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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: 5017
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: 255
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
Soler sonata r.78
Haydn Hob XVI 50 movement 1
Chopin Ballade 3
Liszt Hungarian rhapsody 8
York Bowen toccata

www.youtube.com/channel/UCKqmkVdn_41vKvDG-ELy0bg

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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.
_________________________
http://www.youtube.com/davebeeboss

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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]
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: 5017
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 Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17949
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
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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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: 5017
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: 5017
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]
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.
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#2168637 - 10/19/13 06:22 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: JoelW]
stores Offline
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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.
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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]
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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]
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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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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 Offline
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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]
stores Offline
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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.
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#2168738 - 10/20/13 12:42 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
ChopinAddict Offline
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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.
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#2168873 - 10/20/13 10:41 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
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#2169062 - 10/20/13 06:33 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
cefinow Offline
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What do you mean, "how"? As in, how does your brain function to allow memorization (visual, kinetic, aural), or what deliberate steps do you take to cause memorization to take place? Never mind; I confuse my own self sometimes and this question really did confuse me.

At any rate, I have realized, about part 1: it's not visual; either from the page or from visual patterns on the keyboard. It's mostly aural. It doesn't even seem like motor memory plays a great part. Once, motor memory did save me, though, as my mind went totally blank while playing Chopin 10/12 at a student recital, and I watched as if a spectator while my hands (after a split second pause) launched themselves into the next section. It so startled me that it took my brain a few measures to catch up. But that was my first recital since a teenager, and I had worn the keys of the piano down to nubs with incredible mind-boggling repetition. I know I can't take that approach with every piece, though.

Mostly it's a physical awareness of shapes and patterns formed by my hands; I have a mental image of lines and angles and geometric shapes formed by intervals and chords and runs. And they all seem so interesting and quirky and individualistic, it's easy to remember.

About part 2, I have recently realized I need some sort of plan. The music goes into memory fairly quickly, which can be good (can practice without the score and internalize the music) and bad (no more need to read, can get details wrong). But this is a sort of incidental and not deliberate memorization; it *just happens somehow.* And experience in lessons has shown me that this kind of memorization-through-familiarity is not reliable. Often my pieces have a dreadful awkward stage where I neither read the music, nor have the piece solidly memorized; so between memory lapses, and looking up at the music again in flustered silence, trying to locate the measure where I've broken down, it's not pretty.

So, last night I sat down to deliberately start memorizing my next recital piece. It's familiar enough that it's mostly memorized, but not solidly and deliberately. My procedure was: Read through a section; play it from memory a few times; read through the section again "with a fine-toothed comb" to make sure I have every note and rest exactly so and check against my memory; play from memory a few more times; read through again. Then go back one section and start that one, and do the same things, but join with the following section. Make sure I understand what I am playing, i.e. what chord. Make sure I know where the phrase ends up. If worst comes to worst at the recital, I can fill in a few forgotten measures with fluff as long as I end up on in the right place.

I got through two pages, starting from the back. I'm actually quite concerned about it as the recital is in less than 2 months and I still have technical work galore to do on it... Mendelssohn rondo cap. which my autocratic teacher handed to me with the announcement "You'll be playing this in the December recital." And I liked it and was game, but now... ugh... Anyway yes, memorization is definitely something I am thinking about these days.

Maybe a bigger concern is "retrieval of memorized content in a stressful situation." Whatever happens at the beginning or in the middle of the piece, I am definitely planning to have fun with those octaves at the end!

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#2169293 - 10/21/13 07:57 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
The Hound Offline
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I don't systematically memorise that much, but I have effectively done so simply through substantial reptetition. In these cases I try and consolidate the memory by visualising the score as I play. I managed to play two pieces in my recent Trinity Grade 8 exam from memory (which is not common, according to my teacher), though I was worried I'd draw a blank so I took the music along just in case (and so the examiner could reference it if they wanted). It went well and there were no problems on that front.

