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#2378316 - 01/26/15 01:02 PM Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces?
Tuneless Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 226
Loc: AZ, USA
Well, much older students I mean. I can't remember names, I can't remember faces, and need lists for everything. Tried memorizing a simple melody 30 years ago (70 now) and gave up after I found I now hated the first few bars of a song I formerly loved.

This time around, I decided to just learn to read music and the process has been excruciatingly slow, but after a year spending about an hour a day, I can do a mediocre job on a ton of easy piano pieces. I enjoy playing them no mater how bad they sound, and I don't hate any of them.

I start piano lessons at the junior college in a couple of days, and this seems low key enough for my mediocre abilities. But I would like to know if you have ever run into someone this incapable, and how you approached teaching someone like this.
_________________________
Cynthia

Roland FP-50
Conover Upright, 1888/9, but a very low mileage piano. http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/conover_upright_piano__1888_or_9 .
Tuneless = Don't play piano(yet) and couldn't tune a guitar, much less a piano.
I'm technically very capable. I love my piano and love tinkering with it.

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#2378388 - 01/26/15 04:06 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7430
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Cynthia, it may be harder at our age, but it's doable. Just keep a positive attitude and go slowly. You'll get there.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2378427 - 01/26/15 06:23 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
anamnesis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/11
Posts: 143
Loc: Alabama
It's not that someone is incapable. The problem is usually approach they are taking, and one's attitude.

It's not a magical process that just happens. It's systematic, and takes time and practice. You have to accept that forgetting is part of the learning process. You don't learn something until you forget it a couple of times. You also have to have the utmost humility about the size of material you are trying to memorize.

How do you go about it?

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#2378438 - 01/26/15 06:53 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: anamnesis]
zillybug Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/11
Posts: 148
Loc: USA
Cynthia,
I am about your age since I will be 70 this summer. I agree with John. It is harder than when I was younger and takes longer but it can be done. I know many of the other older students that I know refuse to even try to memorize but I figure it is good for my brain and keeps it young. I do not memorize all the pieces I play but have memorized quite a few. I think the hardest is memorizing Bach and my teacher makes me memorize it hands separate first and them together. The romantic pieces seem easier to memorize. I also do theory with my teacher and analyze many of the pieces which helps.
Judy

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#2378476 - 01/26/15 09:10 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1331
Loc: western MA, USA
Hi Cynthia,
I have noticed with every adult student I've ever had (or adult students I know who study with other teachers) that their expectations of themselves are unreasonably high. They need to be patient with themselves and allow themselves to be beginners smile
Playing a bunch of easy pieces, whether "mediocre" or not, after a year is completely normal for a student of any age, maybe even better than normal depending on how mediocre your mediocre really is!
Enjoy the music!! And lessons will speed up your rate of progress for sure.


Edited by hreichgott (01/26/15 09:10 PM)
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Working on: Lots of silent movie music laugh
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2378552 - 01/27/15 03:14 AM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5644
Loc: Orange County, CA
I'm not yet 40, and I've stopped memorizing pieces altogether. Even when I perform solo I have the music open. It's not that I can't memorize anything, but my attention is being pulled 45 different ways and I have neither the time nor the patience to work on a piece and hone it to perfection AND have it memorized. Memorization serves no important purpose for me.

I do play along with my students during lessons, so haphazardly I will memorize a piece or two without even trying.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2378584 - 01/27/15 07:00 AM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
Nahum Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 414
Loc: Israel
Tuneless ,I recommend the book of Norman Doidge "The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain. Here you can learn about wonderful brain potentials in the restoration of those or other functions in adulthood - for example after a stroke.There is also information for adults about the number of times you must repeat the action to learn a new skill or restore old - something about 500 times a day. However, your memory you use every day, without even noticing it.
Therefore the number of daily repetition of music pieces may be within between 80 - 150 times per day, it can be divided into several portions, for example four; and then the method of practicing the heart will look like this: selected fragment (not the whole piece !) is repeated 20 times in a row 4 times a day. Be patient for one week for one fragment - and make sure that the memorizing works . Just at your age (ours with you) the effect requires more time.

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#2378713 - 01/27/15 01:50 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
Jonathan Baker Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 507
Loc: New York City!
Hello Cynthia,

I think the first point on the agenda of memorization is to not worry about it, or to think that because you have a memory lapse at some point that you have utterly failed. The greatest concert pianists in history have had memory lapses galore. A great memory is not necessarily a sign of great musical talent.

We memorize on different levels at the same time…exploit that fact to your advantage.

Muscle memory is a cornerstone of memorization at the piano but inadequate unto itself, and while some repetition is necessary, excessive repetition is not the most efficient method.

Even more important; look at the printed score itself to find patterns - any kind of pattern or repetition. Scan the score with your eyes only and make an adventure of trying to find patterns. With pencil in hand make note of these patterns where they appear on the score, and as you do this you start to become your own teacher.

