How many pieces/etudes do you work on at a time?

July 12, 2010 at 11:41 PM ·

How many pieces do you work on at a time?

Logic tells me that I should work on one piece, nay even one small part of a piece and, perhaps one etude at a time.   Indeed that is what I was compelled to do as a child.  However, I have found that this simply does not work for me for two main reasons.  First, boredom.  Working a passage or even a piece kills its music in my mind and equally kills my desire to practice.  The piece (and even etude) ends up as a chore and not a pleasure.  This was a definite factor that caused me to quit the first time.  Second, I actually get worse.  After early progress the problem sections seem to become insurmountable and eventually every time I come to the same hard passage my mind seems to have given up any chance of conquering it.

If, however, I work on too many pieces I keep the interest and my mind sees each problem zone freshly - but the progress on any one  becomes rather slow.  However, I keep playing with enjoyment and interest and that is surely the most important factor to treasure.  So what is the ideal combination?  So a bit of honesty here: I'm practicing 1-2 hrs a day and seem to be having fun and making progress with a combination of Accolay 1st, Mozart 3rd, Handel 4th, Beethovern Romance in G and one etude (Kayser).  But I still throw in many others for cullinary variety: Bach A minor, Spring sonata, and an almost infinite number of beautiful tunes from anthologies and whatever is lying on my deliciously messy music desk :)

Am I nuts?  Obviously, I have the luxury of this approach since I don't play for a living but live to play.  How about you?

Replies (37)

July 13, 2010 at 12:37 AM ·

Interesting!

I'm the exact opposite...

I now have a very long term goal: my collegial two level exam...  I want to play well at it but I'm very busy with  my school and can hardly practice...

Solution?  Patience and absoluntly practice exclusivly my exam repertoire and things for many years to come.  I'm still not dead in boredom because I can work years on something to polish each note like mad.  For the first time of my life, in this exam, I want to master my things, not just play ok or good (reading this, you probably have guessed that I won't play the Brahms Concerto lol but still something that is plenty a challenge for my capacities!!!).  Master something as in the expression that one almost "owns" x piece must be the most wonderful feeling in the world (call me crazy to suppose this!!! And even more crazy to suppose that an amateur can approach this by working on the same things for years to compensate for the lack of talent). 

 If my goal is possible (that's the question indeed!)... there will be a high price to pay: work the same things for many years.  Fortunately, I think I can stand this since it fits my personality.  However, some others would "vomit" due to an overdose of these peices!!! 

It's so interesting to see the different personnalities of people!  It takes many different people to make a world as we say!

Anne-Marie

July 13, 2010 at 12:42 AM ·

I've been on a standard "diet" of two pieces and one etude at a time for the past 2-3 years. Picking two pieces allows enough room for variety, but not so much variety that it takes me an excessive amount of time to learn a piece well enough that I consider it to sound pretty good. I generally practice about 2 hours a day & sometimes give myself  "free playing time" on the weekends (after my regular practice), where I might dig up old pieces and play through just for fun.

July 13, 2010 at 01:05 AM ·

One thing I did not factor in is that pieces with multiple movements actually have their own variety built in - if you work on all of them at the same time (which I obviously do :-\ ). 

July 13, 2010 at 01:12 AM ·

Elise: it all depends on which level you are and your own capacities. Tehnique is an important factor and the level of understanding the score. Many young people can play beautifully the Mendelsohn at twelve or thirtheen but do not understand what is going on behind the scene( the full score). My own experience as a young violinist is that I went through all the Etudes of Kreutzer, Rode and Dont before attempting the great concerti or sonata. This was done before I was sixteen. From age 10 to 14, I have played and performed several baroque sonatas (Haendel-Geminiani-Vivaldi- Corelli La Folia-Vitali Chaconne- Mozart - Beethoven1-5) and concerti such as Accolay-Bach E major and A minor-Viotti-Rode- Spohr La Scena Vocale... At thirteen, I studied Mozart 3 and five and the Mendelsohn.