I may try and develop a more involved methodology now as I add more pieces to my repertoire. It's great to have a few on tap should you come across a piano and get exhorted to play by someone.

Visualising the score is a good start, I think, but I like some of the other suggestions in here about concentrating particularly on harmonic changes and other milestones.

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#2169340 - 10/21/13 09:09 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: The Hound]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: The Hound
In these cases I try and consolidate the memory by visualising the score as I play.

Visualising the score is a good start, I think, but I like some of the other suggestions in here about concentrating particularly on harmonic changes and other milestones.

Do you actually picture the score in your mind and 'read' from it?

I've often wondered what people mean when they talk about photographic memory. I can never picture a score in my 'mind's eye', but I can 'visualize' my hands & fingers making the movements and 'hear' the results, just as I can visualize a chessboard in my mind and play 'blindfold chess' with someone else, without sight of the board. (Though I can only play one such game at a time - maybe two, if I really concentrate and write down the moves, unlike the Argentine GM Miguel Najdorf, who broke the world record playing 45 blindfold games simultaneously....).

Memorization seems to be getting more and more common among musicians - even those that audiences expect to play with the score in front of them, like chamber musicians and conductors - in fact, many of the world's greatest conductors now conduct without the score. That would have been considered a remarkable feat two decades ago.

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#2169472 - 10/21/13 12:24 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
neuralfirings Offline
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It's interesting reading about all the different techniques people use. There's usually two stages for me, the concentrated memory stage where I have to think hard about what notes to play, and then the awesome muscle memory stage where it just flows from the fingers.

I've heard that knowing theory, chord progressions, etc. can help with memorization. I'm not very good at theory and for me, thinking about chords is more trouble than it's worth. However, I played enough piano as a kid to be able to recognize chords, even if I don't know them by name. I think I know them by fingering and the "feel." For example, a 6/4 inversion has a stretchier-feel.

The other thing that I found useful is memorizing the base progression. For example, I was memorizing this section (http://www.notablescores.com/clips/65) in the Ballade and I found it useful to just focus on the base notes (G, F#, G, F, C, C, D, D).

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#2169489 - 10/21/13 12:46 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
The Hound Offline
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Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: The Hound
In these cases I try and consolidate the memory by visualising the score as I play.

Visualising the score is a good start, I think, but I like some of the other suggestions in here about concentrating particularly on harmonic changes and other milestones.

Do you actually picture the score in your mind and 'read' from it?

I've often wondered what people mean when they talk about photographic memory. I can never picture a score in my 'mind's eye', but I can 'visualize' my hands & fingers making the movements and 'hear' the results, just as I can visualize a chessboard in my mind and play 'blindfold chess' with someone else, without sight of the board. (Though I can only play one such game - maybe two, if I really concentrate and write down the moves - at a time, unlike the Argentine GM Miguel Najdorf, who broke the world record playing 45 blindfold games simultaneously....).

Memorization seems to be getting more and more common among musicians - even those that audiences expect to play with the score in front of them, like chamber musicians and conductors - in fact, many of the world's greatest conductors now conduct without the score. That would have been considered a remarkable feat two decades ago.


It's hard to describe exactly - kind of, but not quite. I see the stave in my mind's eye, but not constantly as I'm playing. It's like my brain is very faintly focused on it, and every so often (perhaps when it things it needs to) it sharpens the focus briefly. I think I'm relying mostly on muscle memory, with the score visual just to supplement it in case I lose it.

I'd say I've got a decent long term memory, and a good one for remembering lists, long quotes and music, but a not brilliant short term memory. I always thought a photographic memory means you can look at something one time and then retain every single detail about it - I don't have that. I don't think I could do blindfolded chess; I have never actually tried so I might be wrong, but because of the spatial complexity in the game I like to be able to scrutinise the board and I don't know how much it would affect me to lose that ability. 45 games simultaneously is insane.

