Have you ever found yourself hitting your head against the wall trying to memorize? Is even the word "memorization" surrounded by negativity?
My journey with memorization had a difficult beginning. I was literally hitting my head against the piano when I was younger and when I watched this (video clip below ) on Sesame Street, I could totally relate.
I remember playing Beethoven's Pathetique in a piano recital at the age of 16, and I had a memory block . It was devastating! I seriously wanted to hit my head on the piano in front of everyone!
I dreaded memorizing. I hated memorizing. I wanted to put my head in the sand in shame. Funny thing is - I was just about to write that I had more memory slips than successful performances but I know this not true. This is a huge sign to me that the memories of the memory slips outweigh the memories of the good performances.So we actually have two topics to cover: How to memorize and how to clear the negative energy and fear that we are holding inside ourselves in regards to memorization.
This Post is dedicated to Part 1 - How to Memorize.
My biggest downfall in my memorization journey was that I was not taught how to memorize properly. My teacher just said, "Memorize." Uh............Ok............ So I did what I thought was memorizing. I was a good student and was determined not to fail.
How different would my journey have been if I was actually taught how to memorize correctly. My memorizing method consisted of playing and playing and playing until it was memorized. Most of the time from beginning to end. It was an absolute miracle I was able to play the Pathetique this way.) This is the biggest mistake - I didn't learn until I was at the University that my method of memorization was horrible. How did I realize this - the quality of my playing went down when I worked on memorization.. why would this happen?
The initial problem was my memorization method - I was so concerned about memorizing and focused on memorizing that I lost connection with the actual music and all my good hard work on technique went out the window. So what is the secret to the right way of memorizing? I actually learned this through trial and error, I was never taught and I learned a lot from teaching my students: The secret to memorizing is actually NOT to memorize! "What? you may ask? How is that possible? not to memorize to memorize...." No, I haven't gone completely crazy :) (OK maybe a leeeeetle) In all seriousness - It is true...The BEST way to memorize is NOT to memorize but to INTERNALIZE.
Once you let that sink into the cells of your brain - let's talk about the 3 possible ways we remember music.
Everyone has a gift of one of three listed above. Which one is your gift? For me I would say physical came first then visual and finally aural; however, this changed on my journey. It is best to implement all three of these to avoid any memorization catastrophes. So let's talk about them in detail.
Visual is when you can actually see the notes in your head.
Some people have a gift of a photographic memory. Before you chalk this one up as not for you and it will never be possible - try this simple exercise.... Take a small "bit" from your music. If it happens to be by a letter even better. So let's say you are working on the Bach double violin concerto. Go to letter D and work on that measure and that measure only. Look at the music while you practice. See the letter D and practice. Work out the difficult techniques in that measure...look at the music - work on the techniques - think of your left hand and then your right hand. I promise soon you will see the notes and the Letter D - Boom - you have a visual memory!
Can you see what the notes look like at the beginning of your piece - I am sure you can - why is that? when we come to the music our brains our turned on! That is why it is so important to start at different places in the music and not always at the beginning.
Can you see the top of the second page - bet you can!
See you have visual memory. Now use this to your advantage. As a beginner visual memory learner - you will not have a stream of notes playing through your brain while you play but you can use this technique to help you in the magnificent memory manipulation.
This is probably the most popular, over-used and used incorrectly way people memorize. I say this from experience. Like I talked about in the video for the memorization class - I was never taught how to memorize so this is what I did. This was my natural gift. I would feel it physically. I could turn my brain off and my muscle memory would take over. Not that the muscle memory is a bad thing- it is a very good thing - HOWEVER, when it is the only way you memorize and you are on autopilot you are setting yourself up with the perfect memory slip environment!!! Never allow yourself to go on autopilot - yes it may happen but WAKE UP as soon as possible. Be present - be aware!
The physical aspect of memory happens naturally with repetitions. Repetitions are great when done wisely. Repeat small bits in mastering techniques - Work on your left hand - work on your right hand, clean the shifts, clean the string crossings. With focused practice the physical memory happens naturally because of focused concentration on certain techniques and not because of repeating 100 times to memorize with your brain half in the bag.
I always tell my students - you should always listen to your piece while you are working on it - listen to it in the car, before you go to bed, while your sleeping, exercising, walking - all the time... I knew it was effective and I knew when my students were listening and I knew when they weren't. It wasn't until after teaching for years that I actually implemented my own advice to an extreme when I was memorizing - wow!!! It made memorizing -ahem- internalizing the piece so much easier.
Aural happens in two steps - you have to listen excessively to your piece to the point your brain plays it back for you while you are playing. In some cases you here what is to be played before you play it. So the best way to INTERNALIZE is to use all of the tools equally. With all three tools in your tool box - you will be more effective - when one fails you have two more to rely on:) When two fail - you still have one and when all three fail - time to work on that technique some more :)
There is another interestingly consistently noticeable fact about memory slips.....When it would happen to my students I would tell them - it is not the memory that has an issue it is the technique...They would look at me with confusion...Without fail, memory slips tend to occur where the technique is weak. Not feeling comfortable with a shift, not secure with the bowing, not confident in the intonation - anything technically weak also produces a perfect environment for memory slips.
This is why I say the best way to memorize is not to memorize. Simply work on your technique in small bits...yes it is that easy. And just like a beautiful piece of jewelry linked together - you have linked all the pieces of your musical masterpiece.
Enjoy your musical internalization.
Forever yours in Light,
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