Then I was ready to undertake Wieniawski 2, Vieuxtemps 4 and some virtuoso pieces. I coped with the Wieniawski École moderne and Paganini caprices along with difficult scales which I have always practiced from age five. I had learned several movements of Bach solo works since aged 11 and at 14 started to study some of the Fugues. Learned Sibelius 15- 16, Lalo Symphonie Espagnole and started Tschaikovski-Paganin1 and Brahms at 16.  One important fact is that I had studied long before all the problematic passages of the concerti in a Russian compilation of a  study book edited by Yankelivitch and Yampolsky. Russians imposed such studies of the repertoire, fragmented in the format of etudes,so when you started a new concerto, you were able to master the major difficulties of execution before studying the complete work.

James Ehnes is able to play about 15 different concerti during two successive seasons ( from september until the end of may). Others great soloists do not have these capacities which only few elected like Oistrach could display.

To begin with, for a month, I would go for a complete baroque sonata, 3 movements of a concerto and a Kreisler selection. These pieces must be of your level and beyond your range of technical abilities. Scales must be done first and you should be able to play at least 3 Etudes of Kreutzer. In general, Etudes are choosen to resolve particular difficulties you will encounter in the repertoire. The repertoire must be challenging musically speaking.

BTW I will start your piece next week. For violin and piano in the antique style. Best wishes-Marc

July 13, 2010 at 01:16 AM ·

I don't quite understand Marc - your developing repetoire is totally amazing - but how many of the pieces would you work on at a time.  Would you master an etude before starting a concerto or interleve them - and then would you work on one movement at a time or jump between?  One difficult passage or many moving from one to another? 

I'd love to hear you play.... One of these dance trips to Montreal perhaps???

ee

July 13, 2010 at 01:36 AM ·

Elise: just made a little modification up there that will please you. Szeryng said not to much at the same time.

 FIRST PART: one hour and a half

Scales first 45 minutes and very well done, slow at the beginning, alterning between senza vibrato and vibrato. At the end, you must play them fast at different tempi and be able to do the best you can to avoid audible shifts. Rest a little...Then you can practice one or two movements of the baroque sonata, searching for the most expressive line and the best fingerings or bowing. Then, rest a little. Play one or two short studies of Kreutzer, and be careful about resolving the technical problem. Go for the first movement of your concerto and apply same principles as you did in your sonata movements.

SECOND PART: one hour and a half

 

3 hours a day is enough, believe me. One and a half the morning and the second part in the afternoon. The rest should be devoted to harmony and composition or intellectual matters, like studying the complete scores or reading.

Movement 2 and 3 of your concerti and rest a little.  Complete the Baroque sonata and rest a little. Practice your last study of Kreutzer and then, play the Kreisler at the very end ( I would suggest tempo di Minuetto at first and pieces of the same level of Kreisler like Rondino on a theme of Beethoven...)

July 13, 2010 at 01:53 AM · Elise: About your trip to Montreal, I would for sure like to meet with you and perhaps go to a concert (maybe Ehnes or Benjamin Beilman)... Right now I am resting at home consequent to a medulla transplant (leukemia). I will start my composition next week and put in in my audio on this website. If you like it, I will send it to you in Toronto.

July 13, 2010 at 07:45 AM ·

I am speachless.  Well, as close to speachless as this particular rather loud person can get!!!   And very excited (and a bit scared too - that it may be beyond my reach, but there I will persevere)....

And thank you for the practice recommendation from  Szeryng - its not so different from what I do (except I must confess not doing the scales part nearly as much as I do) and with much more variety than I was ever encouraged to include.  Scales, studies, baroque piece, and ALL the movements of his concerto in the same session.  No spending 2 hours on one section!

I have to go to Montreal in the next few weeks for a dress fitting (new ballgown ;) )...

July 13, 2010 at 08:19 AM ·

I am only a beginner, still in the 'baby' stages......but like Elise I do get 'bored' if I do only one piece....

I have only done 2 to 3 pieces at any one time so far in my learning journey (3 years and a half since I've started from scratch). 
I never practiced much until 6 months ago when I started doing 2 hours a day 4 days a week and an hour a half the other 3 days (I work 60 hours a week over 6 days and go to 2 amateur orchestras a week, so am very restricted time wise you see....)

my practice routine is always half technique and half 'pieces', the technique consists of sevcik op 1 p1, op 1 p2 and p3 and op 8 and kreutzer (at present just 2, 4, 11 and 12) and from sevcik I'd pick one or two exercises a day, scales over 3 octaves and arpeggios (I pick a major and it's relative minor each day), 2 octave scales and arpeggios starting on a different finger each time (again I pick a major and it's relative minor), scales on one string, scales in harmonics and vibrato practice.  I also do dominant sevenths and diminished and sometimes chromatic scales.