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#2169545 - 10/21/13 02:33 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: The Hound]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Originally Posted By: The Hound
I don't systematically memorise that much, but I have effectively done so simply through substantial reptetition. In these cases I try and consolidate the memory by visualising the score as I play. I managed to play two pieces in my recent Trinity Grade 8 exam from memory (which is not common, according to my teacher), though I was worried I'd draw a blank so I took the music along just in case (and so the examiner could reference it if they wanted). It went well and there were no problems on that front.


I did the same for both my recent Grade 3 and Grade 5 exams and will definitely do the same for Grade 8 which I plan to take next year. I really have no choice.

My memory is very good because I cannot sightread to save my life or maybe I cannot sightread to save my life because my memory is very good.

I guess blind pianists have to rely entirely on memory in performance? It would be interesting to hear from a visually impaired pianist about the techniques that he/she uses to learn and memorise music. Even more so, from someone who learned to play before his/her vision deteriorated and has had to adjust.
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#2169641 - 10/21/13 05:09 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
I really have no choice.

My memory is very good because I cannot sightread to save my life or maybe I cannot sightread to save my life because my memory is very good.

I guess blind pianists have to rely entirely on memory in performance? It would be interesting to hear from a visually impaired pianist about the techniques that he/she uses to learn and memorise music. Even more so, from someone who learned to play before his/her vision deteriorated and has had to adjust.

There is a sight-reading test involved in the Grade exams, isn't there?

A good mark in it could mean the difference between Merit and Distinction .... wink

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#2169662 - 10/21/13 05:34 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
The Hound Offline
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I'm wondering if by sightreading DazedAndConfused means simply reading from the score, given that he/she writes about it as though it were the alternative to playing a piece from memory?

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#2169668 - 10/21/13 05:43 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: The Hound]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: The Hound
I'm wondering if by sightreading DazedAndConfused means simply reading from the score, given that he/she writes about it as though it were the alternative to playing a piece from memory?



That's what I took it to mean, that he finds it easier to memorize the music than playing from the score the set pieces he's learnt. But the Grade exams also include a test in sight-reading, where the examiner plonks a piece of music on the music rest that you've never seen before, which you have to sight-read there and then. (As well as aural tests, scales & arpeggios etc).

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#2169674 - 10/21/13 05:48 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
My memory is very good because I cannot sightread to save my life or maybe I cannot sightread to save my life because my memory is very good.

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#2169678 - 10/21/13 05:53 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
The Hound Offline
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Originally Posted By: bennevis

That's what I took it to mean, that he finds it easier to memorize the music than playing from the score the set pieces he's learnt. But the Grade exams also include a test in sight-reading, where the examiner plonks a piece of music on the music rest that you've never seen before, which you have to sight-read there and then. (As well as aural tests, scales & arpeggios etc).


Indeed they do - seemingly many people's most hated bit! Personally I was least looking forward to the aural, as the one in Trinity can be tricky, though in the end I got full marks in that section.

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#2169699 - 10/21/13 06:39 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Originally Posted By: bennevis

There is a sight-reading test involved in the Grade exams, isn't there?

A good mark in it could mean the difference between Merit and Distinction .... wink


Tell ne about it ....

I scored 128 at Grade 5, Distinctions in all pieces, 18/18 for the Aural tests (a good memory for music helps), a decent score for scales and arpeggios ....

... but a shameful NINE for the sight reading ... out of 21 ..... the pass mark is 14 .... the lowest possible mark for making an attempt is SEVEN. blush

"You kept going and the rhythms were mostly in place but notes were inaccurate and the left hand was misplaced for much of it, alas" - Mr Examiner

To be honest that was a very flattering assessment .... blush

At my age I have given up all hope of ever being able to scan a piece for thirty seconds, make any sense of it and then produce something even remotely musical, especially under pressure.


