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#484983 - 06/28/06 12:58 AM Playing by memory
prokofiev Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/05
Posts: 388
Loc: California
The other thread on memorizing has gotten me thinking. I never actually sit down and analyze the music. I memorize music by playing it a lot of times (usually that comes pretty quickly). But I also play music in my head A LOT, often visualizing my hands playing. I'm always playing music in my head. So am I relying too much on finger memory, or am I not?
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prok

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#484984 - 06/28/06 03:33 AM Re: Playing by memory
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I do the same thing. I see patterns on the keyboard (in my head) rather than seeing the notation in my head. Although now that my sight-reading has become so much better, I am doing more of both.
When I play by memory, I can just see what key I'm in and aha... what key I moving into and...Oh wow, it modulated to such and such key. So in other words I tend to just memorize naturally and I then discover the piece analytically and then I read the piece (with more understanding) and then I know it more securely, memorized!
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#484985 - 06/28/06 06:52 AM Re: Playing by memory
lol_nl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/06
Posts: 918
Loc: Ede, Netherlands
I think that if you can play it by head, you're not relying too much on finger memory, but on playing by head memory \:\) . This is much more secure (for me at least).
_________________________
Yiteng

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is never enough for music."
-Sergei Rachmaninoff.

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#484986 - 06/28/06 06:59 AM Re: Playing by memory
Sviatoslav Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 98
Loc: Italy, Torino
The score is actually a code that expresses how a certain piece should be performed. it's sequence of triggers that stimulate our mind in order to do the next step.
If you know a piece very well but you are not able to play it without looking at the score you are actually playing from memory (you no longer read the notes) but you are presenting to your mind the right triggers. And a nice confirmation of this fact is that if you don't turn a page you lose these triggers and it becomes rapidly very difficult to continue playing.

Memoriziong is nothing more that replacing the score with other systems: hands, sound, visualization, etc.
As a matter of fact a piece is well learned when we are able to make the systems redundant. In other words, we are able to remember it in different ways.
For example, try to play without looking at your hands; this is a way to remove the visual triggers and force your mind to rely upon the rest of the systems. Trying to play without the sound feedback (only possible on digital pianos) it's another one. Another one is about playing seated in a different position on your bench to remove body position triggers. All very difficult at the beginning.

It's possible to invent a whole set of these drills/exercises so to reinforce our memory about that particular piece. Obviously the visualuzation of the score is a good one too, analysis is may be the better, but the final purpose is always the same: have interchageable systems so that you can rely on.

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#484987 - 06/28/06 01:20 PM Re: Playing by memory
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5376
Loc: Philadelphia
There are only two things you need to know:

1. Where the music is going.
2. Where your fingers are going.

I don't understand what people mean when they say "finger memory". To me, it sounds like a rationalization for people who slip up, so they can blame something else. ;\)
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#484988 - 06/28/06 03:38 PM Re: Playing by memory
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Apparently, a few people have the ablility
to memorize photographically, and one
would think that the top concert pianists
have this, since, when you watch videos
of them, they seem to play with a confidence
that could come only from having a picture
of the score in their mind. Furthermore,
whether or not a pianist reaches the
top level seems to be determined solely
by his ability to memorize photographically,
since what's coming out of the instrument
musically is not extraordinary with the
top pianists. But of course a concert
pianist would never say that he has a
photographic memory, since that would then
mark his playing as just a mnemonic stunt;
instead he'd say things like: "I've
always memorized easily.", or "I
practice 12 hrs. a day.", or "My knowledge
of theory helps me to understand
and memorize a piece.", etc.

For all the others without this ability,
they've got to assemble a variety
of techniques in order to play from memory:
finger muscle memory (like when you
memorize the steps of a dance); visual
memory (watching the movement of
your fingers on the keys); harmonic analysis
of the score, as much as possible; auditory
memory; and straight memorization of the
score in critical places. But a consideration
of the above, would seem to indicate that
this is actually the worst way to memorize,
since you're doing the same thing on
multiple levels, which could ulitmately
cause confusion--but in any case, it's
not reliable when playing a long concerto
under pressure. Pianists who don't sound
that much different from the top pianists
gradually fall by the wayside in their
attempt to reach the heights of performance
as they find that they are unable to play
long works reliably from memory under pressure.