I practice 2 or 3 pieces at any one time, I don't have time to cover any more than that, but I would get bored if I only did one! and like Elise, I would probably 'stall' too, I need the variety I find! 

Wish I had time to practice 3 to 4 hours a day (would not want to do anymore than that though...)...

July 13, 2010 at 09:24 AM ·

Unlike Marc who is still involved in a serious playing career my pattern is very different and is just to please me and no one else.

As I like doing lots of chamber music I'm learning four or five works i.e. about 4 quartets and one trio. I also try and do a bit of unac. Bach - but only a couple of movements from the D minor (Partita II). I do also learn some chamber music quickly just prior to a play through session. And yesterday for instance I quickly looked at the Haydn Surprise Symphony (on the computer screen as I had no part) as I had to lead an orchestral run through last night. (A lot of laughs, like me snoring just before the surprise chord, and two of us standing up each time for a silly chord in the Menuetto). Great fun but it was all pretty awful, and I pity anyone listening.

This all happened after a concert of serious chamber music, which I was supposed to be taking part in, but due to illness we couldn't do our Dvorak trio.

So basically I'm totally selfish and just do the things I like, after years of having to do what others wanted, and often music I disliked.

July 13, 2010 at 09:45 AM ·

When I am in a good-state, my routine is I focus on 1 thing for 15 minutes then switch around,

 

so usually I practice scales for 15 minutes, then etude for 15 minutes, then a piece for 15 minutes .. then repeat

However, recently I have neglected both scales and etude just to focus on my pieces, since circumstance have changed temporarily.

July 13, 2010 at 09:48 AM ·

@Dimitri "However, recently I have neglected both scales and etude just to focus on my pieces, since circumstance have changed temporarily."

Funny how that happens isn't it? :D  I've yet to hear of anyone that did the opposite....

July 13, 2010 at 09:51 AM ·

At times I quit practicing any pieces and focused on scales, I'm fortunante in that I actually thoroughly enjoy practicing scales ...

I don't know if thats discipline or if that's because Australian's are just backwards  :P

 

Its just recently I pulled a muscle, I don't have much stamina ~ I'd rather reduce my time than stop completely however (I know I'm getting better atleast day-by-day)

July 13, 2010 at 10:56 AM ·

Warning for too many pieces!

I just got into this trap of too much repertoire to practice, and got anxious.

First, I am polishing the Kreutzer sonata since long time. Here, the convergence goes so slow I cannot affect much by practicing it all the time.

Second, I try to learn first movement of Brahms concerto. It takes time, and due to all the other repertoire, I can only spend one day/week for this.

Third, I am doing Brahms "Scherzo" and Glinka's unfinished sonata. Here, I would like to postpone the unfinished sonata till later.

Fourth, I am doing the whole Brahms c minor quartet now.

Fifth, I'll maybe-maybe-maybe playsolo  with orchestra some Mozart (either Adagio or S.Concertante) in end of August.

And I have only 1 hour per day to tackle all these pieces. (Kreutzer sonata and Scherzo I can do until then. Brahms is a long-term project, does not need to hurry, although I wish to devote it more time. But Glinka, I really would like to postpone until next concert. And Brahms c minor quartet, I fear will be badly performed by me...) Don't get into the trap of too much repertoire...I get crazy.

July 13, 2010 at 01:24 PM ·

I as well get bored with just one piece. Most of the pieces I'm learning and I know are not actually assigned by my teacher.  Although I should seriously start studying the etude, he's expecting me to finish memorizing it by next week. So let's see.. I practice at least 5 classical pieces *3 of them are beginner level*. Although what I practice the most currently are Schuberts Ave Maria and Pachelbel's canon. 
<< I can't help it, my friend is getting married soon and I'm invited >>

Can't say I'm particularly progressing with the pieces, I rather practice the part I already have memorized until I feel like taking the next part.

Cheers,
Theo
 

July 13, 2010 at 01:56 PM · Sometimes, it might not be so productive to set up a certain duration of time for each piece because you might not be able to fix the problem you have with the piece within the time-limit. I'd rather work on one piece of music until I'm certain that I've made certain progress with the piece. Eventually, you would spend less time with music which has similar problem later on. I think our traditional one "60~90min" lesson per week goes along the same line. Sometimes, the student might need more time than six days in between the lessons to actually learn the piece more thoroughly. However, I think it would be better for the beginner to have two or three shorter lessons per week instead of one longer weekly lesson because they need constant adjustments and reminders until they feel comfortable with the instrument...

