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#946987 - 11/19/03 05:53 AM Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
What are the best methods for memorizing a piece ?

\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#946988 - 11/19/03 08:18 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
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Benedict

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#946989 - 11/19/03 11:07 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Chuan Chang's book has an entire excellent section on memorization.

http://members.aol.com/chang8828/contents.htm

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#946990 - 11/19/03 08:18 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
Dwain Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 2419
Loc: Columbus, Ohio
Usually, by the time I've slogged through a piece and learned it even passingly well, I've already pretty much memorized it. Also, at that point, I start to see the piece "graphically" rather than specific notes - in other words, in my mind I have a mental imprint of seeing my fingers on the notes, and moving through passages, as a graphic image, with the actual thinking of each individual note secondarily. I suppose some would say this is a bad way to learn, and based on my playing ability, they may be right. ;\)

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#946991 - 11/21/03 04:21 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
Bob Muir,

 Quote:
Chuan Chang's book has an entire excellent section on memorization.
Unfortunately, Chuan Chang does not at all include the understanding of what is happening. It relies on keyboard memory which is developed through repetition.

And he does not like Bach. So he does not really deal with polyphonic music. So his left hand/right hand separation does not deal with the problem of voices that are distributed in both hands (three parts inventions, well tempered clavier).
_________________________
Benedict

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#946992 - 11/21/03 04:26 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
I have found Leimer-Gieseking (in fact, the method is Leimer) very enlightening.

It relies on visualization and understanding the patterns (scales, intervals, arpeggios etc.).

The only problem is that it was written for blackbelts.

Visualizing the three-part invention is extremely difficult.

But if he had written a book for beginners, it would have been incredibly powerful.
_________________________
Benedict

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#946993 - 11/21/03 04:28 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
I have ordered mapping music.

I hope it helps memorize pieces.
_________________________
Benedict

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#946994 - 11/21/03 05:58 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"Unfortunately, Chuan Chang does not at all include the understanding of what is happening. It relies on keyboard memory which is developed through repetition."

That's not what I got out of the book from my (not very thorough I admit) skimming of it. It seemed that he was teaching just the opposite. In fact he said that the danger in relying on muscle memory to remember pieces is that the student must start over at the beginning if they goofed up. His methodology allows the student to pick up a piece from anywhere in it.


"And he does not like Bach. So he does not really deal with polyphonic music. So his left hand/right hand separation does not deal with the problem of voices that are distributed in both hands (three parts inventions, well tempered clavier)."

I don't remember seeing this, but then I'm not nearly that far advanced. Please write to him and ask him this question. I know he responds to all queries and I'm curious if his methods do have such a huge blind spot.

Edit: I just did a quick search of the book for "Bach" and found a ton of information about how to practice Bach. So I don't believe he doesn't like Bach. He says:

 Quote:
"Bach is particularly
useful for balancing the LH and RH techniques because both hands play similar passages. Therefore,
you know immediately that the LH is weaker if it cannot get up to the same speed as the RH for Bach."

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#946995 - 11/22/03 04:29 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
1 About Bach

I have exchanged many e-mails with Mr Chang last year.
As my goal was to play the Well Tempered Clavier, I was struck that his method relies on Right hand left hand separation and not voices separation.

He uses the two-part inventions because the voices are distributed in both hands. But when it comes to the three-part inventions, it does not apply anymore. If you do not separate the voices, then you play the notes, but not the music.

He told me that he love Beethoven, Chopin, Lizst etc but was not very attracted to Bach.
In fact, the way music was written changed around 1750 from polyphony (several voices singing together) to melody with chords (or Alberti bass at the beginning). So the left hand and right hands are really separated in Mozart or Beethoven and Chopin.

It does not work like this with Bach. You have to concentrate on the voices.

I like Mr Chang a lot. But after practicing his method a few months, I discovered that I could not sightread at all. So I stopped.

2 When Mr Chang speaks of muscle memory, he means that if you memorize by repeating two hands together, you rely entirely on muscle memory and after a while, you do not know what you are doing.

Keyboard memory is a both a visual and a kinetic image of the keyboard (and you fingers moving on it). You see your fingers on the keyboard and you feel them moving.

It is an important part of memorizing.

