get derailed, I start a few measures from that point, and it usually works the second time.

For pieces that are harmonically challenging, I find it more difficult to memorize them.
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#2168658 - 10/19/13 07:38 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: patH]
bennevis Offline
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5044
Originally Posted By: patH
To memorize a piece I learned from sheet music, I play it over and over again, and eventually, if the harmonies are not too complicated, it will sink in.

I guess it's muscle memory. Because sometimes, when I play and get derailed, I start a few measures from that point, and it usually works the second time.

For pieces that are harmonically challenging, I find it more difficult to memorize them.

It looks like the way pianists memorize aren't much different between amateur and professionals, between great and so-so pianists, after all grin.

The last time I saw a well-known pianist having a major memory lapse, it was quite excruciating to watch - he floundered around for several seconds, playing some random notes that bore little relation to the music until he finally found a way back, skipping a whole section to do so. It was probably no different to the way a decent non-professional pianist in the same situation would cope, and it surprised me that someone with such long experience as a concert pianist didn't manage to disguise or cover it up better.

And professional concert pianists frequently play atonal (and avant-garde) music with the score, rather than trust to their memory. I've attended several piano recitals over the years where Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Stockhausen, Boulez or more contemporary works were performed, and in every case, the score was used. But never for composers like Shostakovich, Bartók or Stravinsky.

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#2168662 - 10/19/13 07:55 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
Sand Tiger Online   content
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Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1023
Loc: Southern California
I am a beginner so take my comments for what they are worth. I like to be able to play a memorized piece, with eyes closed, with the power off, and away from the piano as an ear worm. Some pieces are too difficult for all that, but sections can be memorized that way.

There is the cliche of memorizing a poem. Most will do it a line or two lines at a time. Some like to use mnemonic tricks, attaching words or images to each musical phrase, to string the lines together. Some folks like to write out the score or visualize the score. Writing out a shorthand version of the harmony can often be enough to trigger the rest. When I perform, I like to have a crib sheet with just the first few bars in shorthand, because I often feel like my mind is blank. The entire score is often less valuable than the crib sheet and less portable.

I find that it helps to have recovery points, in case of a flub. On performance day, mental rehearsal is often more valuable than more playing. I find that too much playing on performance day tends to be counterproductive, if a person has rehearsed enough before hand.
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#2168716 - 10/19/13 11:21 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
Happy Birthday stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: JoelW


That's right. When I learn pieces, I don't memorize by 100% muscle-memory! I have visual, muscle, aural and harmonic memorization of every piece I play. I also make sure I can play the piece WAY under tempo because that way there is no muscle memory carrying you along. It forces you to actually know the notes.


Well then, you ARE aware of these things. Since you are, for the benefit of those who aren't in the know, pass on your knowledge rather than tell them to "play it over and over...blah blah blah and you'll learn it". You know better.


I just sort of assumed that everyone naturally learns these things when they play. I don't actually individually practice these things. It all happens as I learn. Maybe it's the way I do it -- one measure at a time, starting slowly and being aware of what's going on. After reading some posts here, I'm now aware that memorization doesn't come as easily to everyone.


Yeah, those things don't just happen naturally. They are all things that one must be consciously aware of.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2168738 - 10/20/13 12:42 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6098
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Everybody should absolutely be aware of the factors mentioned by Joel. The problem for many is probably to know how to do what he mentioned. Rushing through a piece is definitely not the way to memorize. You must become aware of things - like for example if you walk to a certain destination you recognize signposts, crossroads, shops etc. on your way to said destination. In the same way you must become aware of harmonies, modulations etc. when you learn a piece slowly, paying attention to all details. Motivation is also a factor I think.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#2168873 - 10/20/13 10:41 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
Alan Lai Offline
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Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 309
Loc: USA/Hong Kong
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