July 13, 2010 at 01:59 PM ·

But do you have your students working on only one piece at a time Jae?

July 13, 2010 at 04:34 PM ·

I do know people who can learn a concerto in 2 hours from memory and perform it at a very high level. (Any concerto ...)

So that's what it's all about for some people.

July 13, 2010 at 04:45 PM ·

I generally have two pieces at a time and 2 etudes/other technique exercises. I generally practise for an hour at a time (in order to prevent shoulder injuries) and divide into 30 minutes technique and 30 minutes of repetoire. I generally spend most time on working on whatever my teacher is placing most emphasis on at the time but also look through other things to keep myself motivated. When playing repetoire I focus on the piece I am playing solo at the time and work through sections of it. If needed I also play my youth orchestra pieces or chamber works but I don´t do that unless neccesary as I like to focus on my solo playing.

July 13, 2010 at 05:57 PM ·

 May I give some advice to beginners and low-intermediary players of this forum of how one can  optimize practice session so one can handle more pieces simultaneously?

I have since I started practicing again had a certain strategy with pieces that works very well for me. As you know, I can only practice 1 h day. 1 h per day, has still allowed me to learn quite some pieces and etudes over these years. The trick has been this with any new piece:

1. I write up/mark the difficult segments of each piece.

2. I must find out (by CD or any other way) how every difficult segment sounds, to know what I hear in my head when practicing.

3. I start attacking these segments, one by one.

So my practice sessions look generally like this. If I work on totally new pieces, I:

a) Warm up by working on the segments, note by note. I work up one segment until intonation works more or less OK, in very slow speed. I work like this for 45 minutes and increase the speed until I feel tired of it. I return the next day and go through the same again.

b) I spend the last quarter to playing through the piece (that includes the segment).

If I already have worked through all segments of the pieces I work on, then I polish the same segments for 40 minutes, to work up speed an accuracy and expression. Sometimes, I play through some other piece where all technical problems are already solved at the same practice session.

This makes it possible for me to by focusing on solving all technical issues of a piece before I learn playing it, to focus on expression at an earlier stage. (And I skip all scales. But etudes can be treated in this way.)

July 13, 2010 at 06:20 PM ·

"Peter C

Now I'm confused :)

I once saw a young lady who was a talent winner and performed with a 50 member college orchestra.  I forget the piece but it was one of the major classics.  She was really great, way beyond her high school junior school grade.

One of the second violins approached her after the concert and asked her how long she had been preparing ?  7 months !!    This is not instant music.  Are we comparing apples and oranges ?"

 

I'm talking about someone who is a bit of a genius.  He's a big time concert pianist. But there are other people I've met (not many though) that can do this sort of thing. They have incredible techniques, a photographic memory, and a lot more brain cells than the average.

Of course, their interpretation might improve over a period of time, and they might in the end play the work differently, but if the call comes in " can you play XXX concerto by tomorrow evening," --  then yes, they can get the score, learn it, and take it on.

Some people can do instant music, and then do it even better a few weeks or months later. Quite rare though.

July 13, 2010 at 06:32 PM · Well, I give my student 3~5 books to work on, but I don't check all of them in a single lesson though. I'd love them to practice all of them daily basis, but it would take them several hours if not whole day. What I don't want them to do is to go through all the music a couple of times each just to tell me that they have practiced all of them without actually paying attention to the smallest detail in each piece. For example, in shifting, it is not just how to find the right position with your fingertip, but it involve the thumb position, the timing of the thumb movement, folding-unfolding of the elbow, the angle of the left upper arm, the angle of the fingertip, old-new shifting, when to move the wrist, the angle of the wrist, etc, and it is just impossible to cover them all in 15~20min if you have a bad shifting. I think the teacher and the student need to be more patient with making the progress and put more emphasis on the basics. By the way, this kind of instruction doesn't apply to most of the grade school students. I use more trials&errors approach with them...

July 13, 2010 at 07:36 PM ·

 Greetings,

I think there are two conflicting ideas at alrge here. But I would say first that I respectfully completley disagree with the approach for -most- (not all)people.

