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#2020065 - 01/24/13 01:54 AM Best way to memorize music?
Dustin Spray Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/13
Posts: 51
Loc: Central Illinois
What is the best way to memorize music? If there are tips or tricks that people use when preforming a piece for a recital or concert from memory? Or is it just a knack that some people have and others dont? I have never have been able to momorize music. Even after much practice and repitition. I play just fine with music but the second it falls of my stand im at a standstill.......

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#2020144 - 01/24/13 06:45 AM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
JdhPiano924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1049
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
Right now, my teacher has me memorizing, while learning, specifically going from downbeat to downbeat in some cases.

#2020225 - 01/24/13 09:41 AM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
Dave Horne Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5927
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
Analysis ... and being able to write it out.

website | mp3\wav files | Yamaha AvantGrand N3 | Roland RD 2000 | Sennheiser HD 598 headphones

#2020232 - 01/24/13 09:53 AM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
bennevis Online   content
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 8970
Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
What is the best way to memorize music? If there are tips or tricks that people use when preforming a piece for a recital or concert from memory? Or is it just a knack that some people have and others dont? I have never have been able to momorize music. Even after much practice and repitition. I play just fine with music but the second it falls of my stand im at a standstill.......

Everyone has their own methods of learning to play from memory.

I can only tell you mine. I started to memorize when I began playing music that contained a lot of leaps everywhere - in my case, Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor, Op.23/5. It just wasn't feasible (at least, not in my case) to rely on being able to hit the right chord without looking at the keyboard. At first, it was just the passages that really required it; eventually, patterns emerged and stayed in my memory (mostly muscle memory, backed up with remembering the harmony and patterns at various sections). Then I realized that I was already playing over two-thirds of the piece from memory, and decided to memorize the whole lot. With the score in front of me, I'd avoid looking at it unless I was really stuck, and kept plugging away, repeating passages while glancing at the score fewer and fewer times.

Until the score itself became a distraction, when I was able to play it consistently without my mind going blank. By this point, I could even be thinking of what I was going to cook for dinner while my hands kept playing....... grin.

But you may well find, as I do, that even after you think you've got everything down pat in your brain and muscles, occasionally, you'd still find your mind suddenly go blank while playing. If you can't immediately find your way back, and immediately repeat the whole piece perfectly, don't keep floundering away trying to get back on track: get the score out and practise that section again. Otherwise, you'll be practising the memory lapse, and it will recur at that precise point.
"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."

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#2020282 - 01/24/13 11:36 AM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Small segments at a time and then piece together like a puzzle. The brain is a muscle [ right?] and can be conditioned.


probably like most learning difficult at first and then gets easier....really!

#2020296 - 01/24/13 12:02 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1353
Loc: Southern California
Yes, some people have a knack. Some people are visual learners and "see" the score in space or on a wall, and play from that visual. Others are kinesthetic learners and lean heavily on muscle memory. Many musicians are auditory learners and can hear the music. The best have a combination of all three working for them. Some do better memorizing lyrics, or singing out the melody line. Some use memory tricks such as forming sentences or phrases from parts of the music.

If a person is struggling, see which methods in combination work best. Start by memorizing very simple pieces and build up from there. Nerves are an added distraction when playing from memory in public.

I like to have a piece memorized three ways, before playing in public. I close my eyes and play without looking (might peek for big jumps). I turn off the power to the digital, and play without audio feedback, relying on muscle memory and sight. I use the piece as an earworm and have it in my head away from the instrument, so muscle memory and sight are excluded. If I can memorize without sight, without audio, without touch, it is deep into my memory.
my piano uploads

#2020303 - 01/24/13 12:11 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
UberB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/12
Posts: 29
I never had to try to memorize a piece; play it enough and it will get in your head. All the greatest compositions have an inevitability around them; once A has happened only B can follow it. My suggestion would just be to play more and build up your understanding of the music behind the piece. Once you do that then you'll memorize it without really trying to.

#2020305 - 01/24/13 12:13 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
TrumpetMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 48
Loc: Essex, UK
They say that three things happen as you get older:

1. Your memory gets worse . . . .

I can't remember what the other two are smile

#2020325 - 01/24/13 12:35 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
frankeric Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/24/11
Posts: 53
Loc: colorado
....forgot what I wanted to say....OH, I gave up pressuring myself and funny, my memory got better, not great, but it's a start.
Old is in the mind and the mirror...

#2020333 - 01/24/13 12:54 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
floydthebarber71 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/12
Posts: 178
Loc: South Africa
I'm no pro, but nobody here has mentioned this yet so I'll chip in, hopefully someone with more experience could correct me if I'm wrong. I think a lot of people here are talking of enough repetition to learn the piece from muscle memory. I've done the same, and although it works, it can't be relied on. Your mind will go blank if you haven't kept up the persistent repetition and you will get stuck because you are relying on your fingers to just move to the right places. If you tried to play the piece really slowly, hands separate (relying on muscle memory), and you fail, then I think that's a telltale sign.

Chang covered some basics on a better way to memorise in his Fundamentals of Piano Practice book. I've only tried it with some basic pieces and had better success. Basically it's still playing with muscle memory but your mind is following and aware of where each finger is going, from my limited experience.

Self-taught renegade - Kawai CL-36

#2020475 - 01/24/13 03:27 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
jdw Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 1576
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
I actually don’t think it’s true that just playing things over and over will necessarily fix them in memory. For some people that works, but not for me.

Like the OP, I used to think I just lacked the knack. For years I played without having anything in retrievable memory. Now, though, I generally have a few pieces in pretty fresh memory at any one time—enough that I can play them for myself without the music, though I don’t perform without the score.

I think the difference is a particular kind of attention that I’ve learned to pay, noticing patterns in the music and developing a consistent way of playing them. Working with a teacher has been a big part of it. If I practice without this kind of attention, I won’t be able to play from memory, even though I may know the music aurally.

I haven’t done a lot of score analysis; probably would do more if I were intending to perform from memory. But as an amateur, I haven't made memorization a big priority. Time is too limited.
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Haydn, Sonata Hob. XVI: 19
Chopin, Waltz in E minor (op. posth.)
Schubert, Op. 90 no. 2

#2021220 - 01/25/13 04:26 PM Re: Best way to memorize music? [Re: Dustin Spray]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2619
Loc: San Jose, CA
Play a passage from the page. Now close your eyes and try to recreate it in your head. Ask yourself, what were you able to remember? What is still missing? Rinse and repeat. You'll be amazed how well this works.


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