But there are other parts that are as important.
One is vizualisation of the patterns (Leimer-Gieseking).

Another one is understanding the harmonic patterns.

And when I have received the book about mapping, I will post about it.

In my opinion, reading books is interesting. But it is only through practicing them that we can really find if a particular book is the right tool for the next step on our way.

Learning, whether with a teacher or without at a particular moment is basically a trial and error process.

This (self)discovery is what makes it so exciting, isn't it ?

\:\)

I am looking for the method of memorization that will not rely on mechanical repetition and that is a creative process.

I posted in this forum because I am very interest in the input of the teachers.

Should I have posted in the pianist corner ?

_________________________
Benedict

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#946996 - 11/22/03 11:32 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Thanks for posting what you found with Chang. I can imagine that when a voice travels between hands that it would be very difficult to practice it hands separate. But as I said, I'm quite a ways from that point, so I can only imagine for now.

I guess the teachers have been very busy or the don't know any memorization methods that haven't been mentioned. Maybe one will chime in now that the weekend is here.

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#946997 - 11/22/03 12:41 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
i am working now on memorization methods with my teacher. it is very intuitive.

the way she is teaching me is letting me experiment and observe myself what it is i am doing. once we have my own intuitive methods clarified, she adds in other things to try to solidify the memorization.

for example, on my own, i begin memorizing this way:

i work on just a phrase at a time, perhaps two or three measures. i play right hand alone, gradually looking at the music less and less, until i can play that phrase without looking at the music at all. then same with the left hand.

then, back to the music to put both hands together. i gradually look at the music less and less until i am playing entirely and accurately from memory. i go through the entire piece, phrase by phrase, until it is very roughly memorized.

we identified these methods i am using during this process:

1. my ear. i can hear where the music is supposed to lead, and my hands follow my ear.

2. intervals. i use the hands like measuring tapes on the keyboard, to know the intervals and patterns of the music and what they feel like to the hand. working on a phrase at a time, and mixing up the order of the phrases, helps overcome the pitfalls of "muscle memory."

3. visual memory of what the hands look like on the keys.

to that my teacher adds:

4. very slow practice. go back to a phrase at a time, play from memory so slowly that you cannot rely on either muscle or aural memory. this solidifies the memory, so that your intellect must do the work and says to itself "ok, after that F# come the F."

5. applied piano theory. we're in the key of D, therefore the most prevalent notes played on the left hand will be the tonic, dominant, and subdominant of the key of D.

6. beats. memorize by beat. beat one of measure two has this combo of notes in it. beat two of measure seven has this combo of notes in it.

7. sections. divide the work into thematic sections A, A1 (different ending or beginning), B and B1, C and C1, C3, etc.

memorize each of these sections independently so that someone could call out C3! and you could just play it completely out of context from the rest of the music.

i am still just learning, so i hope others will chime in and comment on the above and/or add their own ideas and experiences.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#946998 - 11/23/03 04:20 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
pique,

Thanks for sharing your experience of the memorization process you and your teacher are developing together.

I have found what you wrote extremely helpful.
In fact, I spent three and a half hours on the first 7 bars of the first three part invention last evening.

I am, as you know, pretending I live in the thirties and I am a student of Karl Leimer.
Unfortunately, he seems to concentrate on advanced players and I am an advanced "slogger".

I spent the whole day trying to figure out how I could "visualize" three voices.
Impossible (for me).
So, after having read your post, I just played and played ... and played till it was coming up to speed.

In the night, I woke up and felt my hands were those of a monkey (!) : all fingers were absolutely identical in their sensation and I did not have two hands but only one unit made of ten fingers.

It did remind me of what Barenboim writes in his autobiography. So, I suppose it is rather a good thing and not a variation on the theme of "The fly" with me as Jeff Goldblum. \:D

I think that visualizing means seeing/feeling your fingers on the keyboard while you read the score. It can't be else : it is the only way that will turn the visual information into kinetic impulses.
Leimer does not say this but an advanced pianist certainly visualizes his fingers while he reads the music (like a singer sings when he reads a cantata or an opera : the signs on the paper are impulses).

If my intuition is right, the visualization of the music would probably the most powerful way to memorize.

I came to this strange conclusion through the method of sightreading where one of the two tools is identifying at the same time each key and which finger is used.