In his lovely book Auer advocated practicing difficult sections from advanced works as technical material that jump started the players whizzines and anticipated when they would atually play the work. This is very much a part of the Russian/Soviet approach as evinced in some comments above.

However, learning a work in depth is a different thing.  It takes self control to truly work on depth, taking a work into the 150% learnt department where true artistry is born. One has ot be able to move beyond boredom and yes, a sPeter says, it really does take an awful long time to prepare a single work well.  If the time is genuinly being spent then the les sadvance dpalyer will actually need to be on the same work for a much longer period which in turn is not necessraily good for systematic development. Nor is it much fun for the teache rwho cannot listen to a decent pefomance every lesson.

One of the most crucial facotrs in practice is actually the ability to play through a work in its entirety. Very often this is neglected and then when one comes ot the lesson the performance is not a succes sand neither teacher nr student u¥is satisfied. It is he road to mediocrtiy.

One should a sa related issue, be keeping all ones reperoitr under constant review and this is done by having a fixed period every week in whic it is played through.

Incidentally, one of the ways I try to kepe variety is toensure my stduents are working on three movements of a cocnerto simultaneously. This means that they build up connections between movements and understand the overlal nature of the work. Something thta is often misisng in the long violnistic tradition of only ever learning one movement of a concerto.

Cheers,

Buri

 

July 13, 2010 at 08:29 PM ·

"Incidentally, one of the ways I try to kepe variety is toensure my stduents are working on three movements of a cocnerto simultaneously. This means that they build up connections between movements and understand the overlal nature of the work. Something thta is often misisng in the long violnistic tradition of only ever learning one movement of a concerto"

I have an idea Buri: why don't you move to Toronto? :)

July 13, 2010 at 08:42 PM ·

@ Buri,

you give very good advice! It seems like a good idea to work on three movements at the same time. Never thought about that!

It is true that one needs to move beyond the boredom when working on pieces. I usually like working for months on even very simple pieces, since one then can decide for every bar what to do. One thing that can serve as a good motivation to dedicate much work into every piece, is to get a pianist with which one meets regularly. (I have one, we play every week, and play the same pieces for months, to try dynamics, try rubatos, try expressions, try phrasings, and optimize and search, and play like this lots of times. We must have met for the first movement of Kreutzer sonata between 30-60 times already.) Then the real work (that starts after technically knowing the piece) gets much more fun, and one is motivated to work on even the technically easy pieces for long time, until one achieves a personally satisfying interpretation. 

The most dangerous are those really easy ones. Its those that can end up sounding worst just because one does not give the musical work enough time before performance and just plays it "from the heart" :-)

July 13, 2010 at 08:47 PM ·

 @Don:

I usually somehow get the pieces memorized totally after practicing it well a couple of times. I noticed, that I can handle my performance nerves better if I play by heart at a concert out of one reason:

If I play and look at the sheets, I focus on what the public thinks and THAT HORRIBLE SCARY PASSAGE that comes next page > I get more and more nervous.

If I must play by heart, I need to focus all the time on what I do IN THE MOMENT> i remember what I decided for phrasings and expressions and dynamics, and its easier to keep out unnecessary thoughts that can disturbe my nerves.

July 13, 2010 at 10:48 PM ·

Greetings,

>I speculate that the written music is only a starting place and awkward in a way.

Don, I firmly belive this,  up to a point;)   Conside rprofessional string quartets. They generlaly use the music although to what extent they are actually looking at it is open to question.  There wa san old tradition of teaching inEurope that insisted students meorize a work first before even beginning to play it.  I am a greta advoctae of this approach.   It sets up the fundamentla habit of having the mind control what is about to be done rathe rthan reacting to little black dots on a page.  A player who is willing to at least partially adopt this approach i slikely to make considerable technicla advances compared to the usual appraoch.  Anothe rmethod which I think is excellent is to leanr the piec eon the piano.  Anne Sophie Mutter works this way. Her eactual practic e time on the violin is actually quite limited. 

This would also help to alleviate the boredom problem . One has a piec e(s) one is working on physically and ta the same time one is,  for example , systmeatically memorizing the whole of a Bach Sonata or Partita without touching the insturment.   The memorization includes vizualization of perfromance, not just the abilty to sing a workj through, although that is useful too.

