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#514772 - 11/23/05 11:10 PM Memorizing
Requiem Aeternam Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 1395
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
hey guys I am the type who never paid much mind to any guidelines or ways of going about memorizing something but I now find myself often little slipups that result in my completely being unable to continue and having to start either the whole piece over, depending how far along I am, or the whole section.

Also, I notice that oftentimes if I'm not looking exactly at the same spot on my hands or keys or am not thinking or feeling the exact same thing that I have preprogrammed myself to look/think at that particular passage or point in music then I will have a memory lapse and be completely lost as to what to play next.

I am only now beginning to really pay attention to this and come to the realization that my problem is that I never paid any attention to memorizing and thus have allowd pieces to just sort of soak into my hands which as I understand it is a very dangerous thing to do because the hands basically remember a certain routine and if that routine is broken even slightly by ONE missed note, it can spell havoc for the entire thought process and cause you to completely lose your place in the music. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem so I thought we could discuss (although I know it's been done here millions of times before) the BEST ways to learn and hardwire a piece completely so that it is 'performance' ready. By that I mean that even under stress and pressure, should your mind wander briefly astray or you have a slipup you will be able to like a professional either continue on or restart from a very close section to which you were playing, rather than having to restart from the very beginning etc.

I've heard things on here such as be able to play the whole piece with each hand separated (something I am unable to do because again, not having that sight of both of my hands on the right keys at the right time that I am used to I suddenly lose complete track of what I am playing or where I am supposed to be in the music),
or practice very slowly, or be able to play the piece silently with the volume on the digital off or on a grand piano without depressing the keys fully, or being able to imagine yourself playing the entire piece in your mind with correct fingerings etc.

For those of you who memorize your pieces fully and rarely have memory slips or slipups that result in distant restarts, what is it that you do to hardwire the piece so? Can you please take me (or us) through the process of how you go about learning a fresh piece from beginning to end to ensure it is memorized in the proper or best way?

All comments welcome and appreciated
"He who turns himself into a beast, gets rid of the pain of being a man."

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#514773 - 11/24/05 01:33 AM Re: Memorizing
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I like your writing style. Well, one little tip a Prof. once gave me is to have pre-selected points within your music that you know you could go back to or jump forward to in case of a memory slip. These might be beginnings of main sections, mark them and practice a lot (also from memory) starting from these points almost as though they were the beginning of the piece. There kind of like landmarks.

Also, I just read an article this year by a Prof. of Piano, Brent Hugh out of Mo.(I can't find the article back, if I ever do, I'll post the link), mentioning it takes repeating something 7 times to get something from one's short-term memory to one's long-term memory. So he suggested, if I remember right, starting with one small segment, either one hand or both, play it 7 times, then see if you can play it from memory. If you can't then you probably started with too big of a chunk and need to break it down and try again. I've always kind of had a "3 times" rule for myself and never heard it explained this way before.

I usually memorize a measure or part of a phrase, adding another measure, playing both together, adding another measure playing all 3 together and so on. I do usually memorize both hands separately and then together.

#514774 - 11/24/05 01:46 AM Re: Memorizing
soberkenny Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/23/05
Posts: 5
Loc: green bay, wisconsin
i like the 7 times over rule that sarabande mentioned. however for me it is entirely dependent on how familiar i am with whatever piece of music i'm trying to memorize. for example "fur elise" (the first piece probobly too many people memorize, myself included) came easily because it was well known to me probobly from some childhood music box...however others that my teacher worked with me on and TOLD me to memorize i could only get after practicing short sections at a time then sort of numbering the sections in my head to memory.
so much music...so little time...

#514775 - 11/24/05 10:45 AM Re: Memorizing
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i find some passages are easier to memorize than others. a typical passage such as Tempest 3rd movement bar 109-150 feels like the hardest part of the movement to memorize to me, because its constant modulation and low to high octave shifting. it took me at least 5 times more to memorize than some other part, and i still have to think sometimes what next notes to play whenever i get to this spot. for this passage in particular, i reply on some 'positioning' memory, i.e. key/finger locations and 'visual' spots. i don't know what's the best way to memorize the passages like this though.

#514776 - 11/24/05 04:21 PM Re: Memorizing
Glyptodont Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/05
Posts: 377
Loc: Wisconsin
I rarely memorize anything.

Sometimes with tricky passages, I will memorize some of the music so I don't hesitate or slow down.

I like to play many different things. Some of the persons who memorize long pieces may be the type who spend six months preparing a single piece-- for a recital or a testing or something. That would take all the fun out of it for me.

Perhaps I am all wrong on this -- maybe some people can memorize many pieces and hold them in their memory indefinitely.
the Glyptodont

#514777 - 11/24/05 05:53 PM Re: Memorizing
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 18113
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I have never actively tried to memorize a piece; memorization just happens after working on a piece for some time. After a few weeks, I'll notice that I'm looking at the music less and less. Then one day I'll notice I don't need it at all.

I find that it's not until I have a piece memorized (or nearly so) that it really starts to sound good, because I am much better able to concentrate more on dynamics and pacing if I don't have to constantly be staring at the pages figuring out what notes to play next.
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#514778 - 11/24/05 08:11 PM Re: Memorizing
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3690
Loc: London, England
Interesting. My approach is this. if I am working on a piece that I intend to add to my repertoire, then I will start to try to memorize it straight away. I really study the notes and rythmn very carefully as I sight read and ensure that I have it very accurately recorded in my mind. I typically do this for no more than 3 or 4 bars at a time (less for complex sections). I play them over two or three times from teh score, then I try to play it without the score. I memorise music very much in patterns and if I can visualise a pattern then I can remember that section fairly easily.

I agree with Monica that I dont play a piece really well, with good phrasing and tone, until it is memorised.

Even then I will occasionally check back against the music. It is amazing how little errors (typically ones that sound OK) can have been overlooked.

When I started on the Grieg Concerto, the first three pages are quite straightforward and I played them thorigh to my teacher, from memory. The piece starts with some quite fast and dramatic octave based chords all teh way down the keyboard. I was astounded and embarrassed when my teacher pointed out that I had missed out a whole bar! Memory can be deceptive - sometimes we hear what we want to hear....

Keep at it. Memorising is a learnable skill.

Kind regards

Re-learning after a long break from playing. New piano for 2017. 7ft semi concert grand.


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