I hope this work is progress is helpful.

It might well turn out that the same process could be the key to both memorizing and sightreading.

Best regards.

\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#946999 - 11/23/03 11:19 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
 Quote:
It might well turn out that the same process could be the key to both memorizing and sightreading.
yes!!

i have been thinking exactly the same thing the past couple of days.

you see, my teacher and i are also, at the same time, working on my sightreading. and i am noticing some similarities.

my teacher loaned me a methodist hymnal to practice my sightreading with. it is a great tool. i highly recommend you find a hymnal and try it. (the chords are also extremely beautiful, just to play them individually.)

unlike when you are sightreading other music, your fingerings with hymns are pretty much set in stone.

in your right hand, a 3rd is always played with fingers one and three, a fourth always played with one and four, a fifth with one and five as a closed hand. then the other intervals all one and five with an open hand. the only exception is when you have progressive thirds moving up or down the keyboard; then you might play the thirds one/three, two/four, three/five.

except when two chords are slurred, you pick up your hand after playing each chord, with a nice lilt of the wrist.

you never, never look at your right hand. you may look at the left if you need to locate a large leap.

this is where the tape measure idea comes in. because you are always matching intervals to a particular hand position, that hand position becomes locked in your mind with the visual on the page. you begin to instantly recognize a fourth or a sixth and translate it to your hand without even thinking about it. this is a great asset in all sightreading.

the hymnals are very easy and simple way to brand this relationship between hand position and what is written on the page into your mind.

this familiarity with the intervals becomes then another memory anchor when memorizing.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#947000 - 11/23/03 04:43 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
I recently decided to tackle Beethoven's Pathatique (sp?) Sonata - I usually play old standards with jazz chords which I play by ear. I haven't played classical in years and find it very difficult to play by ear. Nevertheless, I found a great trick - after you've learned the piece, hide the music. Muddle your way thru it. Come back in 30 minutes and do the same thing again. It will be "in your fingers" by the 4th or 5th "muddling".

I currently can play the entire 2nd and 3rd movement without music - it's a long story, but I'm tackling the first movement last.

This is probably not great feat for most of you, but for me, it's quite an achievement!

Derick
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#947001 - 11/23/03 05:19 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
If my intuition is right, the visualization of the music would probably the most powerful way to memorize.[/b]

Benedict, your inuition serves you well!

Like what was said before, "mapping" is extremely important.

When I discuss it with my students, I call it "Landmarking". Think about when you drive. There are certain landmarks that tell you when to turn: right at the gas station, left at the light, you know you have about one mile to go after the big shopping center, etc.

Same thing with memorizing music. The way I memorize is by these "landmarks"...I say to myself, ok after the G major chord ( I can see the chord on the paper in my mind),I will go into e minor, and then when it comes to specific notes, I just memorize the "shapes" they form on the keyboard (from the shapes they form on the paper), how they are spaced apart, etc.

It is very difficult to explain on paper, MUCH easier to demonstrate at the piano. I wish I could make it clearer what I mean but I can't.

Also, I hate to say this, but somtimes rote memorization is necessary. Just break the phrases apart and memorize each one until you can play them perfectly, then put them together.
_________________________
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

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#947002 - 11/24/03 06:18 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
PianoMuse,

I am currently working on the first three part invention and I find it incredibly difficult to memorize.

I don't even understand the structure of the piece at all so I can only cut it into parts once I have really memorized several parts (I am arriving at bar 10 and I have cut these 9 bars in 3 parts (A1 is bar 1-2, A is 3-4-5 and A3 is 6-7-8-9).


I do this mapping by ear,as I do not really understand what's happening except the theme being transformed and going from one voice to the other and two other voices doing a counterpoint).

This kind of music is impossible to understand and I cannot find an analysis anywhere.
And I am sure it is much more a counterpoint and theme analysis that is needed than a chord (harmonic) analysis. But I can't find help anywhere. \:\(


 Quote:
Also, I hate to say this, but somtimes rote memorization is necessary. Just break the phrases apart and memorize each one until you can play them perfectly, then put them together[/b]
I find it unfortunately true too. I work on one bar at a time, like a coal miner with a pick or a woodcutter with an axe.