Edited by DazedAndConfused (10/21/13 06:49 PM)
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#2169701 - 10/21/13 06:40 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Polyphonist]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
My memory is very good because I cannot sightread to save my life or maybe I cannot sightread to save my life because my memory is very good.



Hey Smartypants, did you miss the word 'maybe'?
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#2169702 - 10/21/13 06:45 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: The Hound]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Originally Posted By: The Hound
I'm wondering if by sightreading DazedAndConfused means simply reading from the score, given that he/she writes about it as though it were the alternative to playing a piece from memory?


I can read music and I can play music but I self-evidently cannot do both at the same time!
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#2169707 - 10/21/13 06:51 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused

"You kept going and the rhythms were mostly in place but notes were inaccurate and the left hand was misplaced for much of it, alas"

To be honest that was a very flattering assessment .... blush

At my age I have given up all hope of ever being able to scan a piece for thirty seconds, make any sense of it and then produce something even remotely musical.

Take a leaf out of people who sight-read for a living (accompanists/collaborators for singers etc) and leave out non-essential notes.

The top melodic line and the lowest bass notes that are on the beat are essential; the others are often optional wink . Better to leave out inner notes and thin out the texture than to play glaring wrong notes.

If all else fails, remember the great Sir Thomas Beecham's dictum:
"There are two golden rules: start together and finish together. The examiner doesn't give a damn what goes on in between." grin

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#2169709 - 10/21/13 06:54 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
My memory is very good because I cannot sightread to save my life or maybe I cannot sightread to save my life because my memory is very good.



Hey Smartypants, did you miss the word 'maybe'?

The context of your use of "maybe" implied that it was one or the other.
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#2169711 - 10/21/13 06:58 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused

"You kept going and the rhythms were mostly in place but notes were inaccurate and the left hand was misplaced for much of it, alas"

To be honest that was a very flattering assessment .... blush

At my age I have given up all hope of ever being able to scan a piece for thirty seconds, make any sense of it and then produce something even remotely musical.

Take a leaf out of people who sight-read for a living (accompanists/collaborators for singers etc) and leave out non-essential notes.

The top melodic line and the lowest bass notes that are on the beat are essential; the others are often optional wink . Better to leave out inner notes and thin out the texture than to play glaring wrong notes.

If all else fails, remember the great Sir Thomas Beecham's dictum:
"There are two golden rules: start together and finish together. The examiner doesn't give a damn what goes on in between." grin


Thanks for that. I am thinking about Grade 8 for Winter 2014 and have already written off any chance of being able to sightread a piece at that level ... unless I get lucky and they give me 4' 33" .. grin

Failing that, I will definitely take your advice.
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#2169712 - 10/21/13 06:59 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Polyphonist]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
The context of your use of "maybe" implied that it was one or the other.


.. or maybe not ...
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#2169803 - 10/21/13 11:02 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
At my age I have given up all hope of ever being able to scan a piece for thirty seconds, make any sense of it and then produce something even remotely musical, especially under pressure.
How much time do you spend just reading through music at the piano? I wouldn't "give up all hope" until you've spent some time doing this every day, starting at a level which you find easy.
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#2170021 - 10/22/13 12:03 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: currawong]
DazedAndConfused Offline
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Registered: 10/26/10
Posts: 198
Loc: Greenwich, London, United King...
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
At my age I have given up all hope of ever being able to scan a piece for thirty seconds, make any sense of it and then produce something even remotely musical, especially under pressure.
How much time do you spend just reading through music at the piano? I wouldn't "give up all hope" until you've spent some time doing this every day, starting at a level which you find easy.


Time is the problem. Between a demanding job and a demanding (in a nice way) family, my spare time is limited. When I get the chance to practise, I would much rather play familiar pieces or make progress with new pieces than put myself through the torture of sightreading. It really isn't that important to me in the grand scheme of things.