Cheer,s

Buri

July 13, 2010 at 11:39 PM ·

Thats quite mind-blowing Buri.  I can't remember a piece even after playing it a hundred times to think I should memorize it before even playing it might mean that I would be 150 yrs old before I played anything!

This has to be a case of 'vive la difference'.  I can see the benefits of memorization (indeed I am jealous of those that can) but the opposite, someone who never memorizes has the luxury of seeing the piece fresh every time they pick up the violin.  I'm pretty close to that end of the spectrum.  Its not that I don't learn to play a piece but that I don't learn the piece itself.  Each time I play I see a new musical opportunity and express the piece as I feel that day, nay that moment....

July 14, 2010 at 03:29 AM ·

Greetings,

there are many threads on this site concerning memorization.  however, the best advice I can reclal off the cuff is soemthing that Isaac Stern said:`Don`t force it.  look at a short phrase or a few notes.  Memorize it. Turn aways from the music an dplay it two or three times.  Then the next.  just take your time and let it develop gradually.`

To be honest if you cannot do this procedure then I don@t think there is a strong enough integrated mental constrcut of playing in place.  the more one has internalized the music in all its aspects,  what it looks lik on the written pages,  what patterns ther eare (for example if I know mentally its a d major scale fro three octaves on semiquavers),    what color is it,  what it sound slike, what it smells liek and so on the more flexible one is. As the very fine Italian violnist Di Angeli once said to me `memorization means you have it in your heart. if you can`t play from memory it@s just not there.`

Cheers,

Buri

July 14, 2010 at 07:34 AM ·

 @Stephen: Are you sure about that a bad memory must mean no internal system for music in the first place?

A friend I play much with, is the most musically gifted person I know walking on the planet. Yet, when it comes to memorization, I memorize the works at a few playthroughs, while for him it takes many more trials (if he even memorizes it ever).

Yet, in the end, he plays our pieces impressingly and beautifully, that everybody gets touched by his playing.

July 14, 2010 at 07:35 AM ·

I actually agree with you - but I've always been awful at memorization.  It can be a real strength in some things.  I wrote a poem about it once it went:

Which trait of mine is the best

My memory is vestigial

Without recall I am blessed

Forced to be original

 

:)  Wel, it works in science but maybe its a handicap in music.  However, I do remember music in my head and I can play just about anything I can remember.  I suspect that I have simply not approached the music in such a way that I build the confidence to remember it - the music becomes a mental prop.

OK, thats my goal - memorize the first movement of the Handel IVth!  It will be interesting to upload that and see how it compares with the version I already have....

July 14, 2010 at 08:33 AM ·

Thanks to this thread, I realized that I have been biting off more than I can chew... No wonder I always feel like I haven't practiced enough, and that I seem to be incapable of mastering my repertoire (even though every piece is memorized in short order) --

I'm a beginner at Suzuki Book 4 level - in a regular week, my practice regimen consists of one 3-oct. scale & arpeggios, one Kayser etude, one etude from Trott's Melodious Double Stops, one exercise from Robert Starer's Rhythmic Training, two current pieces,  one review piece, plus any vibrato and/or bowing exercises that my teacher feels that I should be working on. She kept asking me to practice no more than 1hr/day to preserve my body from wear and tear, however I cannot practice less than 1.5 hrs/day and still feel prepared for my next lesson.  I should probably ask her to assign less if she wants me to practice less...

"First, boredom.  Working a passage or even a piece kills its music in my mind and equally kills my desire to practice.  The piece (and even etude) ends up as a chore and not a pleasure."

Elise, I feel the same way when I only practice trouble spots per my teacher's advice. She pointed out that there should be a distinction between practice time and play time - during practice time, one must be disciplined and methodical, and concentrate on getting the job done, then you can play for enjoyment for as long as you please (and good practices will make play time more rewarding).  It makes sense, but I still prefer mixing the two, otherwise practicing feels like a chore, and it becomes something I would rather avoid... In the end, it depends on one's aspiration - good violinists are usually those who can overcome boredom and practice properly.

July 14, 2010 at 09:43 AM ·

 Greetings,

Lena, one would have to have an internal structure in the broadest sense becase otehrwise everytime one picked up the violin one would be a rank beginner.