Find contrasts as well: the theme or melody of a piece may introduce itself starting on the C note, but then reappears beginning on the G note. Indicate that to yourself clearly on the score. Or maybe that theme that was going upward is now reappearing going downward. Simply observing and noting these simply patterns and contrasts can being to 'frame' the piece in your mind rather quickly. Don't make it complicated or 'brainy' - keep it simple, just as it should be. The point is to make the piece easier, not harder.

And, of course, look over the entire piece - is it in three sections (A-B-A form) or just two? Look for any kind of proportion in the piece: four measures of this, now four measures of that, and so forth.

If you have a private teacher, ask him/her to look over your discovery of patterns as well as other musical 'landmarks' in the score, and your teacher may find still more interesting patterns as well.

Just a small amount of observation of these elements will make your memorization so much easier and quicker.

_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2378737 - 01/27/15 02:59 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
Jonathan Baker Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 507
Loc: New York City!
Cynthia - just a side note of sorts…

Playing with the score while performing was the norm in previous centuries.

When a few performers began playing from memory in the later part of the 19th century it was considered by some to be a display of arrogance or disrespect for the composer. Values are always changing...

These days I see a great many more pianists using scores at the piano while performing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. This was not the case 40 years ago when I was a young kid. Sometimes performers use score only with certain pieces, but not others.

I heard Marc-Andre Hamelin (a terrific pianist) at Carnegie last year and he only used a score only once - when playing his own composition - it was the only piece on the program that gave him memory problems.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2378761 - 01/27/15 04:02 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2484
Loc: France
Gosh, what a beautiful piano.

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#2378915 - 01/27/15 09:44 PM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 879
Originally Posted By: Tuneless
Tried memorizing a simple melody 30 years ago (70 now) and gave up after I found I now hated the first few bars of a song I formerly loved.


Adult student with a couple decades to go till I reach your age.

A couple years ago, I felt like I had no capacity to memorize anything.

I got mad and myself and tried and I found that with determination, I could.

Now

* I don't naturally memorize ANYTHING. Cues from the music sheet literally cue my memory.
* I forget fast.
* I found when I had memorized something, I felt no more secure. Maybe less secure.

This is all just to say is that you mightn't ought to relegate yourself to the prison of can't. Which is not to say that you must but is just to say that you might try just to see what you're capable of.

I haven't tried to memorize anything in a few years, but it was nice to learn that I actually could if I really pushed.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2378984 - Yesterday at 02:16 AM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
Tuneless Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/13
Posts: 226
Loc: AZ, USA
Thank you all for your ideas. The purpose of the thread was to find out from piano teachers who had many students if this problem really is happening commonly in the older folks. I had something of a visual memory while in college, and at least once experienced that same effect when a health issue was resolved. But it would be nice to hear from a teacher that the others that had the problem still made decent progress. The inability to memorize is much more global than just memorizing pieces of music, it also affects reading music. The ability to read effectively seems to come and go.

Some of the ideas given remind me of the memory experts that tell you to imagine some bizarre situation to help remember a persons name, but really, now, there is nothing bazaar enough that it would make me remember that bazaar thing anyway. Some things only work for someone that has a moderate memory already. But we will see how much learning a bit of the structure of the music helps.

First class tomorrow, Cynthia
_________________________
Cynthia

Roland FP-50
Conover Upright, 1888/9, but a very low mileage piano. http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/conover_upright_piano__1888_or_9 .
Tuneless = Don't play piano(yet) and couldn't tune a guitar, much less a piano.
I'm technically very capable. I love my piano and love tinkering with it.

Top
#2379048 - Yesterday at 08:50 AM Re: Have you had students that absolutely can't memorize pieces? [Re: Tuneless]
anamnesis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/11
Posts: 143
Loc: Alabama
Originally Posted By: Tuneless
Well, much older students I mean. I can't remember names, I can't remember faces, and need lists for everything. Tried memorizing a simple melody 30 years ago (70 now) and gave up after I found I now hated the first few bars of a song I formerly loved.

This time around, I decided to just learn to read music and the process has been excruciatingly slow, but after a year spending about an hour a day, I can do a mediocre job on a ton of easy piano pieces. I enjoy playing them no mater how bad they sound, and I don't hate any of them.

I start piano lessons at the junior college in a couple of days, and this seems low key enough for my mediocre abilities. But I would like to know if you have ever run into someone this incapable, and how you approached teaching someone like this.


I don't know how true this story this is, but here's an anecdote about teaching an older gentleman who lost the ability to form short-term memories. (Apparently it took a year to get him to retain the C major scale.):

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=4321.msg40384#msg40384

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=4321.msg40678#msg40678


Edited by anamnesis (Yesterday at 08:52 AM)

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