I suppose even mapping this bar would be a great help. I am waiting for the bock by Ms Shockley with great impatience.

This process of memorization is so complex because cognitive and physical elements are interdependant.

I used to memorize simply by repetition but, I really got sick and tired of that process where in the end, I played almost like an automat.

The music has to be known very deeply. And since a piece like a three part invention is musically not at all simple, it is a bit like a can of sardins with no opener.
I don't know what dear Johann Sebastian would think of this can of sardins but I hope he'd have a good laugh and say: wait till I show you a ricercare with 6 voices and to prove to you what a piece of cake it is, I'll improvize one for you : just whistle a tune you like.

I hate that guy. \:D


\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#947003 - 11/24/03 01:05 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
The process of memorization requires careful study, and you have to keep an open mind to a lot of the various ways of memorization. You can't be dismissive about one idea because is might be counter to a good approach to memorization you happened to have read about. We all have a big tool box at our disposal, and we should use as many tools as we need. You also have to be honest with yourself regarding how well something really is - or should be - memorized.

Using one approach alone - whether Leimer-Gieseking's, or Chang's, or more descriptively, visualization, repetition, aural, muscle memory - is not enough. You have to combine some - or maybe all - of the above. It is just as valid to memorize hands separate in Bach knowing that the piece might be a three voice fugue, as it is to memorize a slow movement of Beethoven knowing that the texture might not be contrapuntal, but still has different voices that move from one hand to the other. However, that type of memorization is only valid when combined with other tools - repetition, memorizing each voice, mixing up phrases, etc.

That's why Pique's teacher seems to have the best idea of memorizing - which includes a lot of different techniques that are not mutually exclusive.

I believe in dynamic redundancy. That way, if I forget one way, I might remember another way.

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#947004 - 11/25/03 11:32 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
I agree with Phlebas. Though the method I described (or attempted to describe) above works for me, it does not work for everybody. And while that one method predominates my memorizing, I use many, many other techniques...anything from rote memorization, to analysis, to playing a passage stacatto, legato, and everything in between.

Benedict, you know what method I use for memorizing things like fugues and 3-part inventions? Before I even touch the piece, I get a few different colored pencils. Then I outline each voice all the way through the peice. Not only does this give you a clue as to where the voices are leading, but it gives you visual stimulation so that it sticks in your head easier. Then I memorize each individual voice seperately before I even try to put the voices together. This is where patience comes in. This might take a very long time (the first time I did it, it took me 7 months!), or maybe a short time.
Then there is putting the voices together. I understand that this is a slow process, but don't most excellent things take a long time? (wine, cheese, etc).
Anyways, that is just a suggestion. It might help!
_________________________
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

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#947005 - 11/25/03 02:16 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
Thank you PianoMuse, Phlebas and Pique,

I am looking for a tool (an algorithm, a method, a process...) that will allow me to memorize a piece in a creative and musical way.

It is obvious that the memory involves all the channels.

Leimer's chapter about the first two voice invention was perfect and memorizing it was extremely easy and pleasant.

Unfortunately, the three part invention is much more complex because the two upper parts do not "sing" so clearly because they are doing counterpoint for the part which sings the theme.

It is very difficult to memorize parts that are a counterpoint as compared to a melody.
And it is not the same as learning a chord progression.


Phlebas, I understand your frustration. But on the other hand, you can consider that my insisting on finding an "organic" process for memorization is because I have not found what I am looking for yet.

I love this idea of visualizing (with colours even), and I would really love to memorize away from the keyboard as Leimer's students seemed to do easily.

Once you have memorized it in your mind, then, all the channels will be involved.
But I do hate to memorize by repeating zillions of times.

I memorized the first fugue of the WTC like this and the result was very frustrating.
I had a very good teacher at the time (Julliard graduate, student of Aaron Copland and composer whose works are on the French radio and jazz musician... and a great person). But he did not seem to have a tool for learning a polyphonic piece.

What is great with a slog is that after a while, you do not mind being in a slog : Bach's music is well worth the effort.
After all, the joy he was is much beyond music, isn't it ?

