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How on earth do people memorise pieces?
#1895159 05/11/12 04:51 AM
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I have to memorise and perfect Tchaikovsky's October within one month (this is a 'assignment' given by my teacher). However, I would like to perfect and memorise it in 2-3 weeks, since it is a pretty technically easy piece. So tell me, how do you memorise a piece very quickly? Usually my 'memorisation' is just muscle memory (but it doesn't 'forget' very easily), but I'd like to know what true memorisation is.

(Before I registered in this forum, I though that memorisation was just muscle memory...:P)


HSC pieces:
Shostakovich Piano Concerto op 102. movement 1
Chopin Op10 No1
Debussy Broulliards Preludes Bk1
Kats-Chernin Russian Rag
Messiaen Regard d'letoile
Mozart Sonata for 2 pianos D major
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895167 05/11/12 05:30 AM
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Well, because I'm not a great sight-reader, I have no choice but to memorize music. I simply divide the piece into 4/8 bar phrases depending on the difficulty/length. I then play both HS until I can play it without the score, and then put them together. It's just the way I've been taught as well, my teacher never liked me doing a performance or audition with the score in front of me. I think it does more for you in the long run.

In terms of how long it takes to memorize a piece, it's very subjective. It depends on not only the individual, but how difficult the piece is and how long it is. For example, at the moment I'm learning Chopin's Op.25 No.7. It took me about a week to memorize the notes, but I'm still working on its musicality.

I do believe though, if you don't play a piece for a long time, you do forget it. It's very much a mixture of both muscle and mental memory when learning a piece.

Best wishes


Currently working on...
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op.66
Mozart - Piano Sonata in E flat K.282
Liszt - Romance in E minor "O pourquoi donc" S.196
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895170 05/11/12 05:40 AM
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I usually don't have the time to memorize pieces so I'll pay someone to do it for me.


website | mp3 files | Yamaha AvantGrand N3 | Roland RD 2000 | Sennheiser HD 598 headphones
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895176 05/11/12 06:01 AM
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Lots and lots of reps to get the notes ingrained into your long-term muscle memory, and pay extra attention in particular to those passages that you find tricky to remember, by looking at the patterns your hands & fingers make on the keyboard (chords & arpeggios etc) and the harmony, and harmonic sequence (I'm assuming you have some knowledge of harmony). And try stopping & starting the piece from trouble spots rather than from the beginning.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895178 05/11/12 06:21 AM
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>but I'd like to know what true memorisation is.

There isn't. There are many types of memorization and they are complementary. Maybe you could call 'true memorization' if you use all types at their max but even then, what's the max.


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Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895179 05/11/12 06:22 AM
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>so I'll pay someone to do it for me

do the memorization for you? Like a new chip implant? Or do you also leave the playing to that someone?


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Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895200 05/11/12 07:37 AM
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I rarely memorize. Once however, for a Christmas recital, I had to have this piece memorized, Lizst's delightful Die Hirten an der Krippe. In dulci iubilo .

I was a city wide 'religious' recital and a couple other pianists (kind of the prima donna types) insisted on taking the lid off of the piano. Ensembles, viollinists and small specialty choirs participated.

I find after many repetitions of a piece, it is usually automatically memorized, but I had less than 3 weeks. I had to make a detailed analysis and chart of the structure of the piece and study the chart... and study. - the left hand sostenutos, how many measures, the repetitions of what measures, chord changes. I think I wrote a 7 page paper on a 4 page piece. (that is an excellent song for the holidays btw). Doing that 'exercise gave me an appreciation of memorization. At times, I find i can pull pieces out from deep within my brain and play them.. Why now? i don't know. maybe they are easy. I can play much of parts 3 and 2 of the Pathetique, but never have attempted to memorize it.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895214 05/11/12 08:04 AM
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True memorization is being able "auralize" (the sonic equivalent of visualize) the sound of a piece in your mind in all of its nuance and detail including the melody and harmony, and the rhythm, dynamics, and phrasing.

While most musicians can easily sing or pick out a melody after listening to it a few times, many of us find it much more difficult to figure out chord voicings after just a few hearings. If, for example, I were to play for you the opening chord of the Pathetique without one of its inner voices, you could probably tell me that it sounded like something was wrong or missing. Of course, it's much easier to tell that a piece somehow sounds wrong, than it is to identify all of the things that are needed to make it sound right, but it is, nonetheless, an important first step. When you reach the point that you can tell me exactly what was wrong, you will be working from a clear idea in your mind of all the elements that come together to make it sound the way it should.

Thus, true memorization comes down to simply developing a precise sonic conception of the sound of a piece in your mind. This is ultimately a result of active listening and good ear training, things that take a lot of time and effort to develop, but the value of which cannot be overemphasized. With a trained ear, you should be able to transcribe in musical notation anything you hear, and once you can do that, it becomes much easier to be able to train your fingers to reproduce what you can already hear clearly in your mind.

