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#2162029 - 10/05/13 07:14 AM From reading to memorizing.  
Joined: Jun 2011
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Ataru074 Offline
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Houston, TX
I don't know where to begin... I'm 39 year VERY YOUNG but... I'm having a heck of a time memorizing pieces; something that I never had a problem when I was a kid or early teenager (than I stopped playing for 20ish years ). I can still remember pieces from that time, maybe not perfectly but they are a good 90% in the fingers and I can sing it in my head... right now takes me between 2 to 3 weeks just for a single page.
It's happening right now, my teacher wants me to study something as "year around" project, like the Chopin ballade and etude and something to increase the repertoire quick like the Mozart fantasia, several Grieg and Mendelssohn pieces, something from Bartok microcosmos and so on. I can -almost- play the pieces at first sight, -almost- but it takes FOREVER to get few bar completely secured in the fingers... I also asked my doctors and he doesn't think anything is wrong with my brain ( at least nothing to justify an MRI ), It's like I'm having trouble building short term memories and just give it enough time and will go in the long term and it does it work ( it did with the presto con fuoco... 3 - 4 weeks after I had it completely read it... it's there, note by note, can sing it, see it and think about the group of notes )... I did quit smoking years ago, I don't drink ( wine once or twice a month ), nobody in my family have alzheimer (that does in fact terrify me... as short term memory issue are a red flag for it ) ... Or I'm just being hypochondriac and the related anxiety is not helping my concentration????
I'm just wondering if anybody else have the same issues of taking too long to properly memorize a relatively easy and short piece.

thanks



Private Piano Teacher. MTNA
working on:
Albeniz: Iberia
Beethoven: Op 53
Bartok: Mikrokosmos vol. 5
Debussy: Estampes
Moszkowski: Op 72
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#2162049 - 10/05/13 08:17 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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Psychonaut Offline
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My guess is that this is just a normal readjustment phase because you're not yet in "game shape". Though you sound more advanced than me, I'm in a sort similar position. I started trying to learn to read and play from sheet music about a month ago, and find that I neither read well enough to play without memorizing, nor memorize well enough to play without reading. So what I'm working on thus far (Bach Inventions 1 & 2, Chopin Nocturne 9 no. 2, Je te veux) is a hodgepodge hybrid of both. I expect this to improve and for progress to accelerate, and you most likely can too...

...And yeah, allowing anxiety about your ability to play to take center stage is only going to get in the way. I would focus on diffusing that and suspending the inner "judge" that's critiquing your progress. Good luck!



Yamaha P120, MO6, Steinberg MR816, Galaxy Vintage D, Komplete 8 & various other VIs, Reaper
#2162192 - 10/05/13 03:01 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Psychonaut]  
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MH1963 Offline
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Getting old stinks.

I'm 53. I've been really working at piano for about a year, after having played off and on (mostly off).

I've tried to memorize things, but it is incredibly difficult. My teacher says that all of her adult students struggle with memorization and the kids don't have a problem. I was trying to memorize a simplified version of Pachelbel's Canon and it took me about a month to get most of the first page. I went without playing it for a week and was down to knowing 3 or 4 measures.

I think it's an age thing. 39 isn't old by any stretch but something about memorization is just incredibly difficult for adults. I have started putting tunes on my play list to listen to regularly, thinking that constant audio repetition will help but so far I don't see much of an improvement.

I'd love to offer a suggestion but all I can offer is sympathy from another player in the same boat.


MH1963

'63 Mason & Hamlin Model A

[Linked Image]

Working on: Chopin - Mazurka 7 No. 2 / The Prayer - Coates Arrangement / Einaudi - Nefeli
#2162200 - 10/05/13 03:15 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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Bobpickle Offline

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Cameron Park, California
There's a lot more science behind "getting pieces completely secured in the fingers" and memorizing than just practicing a little here and there and both just magically happening.

Some resources you might enjoy:


"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."
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#2162210 - 10/05/13 03:41 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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255 Offline
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Dear Ataru074, the secret is playing SLOW. And I mean very slow, thinking (with focus) in advance about the note that comes after the one you are about to play.
After some days your brain will perfectly know what note comes after each one so you will never get stuck and you will be able to play fast too. You learn how to play fast... practicing slow! Of course, assuming that you have the correct fingering, which sometimes require some fast playing beforehand. And assuming that you have the required technique for the piece.
Also, play hands separate if you need, but remember that only playing hands togheter will make you memorize the piece.
Have fun!