But the last item on the above list "straight
memorization of the score in critical places,"
is actually memorizing the score photographically
on a small scale, and one might conjecture
that this could be expanded, with practice,
to the point of being able to memorize the
whole thing photographically. Apparently,
this is within the realm of possibility
for any pianist; it would just take practice,
which pianists don't do because they are
caught up in the standard way of memorizing
with fingers and ears, etc., and furthermore,
they don't believe they can, which stops
them from even trying seriously. Also,
in school there are deadlines for preparing
a piece and so students go with what they
are familiar with and don't try any
other way.

Apparently there is a knack to it, which
would come with just trying to do it,
and believing that you can do it--if
you don't believe you can, then you won't
even get to first base. It seems that
the way to go would be to constantly
use the score, and not abandon it as
quickly as possible so that you can
concentrate on technique, because then
you're back to relaying on finger, eye,
and ear memory. Just keep playing with
the score and memorize it indelibly in
your mind--this is going to take a
major change in the way you do things
and your attitude. Like any skill it
just takes practice and doing, and you'll
become better at it the more you do it.

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#484989 - 06/28/06 04:03 PM Re: Playing by memory
prokofiev Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/05
Posts: 388
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
There are only two things you need to know:

1. Where the music is going.
2. Where your fingers are going.

I don't understand what people mean when they say "finger memory". To me, it sounds like a rationalization for people who slip up, so they can blame something else. ;\) [/b]
The case where you only know 2 but not 1, maybe?
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prok

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#484990 - 06/28/06 05:14 PM Re: Playing by memory
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Another great test to see if you know your piece securely, is to play it super slowly by memory.
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Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#484991 - 06/28/06 05:35 PM Re: Playing by memory
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Even if you have photographic memory, like Gyro suggests, I would think analyzing what you've read and memorized is important as far as what you are trying to say in the music; consequently having a more secure and convincing performance.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#484992 - 06/29/06 03:17 AM Re: Playing by memory
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5376
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by prokofiev:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
There are only two things you need to know:

1. Where the music is going.
2. Where your fingers are going.

I don't understand what people mean when they say "finger memory". To me, it sounds like a rationalization for people who slip up, so they can blame something else. ;\) [/b]
The case where you only know 2 but not 1, maybe? [/b]
See, and yet I don't understand how you could possibly know "2" without knowing "1". ;\)
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#484993 - 06/29/06 06:27 AM Re: Playing by memory
prokofiev Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/05
Posts: 388
Loc: California
I would imagine it to be (at least somewhat) similar to your hands doing something that you're not even consciously thinking about.
_________________________
prok

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#484994 - 06/29/06 06:28 AM Re: Playing by memory
prokofiev Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/05
Posts: 388
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
Another great test to see if you know your piece securely, is to play it super slowly by memory. [/b]
That is a good suggestion.
_________________________
prok

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#484995 - 06/29/06 11:08 AM Re: Playing by memory
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
I agree with Sviatoslav. The sheetmusic evolves from being specific instructions to visual cues to "trigger the mechanism". I posted on this years ago, but here is a good experiment:
Download a pfd file of a piece can play. Print it at 6 pages per sheet and play from the shrunken music. Or you could use a copy machine to progressively shrink your music. Eventually you might be able to look at a "postage stamp" sized page and play from it....leading to no music at all.
Another experiment to try is to play from the sheetmusic gradually dimming the lights until darkness... Try it and report back!
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Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30

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#484996 - 06/29/06 11:15 AM Re: Playing by memory
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
 Quote:
Originally posted by lol_nl:
I think that if you can play it by head, you're not relying too much on finger memory, but on playing by head memory \:\) . This is much more secure (for me at least). [/b]
Well said - finger memory is useful, but your playing will be much more secure (especially in recitals) using your 'real' memory.

