Memory Lapse

Posted by: Batuhan

Memory Lapse - 03/30/12 11:35 AM

How do you prevent?

How concert pianist's never suffering from memory lapse during a performance?

What is the solution?

Practising more or being cold blooded?

Personally, It's my biggest reason to not to play for public.
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Memory Lapse - 03/30/12 11:37 AM

Quote:
How concert pianist's never suffering from memory lapse during a performance?


They do have memory lapses, and sometimes very significant ones. But they also have excellent recovery skills.
Posted by: GeorgeB

Re: Memory Lapse - 03/30/12 11:39 AM

Knowing the music inside out and outside in helps
Posted by: Ralph

Re: Memory Lapse - 03/30/12 12:49 PM

You can approach the problem a couple of ways. Understanding the harmonic progression of the piece can be very useful for memorizing. In otherwords study the piece from a theory or harmonic persective. Fingering is also critical to help with memorization. Many times a memory lapse is due to a bad or suboptimal fingering.

One of the most famous memory lapses occured to Richter who never gave another proformance without the sheet music thereafter.
Posted by: rada

Re: Memory Lapse - 03/30/12 01:57 PM

I would say you have to be able to practice the piece in your mind....also good recovery would be a must.

raada
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Memory Lapse - 03/30/12 04:09 PM

some time back i had copied a quote from a concert pianist, who said (specifically around contrapuntal music but i suspect it could be applied to all) that he always memorized hands separately and then put them together.
Posted by: MerlynTheMusician

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 12:41 PM

My teacher used to force me to start playing a piece from a random bar, to make sure I could recover, as if starting cold in the middle of the performance. I have a tendency to basically day dream myself out of the performance, a handicap that I have never really addressed.
Posted by: DameMyra

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 01:01 PM

Like Piano Dad, I have heard quite a few professional pianists have memory lapses. And I agree that developing excellent recovery skills is key. For myself, knowing that I can recover quickly from a lapse certainly helps reduce my anxiety level.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 01:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Batuhan
How do you prevent?

How concert pianist's never suffering from memory lapse during a performance?

What is the solution?

Practising more or being cold blooded?

Personally, It's my biggest reason to not to play for public.

In a long enough career, it is impossible not to have memory lapses. The most critical skill you can acquire here is the ability to recover from those lapses. If you focus solely on preventing memory lapses from occurring, you will inevitably fail. If, however, you focus on recovering from those memory lapses, you will invariably be successful to at least some degree.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 03:44 PM

If you are not a professional pianist, I would strongly consider just playing with the music to avoid the anxiety of having a memory lapse. I haven't played without the music for almost 50 years. Beside allowing you to perform with less anxiety, the time not used up in trying memorize a piece well enough to avoid a memory lapse can be used for anything else you like including learning more repertoire.
Posted by: GeorgeB

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 03:57 PM

For me I stsrted performing so much better when I started to use all sorts of different kinds of memory and as well with time an experience. A few years ago I was unable to play 10 minutes in public without having loads of mistakes. Now I can manage 30-45 minutes...
Posted by: dolce sfogato

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 06:19 PM

it's a question of time: how much time do you have to practise, how many times can you play/perform, the more the better, in doing it one discovers how to do it, memory-lapses are human, not very artistic..
Posted by: DanS

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/22/12 09:02 PM

Originally Posted By: Batuhan

How concert pianist's never suffering from memory lapse during a performance?

When I was learning Beethoven 10/3, my teacher told me that he saw a famous pianist (I think it was Murray Perahia) crash on the first page, and that he had to start again. I guess it happens to everyone.

As for memorizing, it helps a lot to be able to play through the piece in your head. It can be a brutal exercise, but well worth it. I've heard stories of pianists who write out pieces from memory just to see how well they know it. I've never tried that, but I'm sure it would be helpful.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/23/12 05:58 AM

If even world-class pianists with reputations of 'never' playing wrong notes like Pollini and Zimerman can have memory lapses (the former in a Beethoven concerto, the latter in Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, both playing in London when I heard them), I'd say that it's safe for non-professional pianists to have memory lapses occasionally. But it's an art to cover them up successfully, though sometimes you just have to go back to the beginning and start again. A good ability to improvise helps a lot. The worst thing to do is to stop dead, scratch your head and apologize to the audience grin - the audience wants you to get on with it, not publicly humiliate yourself.