We as musicians deal in the production of sound and we should never forget that scores and fingers are just means to the ends we seek.

Regards,

John


Currently working on:
Beethoven Sonata no. 32, Op. 111
Chopin Etude Op. 10 no. 2
Debussy La Danse de Puck
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895226 05/11/12 08:19 AM
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On a deadline, I'll sometimes adapt a technique that I use to learn jazz tunes: Transpose the memorization-resistant passages or phrases into other keys. Though it's not very helpful for muscle memory, you'll be hearing/absorbing pitch and harmony relationships that you might miss otherwise.

I once learned & memorized the Berg Sonata using this method. Though I must admit the downside of learning something so quickly: The piece won't stay with you as long afterwards. At least, compared with the normal process of taking months or even years(!) to absorb what the score tells you.

Last edited by Gerard12; 05/11/12 08:20 AM.

Piano instruction and performance
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895228 05/11/12 08:20 AM
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Simplified:

Study the piece. Know the key, the tonic, sub dominant, and dominant 7 chords. Are you yet aware of chord progressions? such as a G7 most often goes to C?

Learn what each chord is in the piece, write it above the measures.

Find those progressions in the piece.

Learn phrases. Play, analyze, try, play, try etc.

Can you play the melody completely by itself. Sing the melody.

Does the LH have a pattern? Bass, chord, rest? Study the pattern.

Analyze the structure of the piece, ABA? AABA? what variations?

Lastly, rely on muscle memory.


"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895230 05/11/12 08:24 AM
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The worst kind of memorization is so called finger memory.

The best way to memorize is to analyze the bejesus out of the piece. I had a professor in college who recommended being able to write the piece from memory to notation.

I for one have no problem using music to help me along.

It would be great if the image of the music could be projected above our hands so we could see the music and our hands at the same time.


website | mp3 files | Yamaha AvantGrand N3 | Roland RD 2000 | Sennheiser HD 598 headphones
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895234 05/11/12 08:30 AM
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that's a brilliant idea.. kind of a flat hologram.. a little wink could turn the page.

Get a patent Dave.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
apple* #1895236 05/11/12 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by apple*
that's a brilliant idea.. kind of a flat hologram.. a little wink could turn the page.

Get a patent Dave.


You can't patent an idea ... and I'm not an electrical engineer.

I wouldn't mind beta testing one though.


website | mp3 files | Yamaha AvantGrand N3 | Roland RD 2000 | Sennheiser HD 598 headphones
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895264 05/11/12 09:39 AM
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As individuals have different learning styles, it seems there are different memorization styles as well. Some people do very well with muscle memory alone, others do analysis, and most pianists probably do some combination. There are lots of suggestions in threads like this. I think you'll have to pick and choose amongst them, and find your own way.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895275 05/11/12 10:08 AM
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personally memorization comes easily with most pieces but, like fine wine, the longer the aging process the better. over time i become less preoccupied with the notes and concentrate more on the sound & expression.

i would not be comfortable having to memorize for performance within a relatively short timeframe. as one brilliant professional pianist (former head of piano dept. at a major university) once said to me "there's no shame performing in public with the sheet music."

Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895328 05/11/12 11:43 AM
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I think that after the years I tend to memorize the sound of the work: How it sounds and how it should sound and in the process of the performance I try to match what I want to hear right there and then.

I think this happens because I'm a composer, so much more used in offering in notation what I hear (in my head or through my ears) and practice playing songs, where everything can go wrong (especially if you're not playing with the right person).

Don't know if this helps at all, but at least in my case it works like that... I HAVE to change tonality, because this is what I'm expecting to hear. I don't think I know to what tonality I'll go to, or that I think THAT fast, but the fact that I know I have to change makes a world of difference in my case!

Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895334 05/11/12 11:55 AM
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Debbusyist - years ago I wrote a long "essay" about memorizing music (just scroll down to my post about midway down). I think when I die I should leave my brain to science to study as containing the world's worst memory. I apologize for my very hyperbolic writing style, but I think it may help you. I was able to memorize and perform a lot of music using the method I outline. It's not a "quick" method, and as you'll see, I recommend memorizing as the first step in the learning process, not the last, but I still think it's worth the effort. The only thing is, nothing sticks in my brain long-term, but I think that is pretty much a lost cause.

Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895482 05/11/12 07:23 PM
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Step 1: Repetition.

Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895497 05/11/12 08:16 PM
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step 2 - change teachers.

I do that with doctors who become obsessed with one of my failings (like not exercising).

But if you can't do that, a lot of listening to the piece helps - like when in the car or walking.

Alan


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-17a)).
Re: How on earth do people memorise pieces?
SamXu #1895512 05/11/12 09:15 PM
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I memorize by playing over and over and over. Memorization is very much muscle memory, and very much sight memory, also -- people who read music as if it was like reading English can even memorize by thinking the note names in their head.

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