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#484997 - 06/29/06 01:04 PM Re: Playing by memory
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I suspect there is a knack to developing a
photographic memory that any pianist should
be able to achieve. Supposedly, when you
look at a score, your physical brain has
already stored a copy of it in its memory
cells, and, with the right kind of practice,
one should be able to recall it into the
virtual brain, the mind, for use in memory
playing. People with photographic memories
can do this naturally, and supposedly
anyone else should be able to develop
the same ability, with practice.

Anyone can already do it to a lesser
degree. You can recall the score into
your mind to play from, but of course
it will be vague and unreadable except
in a few places. Apparently, with practice
and the right frame of mind, the recalled
score will become clearer and more readable
bit by bit, until eventually it will be
crystal clear and you can use it to play
from memory. It will just take practice,
belief that you can do it, and a reorientation
of your way of thinking so that everything
is geared toward developing this skill--
that is, 24/7, you're thinking along these
lines, rather than in the way you've
always approached piano playing and piano
scores.

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#484998 - 06/29/06 01:16 PM Re: Playing by memory
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
You don't need photographic memory if you understand the music.


Does a story-teller need a photographic memory to retell a story that he read?

Does an actor need photographic memory to recall lines from a script?


No, they just need to understand the story/script - they need to understand the plot, to understand why the characters say what they say. If they understand that, then it is much easier. Then the lines actually make SENSE, and the actors can remember them - not 'read' them from a mental script.

I find it very hard to believe that any actor or storyteller tries to conjure up an image of the script in his mind in order to 'read' from it during a performance.

I find it also very hard to believe that most pianists would try to do that.
_________________________
Sam

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#484999 - 06/29/06 01:33 PM Re: Playing by memory
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
If you want to reach the big time, I think
you'd need it. Even if you have knowledge
of composition to the point where you
can literally recompose the piece, that's
not going to be reliable enough for playing
note perfect and flawlessly on stage
under pressure. And when you consider it,
developing a photographic memory, although
it seems like impossible goal for a person
with an ordinary memory, is actually the
easiest way to go about memory playing,
since there's no rocket science to it--
it's just a mental stunt that anyone
apparently can perfect. The standard
way: finger memory, visual memory,
auditory memory, theoretical analysis,
etc., is actually much harder
because you're duplicating the process
on multiple levels, and none of them is
really 100% reliable. If you're going
to be a pro, I think one should be
willing to devote the necessary time
and effort to developing the best memory
method available.

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#485000 - 06/29/06 01:36 PM Re: Playing by memory
ParryHotter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/11/06
Posts: 75
Loc: St. Paul , MN
I could be very wrong here, but this is what works best for me. Pianobuff was right on the mark saying that a good test is to play a piece really slowly by memory. I believe that playing too much from the score makes you use it as a crutch. The score is not the music, it is just a graph used to represent the sounds and breaks that are the music. When I'm playing a piece by memory I don't look at a mental version of the score, instead I'm always aware of where I'm at in the music. I think I'd call it "sound memory (?)", as in I know what sound I'm trying to achieve at all times and I know what my fingers and body have to do to achieve that sound. I can't tell if this is really vague or really detailed, it just kind of makes sense to me.
In that same line of thought, I don't believe most top level pianists have "eidetic memory". Not to say that they all don't, but to me if somebody is spending time trying to recall what the score looked like, they're just not ready to perform the piece yet. If they can completely recall the score without any thought at all, it could be a good thing, but I don't think is necessary at all.
Understanding the underlying concepts including themes, motifs, chord progessions, cadencing (all your basic theory) and then applying it to whatever piece you're working on I believe would be much more efficient than trying to photographically memorize the score.
Oh, and by no means do I think this is the best, this is just what works best for me :p
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Playing piano is 90% mental, the other half is physical.