Having said that, I have found an App for the iPad that has given me some hope.

http://sightread4.com/piano/

It does make practice marginally less painful. I recommend it to others who may be struggling.
_________________________
Currently working on:
Poulenc, Mouvements Perpetuels
Shostakovich, Prelude & Fugue no. 5
Beethoven, Sonata in F Op. 10 No. 2

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#2170163 - 10/22/13 04:34 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5921
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
When I get the chance to practise, I would much rather play familiar pieces or make progress with new pieces than put myself through the torture of sightreading. It really isn't that important to me in the grand scheme of things.
Don't forget that if the music you choose to explore is easy enough it won't be torture. If it's torture it's too hard. Step back a notch or two.
But if it's "not that important" to you, then there's not much more to say. I just thought I'd chip in because I have invariably found that when people improve their reading skills they find it very rewarding and well worth the time. (It also helps you learn new pieces more quickly)
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#2170580 - 10/23/13 11:29 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
Brad Hoehne Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/22/11
Posts: 368
Loc: Ohio
I made a leap in my confidence in memorizing when I began working from the end of pieces forward. That way, as I play a work, I reach sections that I feel more and more confident about. Starting at the end, I break the work into chunks. I finger and practice a few measures at a time- enough to "get the notes". I then immediately proceed to memorize by repeatedly "testing myself" against the sheet music in those small sections. I do a little harmonic analysis to give me a crutch to lean on in tricky sections, but I don't completely break down the piece in this manner. This simple method has been very effective for me.

I make it a point to visit a piano in my workplace and try out the sections that I've been working on away from the sheet music during my lunch hour.
_________________________
1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Rach. Prelude Op 32 #12
Mozart Piano Sonata #17, K570
Villa-Lobos, Bachianas Brasileiras #4
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes

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#2170596 - 10/23/13 12:11 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: Brad Hoehne]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5017
Originally Posted By: Brad Hoehne

I make it a point to visit a piano in my workplace and try out the sections that I've been working on away from the sheet music during my lunch hour.


I find that if I have the music up and ready when I'm trying to play from memory, I'll make a Freudian memory lapse in order to look at the score grin.

So instead, once I feel that I've got the whole piece memorized, I put the score away somewhere not easily accessible, and play it all the way through. If I get stuck, I try to find my way back without the score - the same way I would if I was performing.

This way, I get to know not just where the problem spots are (and therefore need reinforcement with other means), but also how successfully I can dig myself out of a hole.....

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#2170775 - 10/23/13 06:02 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: currawong]
DazedAndConfused Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/26/10
Posts: 198
Loc: Greenwich, London, United King...
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
When I get the chance to practise, I would much rather play familiar pieces or make progress with new pieces than put myself through the torture of sightreading. It really isn't that important to me in the grand scheme of things.
Don't forget that if the music you choose to explore is easy enough it won't be torture. If it's torture it's too hard. Step back a notch or two.
But if it's "not that important" to you, then there's not much more to say. I just thought I'd chip in because I have invariably found that when people improve their reading skills they find it very rewarding and well worth the time. (It also helps you learn new pieces more quickly)


Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate your advice and I completely agree about the importance of improving ones ability to sightread music and all the benefits that naturally ensue but I have no illusions about the amount of time and effort that would be required to become even vaguely competent. At present, I would rather spend that time working on pieces that I actually enjoy.

One of the most annoying things (for me) about sightreading practice books is that the practice material is often really weird, as if the writers have deliberately written ugly music to force you to read rather than anticipate. Pedagogically this makes complete sense but it does make practicing sightreading a tortuouous chore.

