V.com weekend vote: Which memorization method works best for you?

December 9, 2016, 10:24 AM · Memorizing is one of the best ways to achieve mastery and control over a piece of music - but it certainly comes easier to some than others.

As with many aspects of learning a musical instrument, it gets better with practice.

One strategy is to play something a lot of times, until magically it is memorized. As you might be able to guess, this does not work 100 percent of the time, especially when things get complex!


Since everyone's brain is different, certain strategies work more effectively for some people than others. For example, a visual learner (perhaps with a photographic memory) may be able to picture the sheet music in his or her head. A more tactile or physical learner might rely on muscle memory: which fingers fire when and how that feels. An aural learner might depend more on the sound of the music, referring to a version in their mind that they can hear. I'd say the most-overlooked trick for memorizing is simply listening!

Whatever your dominant way of memorizing, it's always a good policy to back it up with all of the strategies, so that even if you can see the music in your head, you've also thought about muscle memory and listening.

There are those who simply do not memorize their music, but I would encourage at least the occasional memorizing of music. Having been a violin teacher for more than 20 years, I can say that I have never had a student so far who could not memorize music at an appropriate level. The very act of memorizing will give you a certain mastery over a piece, something that greatly helps with performance.
What is your dominant strategy for memorizing music? And please share any helpful suggestions below!

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December 9, 2016 at 07:46 PM · Just repeat the music many times in your head, very simple.

December 10, 2016 at 06:15 AM · Unlike school subjects, I do not feel the need to memorise a piece of music. The music gets stored automatically in my mind when I practice and play it for a couple of times on the violin.

By the way, it was an interesting article to read.

December 10, 2016 at 04:27 PM · I chose "combination" because "weeping and gnashing of teeth" was not one of the options. :)

December 11, 2016 at 08:01 AM · For me the best way to start is learning the piece by ear. So I start playing the piece from sheet music and record myself. I then learn the piece from the recording. As I can play it from memory I go back to the sheet music to refine the details.

December 11, 2016 at 08:33 PM · The memorizing might seem quite simple, until you have to perform by memory, on stage or for a teacher! Then suddenly you are very accountable.

December 12, 2016 at 06:06 AM · I can't memorize what I can't hum (even if in my mind). But to really memorize, I have to try playing from memory until I get it. BTW, as a kid I had to participate in piano recitals. My teacher always made us play without the music "because then we'd really know it". Of course, under performance conditions, I'd always forget the music, so my teacher gave up and let me play with the music. But I always ended up memorizing the music anyway. On the piano, playing 6 or so fingers at once, I think it was by muscle memory. But on the violin/viola, there's always that aural component.

December 12, 2016 at 04:15 PM · Memorize??? Why on earth would I memorize anything? Oh yeah, when someone says: "Oh is that your violin? Play something for me." and I go...duh!!!!

December 15, 2016 at 07:51 PM · That doesn't necessarily help. I know hundreds of pieces, from many genres, in great detail - but all too often when someone says, "Play something," I go blank. But if someone starts playing something, I'll jump in immediately (whether I know it or not - I have good improvisational skills and no fear).

I voted "aural", and indeed I learn a lot of music by listening to it over and over again until I can play it by ear. But once I start playing it, I work on physical sensations and muscle memory to get the tricky passages right.

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