Memorization of Music

April 5, 2006 at 05:43 AM · What is the best approach to memorizing music? Is it more than just repitition? Any suggestions are welcome.

Thanks,

Brian

Replies (11)

April 5, 2006 at 07:11 AM · Listen to it a lot. Part of how fast you memorize a piece is just how your brain works (I know I memorize music much faster than my stand partner and I drive her nuts by turning the pages for her too soon or too late) and that can't be helped.

One thing that will help you memorize a piece much quicker is to pick a fingering and a bowing and stick to it. It's fine to change fingerings and bowings if you come up with a better one, but write it in and learn it. If you shift around a different way every time you play a piece you'll memorize it much more slowly. Also, play it slow at first (of course, or you'll memorize mistakes).

April 5, 2006 at 02:52 PM · I find that an important part of memorising a piece is knowing what is going on constantly, not just muscle memory. If you can just remember the tune, that's good but when you are trying to get through a 30 minute long concerto, that becomes a bit taxing on the brain as well as if something goes wrong and you have a memory lapse and or mess up, it's much harder to get back to where you want to be. It's also hard to do the "remember the tune" with modern music or more minimalistic music (Arvo Part, Glass, Adams etc.).

Visualizing the score in my mind is something that I have found useful, not necessarily the entire piece but those few bars here and there that have the tricky fingering or note patterns.

For me, I usually start out with visualizing because I find it the most reliable for single part memorisation, then I use solfege sometimes to test my ability and knowledge of the notes away from the score and without the instrument. If you are playing a piece with piano or orchestra, having a good knowledge and understand of those parts and their intricacy's can also be very beneficial from an ensemble point of view and from a memorization standpoint. Also, memorising the "bigger picture" allows more freedom (in my opinion) for the performer and in the even that something goes wrong you can pick up based upon what the partnering part is doing.

April 5, 2006 at 05:43 PM · I always used to learn a piece completely before memorizing it, but recently I've started memorizing as I learn, and I find it very useful. I tend to go on "auto-pilot" sometimes while reading music, and playing passages from memory forces me to think about the music in a different way. Plus, it's less work later.

Also, it helps to analyze the structure of the work (note where the theme returns, etc., and how it's different the second time). I also like having "checkpoints"; practice starting the piece from somewhere in the middle to the end, so you don't have to start all over if you have a memory lapse.

April 5, 2006 at 11:56 PM · Also, try memorising small bits at a time - 2 bars a day or something like that. But learn them perfectly.

For example: At the start of the day, play those two bars, get them perfect, and then play them from memory. Then go do something else. See if you can remember it 10 minutes later. then 20 minutes, 30, 1 hour, 4 hours. If you can get it perfect from memory the next day, then those two bars are memorised.

Also, memorise what the piano part/orchestra is doing (if they are in the piece), and also where you are in the form of the piece, and the harmony. Basically you should be able to recall at any point where you are in the form of the piece, what key you are in, and where you are in the functional harmony (if it is being used in that piece).

April 6, 2006 at 02:08 AM · Greetings,

there are some good discussions on memorizing somewhere in the archives (if you can find them...) They describe in some detail the different kind s of memorizing and how they vary from person to person. They are discussed in a coherent and effective way in a book by Liebermann called `Your body is your instrument` which is worth having in your library anyway.

There was a European tradition of pedagogy (whatever that means- bleeeugh!####) that demanded students learn a piece from memory before they put bow on string. This is very demanding but paid high dividends if practiced from a young age. Heifetz worked this way and Roby Lakatos talke dabout how his early training was like this in a recent Strad interview.

Its hard work and I doubt if most students have time to do this ut the more you try the better your playing will be. The occasions I have worked this way have mad e learning a piece deeper in the long run. I insist on it from students who are playing the Bach solo sonatas. It is an approach very well suited to these works for some reason.

But, there is a very simple truism which I recognized intellectually but not so deeply for many ears cocnerning memory. That is, if you wnat to do -anything- then you have to do it (practic e it). In other words, if you include memorizing music among your goals for a specific piece (and you certianly should if you wnat to claim that you really know that work) then there is no sense in separating the procedures of practicing and memorizing in the conventioal sense . That is, many stduents practice a work veyr diligently and then say something like `Okay , now it`s time to do the memorization...`

Instead, try following the advbice of Issac stren who suggested you look at a short phrase or couple of bars then play them from meory while walking arund the room. Then add another in the same way and so on. Don`t force things. Just let your skill at this develop at your own pace as you make friends with the music.`

Incidentally, a major aspect of memorizing is know the piano part. If you don@y know the score and the harmony etc there is no way on earth you can claim to be familiar with a work. This is a major aid to memory.

Cheers,

Buri

April 6, 2006 at 02:30 AM · yeah, I always found that trying to force memorization made it harder. I just play a phrase about 5 or 6 times, then I try to play as much of it as possible without music. If I forget how it goes I sing it, then try again. Sometimes works for me.

April 6, 2006 at 11:55 AM · Brian: Check previous discussions. I think there was something about memorization that was discussed pretty well (if I remember correctly....).

Cheers, Sandy

April 6, 2006 at 01:17 PM · hi

i just had an audition for a scholarship this morning. i played mozart's concerto in g major 1 st movement i had a big memory slip in the recap. i have performed this many times from memory and it has always been fine.i dont know what happened today it was such a horrible feeling. my pianist stopped too should he have kept playing?

as to memorizing the music i practice as normal then when i feel i comfortable with the piece i try it without the music- you would be surprised about how much you know from memory without practicing it. i also learn the accompaniment part i sing it in my head when im playing. i also practice memorizing it in sections expo, dev and recap.although it didnt work today :(

June 5, 2006 at 06:00 AM · A foolproof confidence builder for me is to try and listen to the entire piece in your head, continously, imagining every single note, accomp included. If you falter anywhere, this will indicate a potential problem area for the memorization which you can then drill until comfortable. I find this works wonders for my mental confidence when memorizing rapidly and for bringing back old pieces without feeling worried about those unexpected blanks that can sneak up on one. Just a thought.

Sorry if this is reduntant in regards to prior posts, I had no time to check.

June 5, 2006 at 02:19 PM · I find that memorization is function of muscle memory and that seems true whether I was learning an opera as a tenor or learning a sonata for the violin. It's as though my brain only gets in the way of my muscles--which of course means that it better go in the right way to begin with--although it still permits nuance as long as you don't interrupt the entire flow of the piece--then your muscle memory deserts you. Ah well!! my 2 cents.

June 5, 2006 at 03:18 PM · The way I memorize a violin composition is in bits and pieces.

I break a composition up into sections. Some of my sections are very long, others can be less than a measure long. Basically I start at the beginning of a song and work my way forward. I learn in order, going on to the next section only after I've fully committed all the previous sections to continuous memory.

Most of my learning is motor, so I try to stay away from the sheet music as much as possible. I tend to look at sheet music just to find out what I'm supposed to be playing, and then I'll step away to try it on my own. I know that I "have it" when I can successfully get through a section without thinking or stopping.

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