I would rather spend my precious hours learning a few bars of genius that are worth playing than minutes practicing something truly hideous!
_________________________
Currently working on:
Poulenc, Mouvements Perpetuels
Shostakovich, Prelude & Fugue no. 5
Beethoven, Sonata in F Op. 10 No. 2

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#2170783 - 10/23/13 06:15 PM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: DazedAndConfused]
TheHappyMoron Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/10
Posts: 1166
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: DazedAndConfused
When I get the chance to practise, I would much rather play familiar pieces or make progress with new pieces than put myself through the torture of sightreading. It really isn't that important to me in the grand scheme of things.
Don't forget that if the music you choose to explore is easy enough it won't be torture. If it's torture it's too hard. Step back a notch or two.
But if it's "not that important" to you, then there's not much more to say. I just thought I'd chip in because I have invariably found that when people improve their reading skills they find it very rewarding and well worth the time. (It also helps you learn new pieces more quickly)


Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate your advice and I completely agree about the importance of improving ones ability to sightread music and all the benefits that naturally ensue but I have no illusions about the amount of time and effort that would be required to become even vaguely competent. At present, I would rather spend that time working on pieces that I actually enjoy.

One of the most annoying things (for me) about sightreading practice books is that the practice material is often really weird, as if the writers have deliberately written ugly music to force you to read rather than anticipate. Pedagogically this makes complete sense but it does make practicing sightreading a tortuouous chore.

I would rather spend my precious hours learning a few bars of genius that are worth playing than minutes practicing something truly hideous!


I'm pretty good at sight reading now even though I've never took the practise of it all that seriously. I simply sight read lots of old songs like "little things mean a lot", "moon river" and other oldies like Cole Porter and Nat King Cole arrangements. They're pretty simple stuff, and fun to play, especially as they leave lots of room for embellishments and what not! laugh
_________________________
All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of life springs ever green.

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#2171597 - 10/25/13 01:23 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: bennevis]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2311
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Take a leaf out of people who sight-read for a living (accompanists/collaborators for singers etc) and leave out non-essential notes.

The top melodic line and the lowest bass notes that are on the beat are essential; the others are often optional wink . Better to leave out inner notes and thin out the texture than to play glaring wrong notes.

If all else fails, remember the great Sir Thomas Beecham's dictum:
"There are two golden rules: start together and finish together. The examiner doesn't give a damn what goes on in between." grin


I accompany choirs and soloists, both vocal and instrumental. Barring some exceptions where the composer was a good pianist and wrote the accompaniment himself, I've come to assume that the music in front of me was written by someone with no idea how to write for piano. If it's too easy, I will fill it out. If it's excessively taxing on the hands due to poor writing, I simplify it to avoid getting hurt. But when I sight-read it, I try to just play what's on the page, warts and all.

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#2171602 - 10/25/13 01:39 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: jeffreyjones]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5459
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
I accompany choirs and soloists, both vocal and instrumental. Barring some exceptions where the composer was a good pianist and wrote the accompaniment himself, I've come to assume that the music in front of me was written by someone with no idea how to write for piano.

I also accompanied choirs, and very few "real" composers ever get to write the piano part. Once I was asked to play stuff by a "composer" who never actually took music lessons of any kind.

Rustic.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2171672 - 10/25/13 06:41 AM Re: How do you memorize? [Re: jeffreyjones]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5017
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
I accompany choirs and soloists, both vocal and instrumental. Barring some exceptions where the composer was a good pianist and wrote the accompaniment himself, I've come to assume that the music in front of me was written by someone with no idea how to write for piano. If it's too easy, I will fill it out. If it's excessively taxing on the hands due to poor writing, I simplify it to avoid getting hurt. But when I sight-read it, I try to just play what's on the page, warts and all.

I occasionally accompanied my school choir as a kid, when our choirmaster was late and the choir was itching to get going, or at least rehearse the previous week's piece.

But of course, I was only doing it 'for fun' then, and everyone was aware I was sight-reading, so they didn't mind if I messed up totally, as long as the rhythm stayed intact and the harmony was approximately correct grin. If the texture was really dense, I'd leave out most of the inner notes, unless the chording was straightforward - in fact it usually was. And yes, it was rarely at all pianistic. The main exception was Britten's 'Friday Afternoons', which was a pleasure to play - which I try to play all the notes.

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