What I am trying to get at very badly at the moment is that there are in my opinion, two basic aspects to memorization that need to be dealt with.   The first is that learning a piece from memory and genuinely learning a piece of music  are the same thing.  If one really hasn`t memorized it then it isn`t internalized perfectly and one can never give an optimum performance.

 However one may really have leanrt it well IE from memory and yet be unable to perform it from memory.     This  second aspect,  `the ability to perform a memorized work from memory` is  dependent on the condition of certain psychological blockages that people seem to acquire to a greater or lesser extent.

Without understanding and integrating both these aspects a person never truly achieves tehir highest level of performance.  uNfortunatel the second aspect can become so overwhelming that we have no other choice but to try and justify it by categorizing ourselves along a spectrum of @people who can memorize and people who can`t.`  No such categorization exists.  If it wa strue then we would not be able to function in rela life.  What we do have is people with more and people with less blockages and it is no refelction whatsoever on the talent of  a person with  resitance to the idea.  The area simply needs to be explored in the same way that one would consider `a problem with spicatto` or whatever.

Oh yes,  ,,,,,I have a great deal of trouble memorizing music now;)

Cheers,

Buri

July 14, 2010 at 01:40 PM ·

If I dare paraphrase Buri, its the difference between memorizing the notes (which someone with photographic memory can do in seconds - they remember the page and read it in their minds) and memorizing the music.  Perhaps my difficulty doing litteral memorization may actually work out in my favor since that has never worked for me.  To remember something I hae to process it to the point that I understand all its connections.

Hope springs eternal!!

Very subtle issues, very very interesting.  v.com does it again.......

July 14, 2010 at 07:23 PM ·

I practice accuracy for the orchestral pieces I am rehearsing. So, that is usually 3-4 pieces. Then I run through some things just to have fun (Mazas, Vieuxtemps, Dancla, Accolay, Czardas, de Sarasate, etc). But, actual rehearsing, it's usually spent on learning and perfecting intonation, notation, and bowings on symphonic works.

July 14, 2010 at 09:14 PM ·

Regarding memorization - my memory is not like what it's used to be, but memorizing music still comes pretty easily for me - usually when my teacher assigns me new pieces, I will play them from memory the next lesson (this includes some etudes, which she doesn't ask me to memorize).  Of course, there are exceptions, but so far the longest time for me to fully remember a piece is 2.5 weeks (on average I practice a new piece for up to 20 min./day).  I noticed that there are three stages when it comes to memorizing music for me:

1) Remembering the music - this happens naturally - after hearing a melody enough times, it automatically plays in my head. This can be a curse, as I would remember some dreadful etudes and cannot get them out of my head.

2) Knowing where to place my fingers - this is more difficult than #1, but I probably have some advantage than many as I know solfège, and any tonal music I hear is automatically translated into do-rei-mi in movable-do before it is stored in my head, therefore I know pitch relations between notes. However, I have to memorize the key(s) of the pieces I play (or where to place the finger(s) for the first note(s) of a new key). It's harder when a piece modulates a lot. Also, somehow placing fingers for some keys are harder than others, and I'm still trying to figure out why. Other than that, I'm probably like everyone else - relying on muscle memory, building hand frame and finger relations. At this stage, the things that need special attention are fingering and shifting.

3) Memorizing articulation, phrasing, dynamics and other music expressions - this is the hardest part for me, and requires real memorization work. Singing with all the music expressions in place helps.

In addition, sometimes I listen to/play in my head the pieces I'm practicing during my commute, and visualize the bowing and fingering, which helps reinforce my memory. 

Sometimes, though, my memory would falter, and I would start playing a wrong note, wrong rhythm, using wrong bowing or fingering, and since once I remember a piece, I no longer look at the music, I would not realize it until my teacher corrects me. Since we don't always have time to go though all the pieces in one lesson, I might be practicing the wrong thing for weeks, which makes it harder to correct later. This is one drawback about memorization.

July 14, 2010 at 10:08 PM ·

My memorisation process is slow, but It works :) I break down alot of the bars, and even repeat the bar; up to 10 times or more if I have to. Works with and without the vioiln.

It was a trick my friend taught me how to remember mobile numbers, just break the numbers up into 0000 000 000 (0's replace by other numbers) and repeat it to yourself 10 times slowly.

I think it is important to memorise, otherwise if your sight-reading, your most likely sight-colouring (Whatever the term is); its easier to sound pretty when you've memorised it however.

After memorisation comes the articulation

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