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#485001 - 06/29/06 03:43 PM Re: Playing by memory
Frank_W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/06
Posts: 1047
Loc: United States
Personally, when I'm playing without the sheet music in front of me, I can see it in my mind's eye. Maybe not photographic memory, but when I've looked at a piece a thousand times, and practiced it note by note, measure by measure, bar by bar, it seems to get "imprinted," in my mind.
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#485002 - 06/30/06 12:09 AM Re: Playing by memory
mr breid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/06
Posts: 29
Loc: Santa Clarita
one of the great pianists of our time, sam rotman, once said to me in a masterclass (in regards to memorizing): "Analysis bring paralysis."

something i've kept in mind over the last year...
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MR Aaron Breid

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#485003 - 06/30/06 12:27 AM Re: Playing by memory
Horace Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/04
Posts: 505
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
If you want to reach the big time, I think
you'd need it. Even if you have knowledge
of composition to the point where you
can literally recompose the piece, that's
not going to be reliable enough for playing
note perfect and flawlessly on stage
under pressure. And when you consider it,
developing a photographic memory, although
it seems like impossible goal for a person
with an ordinary memory, is actually the
easiest way to go about memory playing,
since there's no rocket science to it--
it's just a mental stunt that anyone
apparently can perfect. The standard
way: finger memory, visual memory,
auditory memory, theoretical analysis,
etc., is actually much harder
because you're duplicating the process
on multiple levels, and none of them is
really 100% reliable. If you're going
to be a pro, I think one should be
willing to devote the necessary time
and effort to developing the best memory
method available. [/b]
Yeah, except the "memory method" of visualizing the score and reading it from your mind's eye is absurdly inefficient. Why would you want to waste brain power sight-reading from an imagined score when you can instead memorize the actual music that's encoded by the staff notation? I.e. the fundamental idea of the notes and where they occur on the keyboard and when they occur in time. This is what your brain eventually translates scores into when you sight-read, so you may as well memorize the answer instead of the question, so to speak.

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#485004 - 06/30/06 04:22 AM Re: Playing by memory
Sviatoslav Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 98
Loc: Italy, Torino
My photgraphic memory is so bad that I need to reinforce it with other methods.
I agree with Gyro that "...none of them is
really 100% reliable." That's why I don't rely on just one of them. I try to develop the knowledge of the piece in several different manners that are reinforcing each other nicely.
Photographic memory is just one of them for me but from reading the posts above I get the impression that everyone tries his own preferred way (almost just one).
I dicovered that for me it works better to try different methods and let them interplay in an integrated way. Actually I found that the time to learn a certain piece is shorter and the final result is much more reliable.
To me it's like looking to a sculpture; you can understand (and remember) the shape watching to it from different angles. You still can infer the shape from one single angle (similar to a 2-dimensional picture) but it takes a lot of guess work.

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#485005 - 06/30/06 05:42 AM Re: Playing by memory
mmmmaestro007 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 420
Loc: australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Horace:
[/qb]
Yeah, except the "memory method" of visualizing the score and reading it from your mind's eye is absurdly inefficient. Why would you want to waste brain power sight-reading from an imagined score when you can instead memorize the actual music that's encoded by the staff notation? I.e. the fundamental idea of the notes and where they occur on the keyboard and when they occur in time. This is what your brain eventually translates scores into when you sight-read, so you may as well memorize the answer instead of the question, so to speak. [/QB][/QUOTE]

according to a famous violinist i heard interviewed on the radio today, Beethoven likened memorising music to a circus trick and was dead against it-(Beethoven was also renowned for improvising) \:\)
_________________________
"musical training is a more potent instrument than any other because rhythym and harmony find their way into the inner places of the soul" -Plato

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#485006 - 06/30/06 06:45 AM Re: Playing by memory
lol_nl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/06
Posts: 918
Loc: Ede, Netherlands
The visualizing the score method is secure I think, but I wonder whether concert pianists use it during concerts. Wouldn't they be distracted from the actual "music" and concentrate too much on memorizing and playing the right notes?
_________________________
Yiteng

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is never enough for music."
-Sergei Rachmaninoff.

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#485007 - 06/30/06 12:02 PM Re: Playing by memory
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19642
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
Apparently, a few people have the ablility
to memorize photographically, and one
would think that the top concert pianists
have this, since, when you watch videos
of them, they seem to play with a confidence
that could come only from having a picture
of the score in their mind. Furthermore,
whether or not a pianist reaches the
top level seems to be determined solely
by his ability to memorize photographically,
since what's coming out of the instrument
musically is not extraordinary with the
top pianists. [/b]
Nonsense.

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