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#2279422 - 05/21/14 09:22 PM Memory
Parks Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/14
Posts: 414
Loc: Northern CA
Originally Posted By: Atrys

Long-term memories fade with time unless they are regularly potentiated. Some people have better memories than others. Some people will commit long-term memories in a way that is easier to recall than others, allowing them to have more reliable recall, even if their memory is functionally lesser.



I hope you don't mind, Atrys, I'd like to use this comment as a springboard for a new topic.

I think memory is fascinating. I have a very good memory, and I've always wondered about it. Some people are better with numbers, some with colors, some with faces, some with timbres.

Apparently, there's memory, short term and long term, and recall.

What's people's relationship to memory with piano playing? A strong tool? A nasty inconvenience?
_________________________
Michael

"Genius is nothing more than an extraordinary capacity for patience."
Leonardo da Vinci

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#2279453 - 05/21/14 10:39 PM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
Francisco Scalco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/12
Posts: 241
I think people often blame only their one "memory" for forgetting a piece, as if there was only one way of memorizing something. I don't know how this all works in the brain, I'm by no means a doctor. But I firmly believe that it is different to memorize a score, to memorize your hands visually, to memorize something you heard and to memorize something when you play with your eyes closed, for example. I don't know if I made myself clear, but I believe different sorts of "memories" can come into play when you're a musician. Please note that this does not exclude short term and long term memories, as "subdivisions" of the ones cited above.

This is not science, as I have only my case to back it up. But I firmly believe this to be true to some extent. The existence of "different sorts of memories" that can help a musician.



Edited by Francisco Scalco (05/21/14 10:41 PM)

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#2279454 - 05/21/14 10:43 PM Re: Memory [Re: Francisco Scalco]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11416
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Francisco Scalco
I think people often blame only their one "memory" for forgetting a piece, as if there was only one way of memorizing something. I don't know how this all works in the brain, I'm by no means a doctor. But I firmly believe that it is different to memorize a score, to memorize your hands visually, to memorize something you heard and to memorize something when you play with your eyes closed, for example. I don't know if I made myself clear, but I believe different sorts of "memories" can come into play when you're a musician. Please note that this does not exclude short term and long term memories, as "subdivisions" of the ones cited above.

This is not science, as I have only my case to back it up. But I firmly believe this to be true to some extent. The existence of "different sorts of memories" that can help a musician.



I agree. I memorize the sound extremely quickly. That is the first thing that happens so I am playing the pieces in my head throughout the day. I memorize the score visually too, but this happens over time, not as early as the sound. I memorize the feel next I think, usually this happens on its own. I then memorize visually what my hands are doing, and this often happens last.

During the process of learning a piece I get a large portion of it memorized, and then I have to put in effort to memorize certain reminders to give myself so that I'm not playing on auto-pilot.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2279479 - 05/22/14 12:31 AM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
Parks Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/14
Posts: 414
Loc: Northern CA
Ciao Francisco, did you ever watch my video?
_________________________
Michael

"Genius is nothing more than an extraordinary capacity for patience."
Leonardo da Vinci

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#2279483 - 05/22/14 12:40 AM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1478
One thing is for sure - people memorize in all different ways. Arthur Rubinstein, for example, says his memory was purely visual; whenever he was playing, he actually saw the sheet music in his brain, as if it were on an overheard projected passing by in front of him! Many others have attested to this type of memory; Others (Kissin, for example), says he can't do this at all, and his memory is purely aural.

As for myself, I've always felt I had a strong memory, and I feel it's a "Kinesthetic" memory. I don't have perfect pitch, but when I'm playing, I know the sounds that are coming next , and even if I don't know the exact notes, my technique can feel what those sounds would be like under the fingers. If there is a diminished chord coming up with lots of chromatic scales in between....I know what the "feeling" of that would be under the hands. This is different from a purely tactile memory...I guess you could call it tactile combined with aural memory. I don't have a visual memory at all.