\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#947006 - 11/25/03 06:25 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
 Quote:
What is great with a slog is that after a while, you do not mind being in a slog : Bach's music is well worth the effort.
After all, the joy he was is much beyond music, isn't it ?
So very true, Benedict! Words well spoken.
I think that perhaps being in a "slog" makes you appreciate the music to a far greater extent- it is the work, tears, and eventual joy that gives the music it's essence of beauty, and therof, eternity. (for is not eternity simply beauty gazing at itself in a mirror?)
_________________________
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

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#947007 - 11/25/03 08:22 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
RKVS1 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/01
Posts: 3192
Loc: Topeka, Kansas
Is this Jodi's chicken-head thread? :rolleyes:
Sorry, didn't mean to be THAT organic.

First, I've enjoyed this thread and I hope you don't think I'm belittling it, I was just noticing again the wide variety of "stuff" on this forum. Or perhaps I'm reacting to PianoMuse's definition of eternity, which if valid, pretty much rules me OUT of the long haul.

Phlebas's comment about multiple-redundancies is something I definitely subscribe too and while I haven't used colored pencils (a good idea, though) I quite often draw a loop around the notes of a particular voice, particularly if it crosses from base to treble clef. If I'm using a transcription program (Finale, in my case) I often use different shaped or sized note heads to distinguish the voices.

Benedict, although I have heard definitions of counterpoint which demands that the opposing voice be "melodious enough" to stand alone, I do think that often they don't have the same "driving force" as the main melody, so practicing them alone can be difficult.

Have you enough computer power to isolate the lead voice, and have the computer play it while you work on the 2nd and 3rd voices either separately or together? i.e. computer sounds the VoiceA and you play either Voice B or Voice C or both A and C ? Sort of a "Music Minus One" scenario.

When I was working on Air for the G String (BWV 1068) I was lucky enough to find a midi file that had each of the 4 voices on separate channels, so the Finale program transcribed each voice onto a separate staff. The program was able to reduce these 4 to one piano grand staff, but I had the original staffs there as well. I could switch any of the voices on and off as I wanted and this helped in particular to learn the base and viola parts well enough to know when they should stand out or fade back.

I'm not sure of the capabilities of less expensive programs, and even with the $400 (or so) finale or Sibelius programs its not a completely automatic or trivial exercise to isolate the voices, but I was curious what you or others thought about this type of approach.


Bob

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#947008 - 11/26/03 11:57 AM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
PianoMuse,

 Quote:
it is the work, tears, and eventual joy that gives the music it's essence of beauty, and therof, eternity. (for is not eternity simply beauty gazing at itself in a mirror?)
You ARE a PianoMuse.

I have wondered for years why my attachment to Bach is so strong as to define in a way my own search for being.
I feel Bach is way beyond beauty : it is, for me, meditation with a lot of love as its core.
Love for something that is beyond hope and content.
Love for being.

Your definition of eternity is so inspiring.

\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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#947009 - 11/26/03 01:55 PM Re: Tools for memorizing
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
Bob,
 Quote:
I have heard definitions of counterpoint which demands that the opposing voice be "melodious enough" to stand alone, I do think that often they don't have the same "driving force" as the main melody, so practicing them alone can be difficult.
I am sure that singers have the same kind of "problem" with the transition from melody to counterpoint. But I cannot imagine Bach writing a part which would sound dull for a singer.

In fact, it must be quite a pleasant experience to do counterpoint when your friend sings a melodic part.

I suppose the solution is to memorize each voice as a singer.

I don't know if I am specially untalented, but I find it incredibly difficult to memorize these three voices.

When I think that Mitropoulos just put the score on the floor, looked at it for a while and then had the whole piece memorized for the next day, I do feel some people are definitely more equal than others.

I followed your advice and wrote the first voice in my notation program.

Tomorrow, I will do the tenor and bass.

Thank you for your advice. It is very helpful.


\:\)
_________________________
Benedict

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Help - kawai rx2-c conservatory limited edition
by KungPaoPanda
49 minutes 10 seconds ago
What kind of fingering should I be using for these phrases?
by Jormungandr
Today at 03:04 AM
Mason & Hamlin BB Long distance purchase a few questions
by bigun
Today at 02:26 AM
MY NEW PIANO
by Jvmvidela
Today at 02:14 AM
Here's a Paranoid Question:
by Paul678
Today at 01:19 AM
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