I used to believe that as an amateur, I never needed to play anything from memory even in front of an (adoring grin) audience; until I started learning music that was so complex in figuration and had so many fast leaps everywhere that I found I had to memorize whole passages at a time just to be able to play them properly. From there, it was no great leap to memorize the whole piece, and I found playing from memory so liberating that I decided from then on to memorize music that I wanted to keep in my repertoire indefinitely. It also meant that I could play several pieces from memory any time and anywhere I came across a piano. I still learn pieces that don't interest me enough to want to memorize them, of course, as well as keep up my sight-reading skills.
Posted by: jdw

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/23/12 09:23 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
It also meant that I could play several pieces from memory any time and anywhere I came across a piano.


This is the great thing about memorizing for me. I've had a couple of really great experiences just happening upon an instrument and being able to play.

One of the most fun was in Colonial Williamsburg last year at the musical instrument maker's shop. Since I knew the first movement of Mozart K545 (more or less), I was able to play the little harpsichord they had there. Another visitor was so excited to hear the instrument being played that he asked me to play more so he could videotape it.

Of course, in this kind of situation memory lapses really don't matter, since no one is expecting a performance. As an amateur, I wouldn't want the pressure of trying to perform from memory. If I know in advance that I'm going to play, I take the score.
Posted by: Bluoh

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/23/12 11:52 AM

There's no way to entirely get rid of memory slips, but you can smooth out your comeback so that people don't know that you've had a slip.

Finding certain spots to start again in case you have a lapse helps.

Focus is a big part though-- when you focus entirely on the music, you have no room to worry and think about other things, and there's a lower chance of having a memory slip, or worse, a blank out.

There are also lots of psychology techniques that help a lot, backed up by scientific research, e.g. centering, focus techniques, etc.
Posted by: sleepingdog

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 04:03 AM

Originally Posted By: MerlynTheMusician
My teacher used to force me to start playing a piece from a random bar, to make sure I could recover, as if starting cold in the middle of the performance. I have a tendency to basically day dream myself out of the performance, a handicap that I have never really addressed.


Maybe people around here take this as a given and I'm just making a fool out of myself, but these excercises are crucial to avoid developing a pure "finger-based" memory (sorry, I don't know the exact expression). If you practice a piece and perfect it more and more, the piece burns itself into your fingers. You can play without even thinking about it. This kind of "perfection" is treacherous because you slowly forget how the piece really looks like. You can play it, but once you make a mistake it's over. To me, this isn't really a memory lapse at all because you don't play from "real" memory - only your fingers remember how to play from constant repetition.

What I like to do to avoid this is not only start playing from a random bar but also playing from a random bar with only the right or the left hand. This will somewhat "confuse" your finger-memory.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 04:48 AM

It's still your brain that is doing the remembering when it comes to 'finger memory'. This type of memory is no less valid than any other, it's just wise to develop all the different facets of your memory.
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 12:48 PM

more grist for the mill...

richter stopped performing from memory after a bad lapse.

a former head of the U of I piano department says that playing from memory was a relatively recent phenomenon(liszt perhaps?), one that he thinks is quite unnecessary. he says, and i quote, "there's no shame in playing from the sheet music."

lastly, memorization helps me to feel i've fully learned the piece, but i've also noticed that performing publicly by memory puts more emotional pressure and i'm much more relaxed performing with the music than without.
Posted by: Emanuel Ravelli

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 12:53 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
If you are not a professional pianist, I would strongly consider just playing with the music to avoid the anxiety of having a memory lapse. I haven't played without the music for almost 50 years. Beside allowing you to perform with less anxiety, the time not used up in trying memorize a piece well enough to avoid a memory lapse can be used for anything else you like including learning more repertoire.