On a larger scale, I think it helps to have little mind games going on with certain tricky sections of a piece that help you know where you are in the score; people usually get confused when a passage is slightly different from the one that came before, so you need to make mental notes of these differences, and the order in which the occur (ex: First time goes to Ab, second time skips up to E, third time in the recap also goes to Ab but this time an octave below..etc).

I think one of the biggest things that can aid in memory is being able to improvise. I feel that the biggest fear about people with memory is that they will "blank out", and not remember anything that comes next. If you have the ability to simply improvise your way back on track, this fear is greatly alleviated.


Edited by Opus_Maximus (05/22/14 12:43 AM)

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#2279488 - 05/22/14 01:02 AM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
outo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 528
Loc: Finland
For me memory is very complicated and I have suffered from memory problems my whole life. Some things I memorize really fast (the sounds, melodies and rhythms). Some things are extremely painful to memorize (individual notes to play, simple patterns and fingerings and certain key patterns, like arpeggios). How my memory works is also heavily depended on my concentration which is my weak spot. I am completely unable to recall simple details when my concentration is weak and it often is for various reasons. I consistently forget names of people or places I know very well. Yet people sometimes think I have a good memory, because I tend to remember things other people don't, things that are important for the bigger picture or complicated systems. I am fast to find information because even if I don't remember the thing itself, I do remember where to find it. But this is not so useful in piano playing. I do hope my skills for recalling details will eventually get better with practice, although I haven't seen that much improvement yet...

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#2279492 - 05/22/14 01:19 AM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
bellamusica Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/10
Posts: 369
I agree that it is different for everyone. I feel like my memory is about an even 4-way split between aural, visual, kinesthetic, and deliberate mental memorization, with perhaps the first two being a little more dominant than the others.

I have perfect pitch, so that helps me out aurally. If I've heard a piece enough times I will just know what the note is coming up because I've identified it in my head so many times through listening. Of course my brain usually latches on to melodic or very distinctive stuff so harmonizations usually fall by the wayside here (I will for example know that it's a G7 arpeggiated chord in the LH but be hazy on which inversion it is.)

Visually, I have more or less of an image of the sheet music in my head. Not an exact picture, but I'll know where on the page I'm at and when the page turns are, and those are sort of markers for my brain to remember what section of the music I'm at. Usually once I start playing without music and looking at my hands more, there is a slight "re-learning" process while my brain is filing away the additional information it has now of the way my hands look while playing.

Kinesthetically of course, my hand memorizes passagework and how large chords feel under my hands, etc. Sometimes I almost feel like my hand bypasses my brain and hooks up with my perfect pitch before I realize it. Usually this is when I'm trying to play something by ear and my hand goes to the right chord that my inner ear is hearing, before my brain has quite identified what chord it is (however I can't depend on this always happening! Too bad!)

A lot of the above-mentioned stuff happens pretty much on its own without any specific effort from me, but I make sure to reinforce it all with conscious, deliberate memorization of things such as the form of the piece, certain patterns (starting at X point, the next group of LH phrases all begin on a B, or, the octaves are followed by 6ths, which are followed by 3rds, then back to octaves) and stuff like that. Usually by the time I've played through a piece a few times, I mentally have it divided into logical sections. and those sections divided into smaller phrases. Kind of like how people memorize pi to 10,000 digits by dividing it into groups of "phone numbers" or other familiar types of sequences.


Edited by bellamusica (05/22/14 01:21 AM)

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#2279544 - 05/22/14 06:47 AM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7753
There's a book (with a title and authors I can't ever remember, appropriately enough for this subject) that has a table of famous pianists and how they learned/memorized music. It was an eye-opener for me because I had no idea there was so much variation in how well-known concert artists went about the process.

It also contains a detailed study of how one pianist learned Bach's Italian concerto, which was sort of interesting.

Since no teacher ever taught me how to memorize, or really discussed it at all, I was totally lost about how to do it, and just kind of winged it as best I could, which caused me huge insecurity. I didn't really know how I did it, in fact, but just sort of acquired a piece through repetition, knowing that it had to get memorized. Not a very good way to go about it, I don't think.

But that was all long ago, when I was young and performing for school juries, and such. Over the years, when it became apparent I wouldn't be doing anything in music as a vocation, I just stopped even trying to memorize, for decades. Eventually, I tried it again and found I couldn't do it. At all.

But because of various threads here, and reading elsewhere, I got the idea to try the method of visualizing the score away from the piano, in such a way that I could actually notate it on paper if I wanted to. In other words, all of the notes and every aspect of the score was learned and memorized in excruciating detail.

So I picked a short piece (Bach's F major Invention (Bach is probably not the best starting point for this kind of thing, BTW)) and set to work. And, amazingly, that approach did the trick. I got it memorized, which completely surprised me. That was a few years ago, and now the piece is rusty in terms of memory, but I think I could get it back into shape quickly. The funny thing about it is that I didn't have to actually go through the whole piece in that detailed way before it was memorized - just doing the first section that way somehow made the rest get memorized, too. Strange.

I do think there's much to be recommended in the "write the score out" method, even if you do it just in your head, instead of on paper. You will thoroughly know the piece, if you do it, and all sorts of interesting stuff about the score reveals itself while you are doing the work.

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#2279562 - 05/22/14 07:46 AM Re: Memory [Re: wr]
outo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 528
Loc: Finland
Originally Posted By: wr
There's a book (with a title and authors I can't ever remember, appropriately enough for this subject) that has a table of famous pianists and how they learned/memorized music. It was an eye-opener for me because I had no idea there was so much variation in how well-known concert artists went about the process.

It also contains a detailed study of how one pianist learned Bach's Italian concerto, which was sort of interesting.




This is the book, it is indeed quite interesting reading:

Graffin, Imreh, Crawford:
Practicing Perfection: Memory and Piano Performance

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#2279821 - 05/22/14 06:20 PM Re: Memory [Re: Parks]
Roland The Beagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/12
Posts: 203
Loc: California
One of the things I like to do is carry a music notebook with me and dictate piano pieces I know from memory. Aside from writing music by longhand (which I enjoy for its own sake) it's a good memory exercise. I find myself relying on many different cues.

I can recall an entire piece in my aural memory and jump to different spots in the piece, but I notice that what I hear in my head is only what I was actively listening to when I was playing it myself or hearing a recording. This means that harmonies and underlying elements are very difficult to pick out whereas the melody and what is prominent is what I can remember and use.

Therefore, to fill in the rest of the structure, I have to rely on my structural knowledge of the piece and my visual memory of the score. Since I analyze all of my pieces, and since I look at the score constantly, I can piece together the rest. I find that in my mind I can see the parts of the score that I'm naturally focusing on, but not the big picture so well. If my eyes are a camera, the lens isn't very big. The harmonies in my mind are roman numerals I've written in and my knowledge of music theory tells me their function. I am aware of the building blocks of the piece and the different levels of structure - theme / motiff, phrase, period structure, and larger forms (ABA, Sonata-Allegro, etc.) I also have feelings and emotions associated with the harmonies and melodies in the actual music and what they are trying to convey - a combination of theoretical, aural, and emotional memory. They also form not just a logical progression and structure, but a story that has an arc - beginning, middle and end. I often have stories / pictures / colors in my mind relating to the music and these further connect me to the piece.

All of these together are usually enough to fill in the rest of the piece. If any of these fail, I rely on tactile and topographic memory of the keyboard to fill in details. I think - where was my hand placed? What was my fingering? If you have a piece very well under the hands, it's possible almost to dictate an entire piece this way (at least, a straightforward easy one.)

Anyway, I think this exercise of dictating by memory is an excellent insight into the memory process. I always have an excellent long term memory of all of my pieces - I can piece together and recall a piece I haven't played for years by drawing upon all of these cues.
_________________________
Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach

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