+1. I saw my college teacher, an accomplished and experienced concert artist, lose his way in the Liszt sonata so completely that he stopped the performance, apologized to the audience and said he hoped to do better on the second half of the program. He came back after intermission and played a rousing, note-perfect rendition of Pictures at an Exhibition. Since that time, I've never played in public without a score.

Not worrying about memorization certainly does free up practice time for other things -- intensive technique work, learning more music, etc. The point made by jdw -- that some music is so physically complex that you have to memorize in order to keep your eyes on the keyboard -- is also true, but most pieces (even at the advanced level) have relatively few passages that require total visual concentration on the keyboard. For the rest of the time, being freed from anxiety about memory lapses contributes more to the musicality of a performance than it takes away.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 01:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Entheo
[...]
a former head of the U of I piano department says that playing from memory was a relatively recent phenomenon(liszt perhaps?), [...]


I believe it is Clara Schumann who is credited with that distinction. Liszt is reputed to have "invented" the solo piano recital.

Regards,
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 02:42 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Entheo
[...]
a former head of the U of I piano department says that playing from memory was a relatively recent phenomenon(liszt perhaps?), [...]


I believe it is Clara Schumann who is credited with that distinction. Regards,
And, if I remember correctly, she was considered arrogant or pretentious for doing so, at least until it became the norm.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 03:19 PM

I would prefer to hear a better performance than care whether performers have the music in front of them or not.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 03:36 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
I would prefer to hear a better performance than care whether performers have the music in front of them or not.


Agreed.

There is a frequent and somewhat significant misconception among some who think that those who use the score in performance have to devote too much of their attention to 'reading' and too little to interpretation.

That is not necessarily the case. Those who know the score intimately, except for having memorized it, often do not have to devote any more of their energy to reading than others do to remembering what comes next. For some, even the most minor of distractions can cause memory lapses which the presence of the score will help in the recovery; for others, the presence of the score, even when not being read during performance, is enough of a "security blanket" to assure a good performance. The anxiety of a possible memory lapse thus removed can lead to a fine performance.

For me - the presence or lack of - the score in performance is a non-issue. I play both from memory and with the score and, from this experience, I don't feel any advantage of one over the other if the work has been well learned by performance time.

Regards,
Posted by: jdw

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/26/12 05:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Emanuel Ravelli
The point made by jdw -- that some music is so physically complex that you have to memorize


This was actually said by bennevis--but I don't mind getting credit!
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/27/12 05:13 AM

Originally Posted By: jdw
Originally Posted By: Emanuel Ravelli
The point made by jdw -- that some music is so physically complex that you have to memorize


This was actually said by bennevis--but I don't mind getting credit!


No worries, mate - we'll share the credit (?) grin.

But what hasn't been said so far is that if you choose to play from the music (whether or not you actually look at the score), you'll also need a page-turner. Accidentally turning two pages instead of one in the heat of performance can lead to catastrophe.....
BTW, has anyone seen the 2006 French film La Tourneuse de pages where the page-turner wreaks havoc on the pianist, who became too reliant on her? Beware! laugh

There's also a sort of 'inverse snobbery' (for want of a better term) going on among some pianist-composers where they play from the scores only when playing their own music, to show that they aren't improvising the music and that their music is properly composed, just like the Chopin or Beethoven that they play in the rest of their program, even though of course they know their music inside out. (Hint: Stephen Hough). Of course, the score could just be a few sqiggles or Egyptian hieroglyphics, just like Beethoven's score for a piano concerto he'd just composed and didn't bother to fill in the piano part properly before performing it, to the horror of his page-turner.....
Posted by: DonaldLee

Re: Memory Lapse - 11/27/12 10:27 PM

Utilizing muscle memory alone causes memory lapses for me. In fact, I was giving a performance of Les Adieux 3 weeks ago, and my wisdom teeth began to hurt like pure heck after the first three beats. Instead of stopping, muscle memory took over (as I could no longer focus), but my hands forgot where to go in two spots during the 2nd movement.

Pros forget, and every piano recital (w/ the exception of Lisitsa- but she has a photographic memory and practices 12 hours a day) that I've seen has had a few "oopsies!" moments that could possibly be attributed to memory issues. They just have an uncanny ability of not letting it phase them.