#2162233 - 10/05/13 04:49 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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Whizbang Online content
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Originally Posted by Ataru074
I'm just wondering if anybody else have the same issues of taking too long to properly memorize a relatively easy and short piece.


I don't memorize easily or well. It takes a huge effort.


Whizbang [Linked Image]
amateur ragtime pianist
https://www.youtube.com/user/Aeschala
#2162242 - 10/05/13 05:13 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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Northern England.
My dad worried about his bad memory from his late thirties onwards. He got to be 92 without dementia. But he could never lie, otherwise he`d forget what he said . . .

I know what you mean. I have trouble memorising stuff;I`m better with music prompting but some passages don`t lend themselves to it , , , you daren`t take your eyes off the board; too much dynamics, octaves etc. I always get 90 percent there. . . . 95 if I`m lucky. Never perfect!


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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#2162250 - 10/05/13 05:27 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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Some people just don't memorize ANYTHING easily. As a child, I had many a run in w/ teachers because I couldn't memorize assigned poetry--and I still can't, although I can remember where I've seen an article in the newspaper--which side of the page, etc. Everyone's mind is different. Don't dwell on it, as others have said.

#2162460 - 10/06/13 08:37 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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When I'm singing something the words are memorized with no effort at all...my brain knows what words come next in a couple of sessions. But I don't have the knack of memorizing piano pieces. I'm hoping that the theory class I'm taking will help me to see the music more like words in chords instead of individual notes. I think learning it that way might help. We'll see.


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#2162462 - 10/06/13 08:41 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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findingnemo2010 Offline
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Repetition?


music to me is kind of like putting together pieces of a puzzle
i call it the paino because its where i put all my pain
#2162472 - 10/06/13 09:24 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: findingnemo2010]  
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Sand Tiger Offline
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Ataru074, I take what seems like the longest time to learn pieces. For me, three or four months for short pieces is common. I do tend to have a good memory after spending all that time.

/edit to add: you seem to be an intermediate player or better based on the pieces mentioned, so you probably have heard all of the following and more. However, there are always newer folks reading these threads and perhaps they might benefit...

Some people have stronger visual memories, some are more audio, some more muscle memory. Try to be able to do all three, play without sound, without sight, away from the instrument to have a piece deep into memory. This may not be possible for complex pieces, but sections can be done.

Some suggestions are to break a piece up into phrases. Someone on the forum (I believe BobPickle) posted the analogy of memorizing a poem. Learn each phrase with drilling and repeated repetition before stringing the phrases together. For example if a piece has 16 sections (the person can slice as many sections as needed), play each single section repetitively. During a single practice spend a lot of time on one or a few selected sections and play them slowly five to ten times each without errors. If errors are made, start the count over. This means spending far less time doing complete renditions of the piece and much more on learning and memorizing each short segment.

For strong visual learners, some "see" the sheet music even if it not there. For audio, the ear worm is a powerful technique. For muscle memory, try to write out the pieces. This might be in full notation if possible, in more of a short hand for others. For some, having the left hand parts written out, can bring back the right hand memory. If possible write out the left hand part from memory. If not, do it with the sheet music there. Sketch out some kind of short hand structures just for the left hand parts. See if having that much brings the right hand in. See if you can memorize the much shorter left hand only sketch version.

Whizbang mentioned singing. Most minds do better with song lyrics than poetry or instrumental music. Having some kind of game-style or story-style setting helps with memory.

Another suggestion that I find useful is from the book "The Musician's Way." It is to spend 20% maintaining old pieces. This has helped me and avoids the feeling of disappointment of spending so much time learning a piece only to have forgotten most of it a month or two later. With only 20% for this, of course some pieces will drop off, but a person can often try to revive favorites if they seem to be slipping. Some forum members do a similar allocation simply by spending one day a week for old pieces. The cost is less time for learning new pieces, but with many things it is a matter of balance. For me, that 20% suggestion is a good point of balance.

Good luck. There are plenty of folks that struggle with memory. If it is too much, there is no shame in playing from sheet music. However, it is nice to have at least one piece to play at the drop of the hat. A person that really struggles with memory, might have a scrap of paper in their purse or wallet, or a JPG in their phone, with the left hand part sketch mentioned above, and see if that is enough to cue a piece.

Last edited by Sand Tiger; 10/06/13 02:47 PM.
#2163867 - 10/09/13 09:27 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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Ataru074 Offline
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I'm "glad" to see I'm not the only one struggling with it... but maybe I didn't highlight my issue properly. If I spend enough time on a piece, or a section of it, I don't have any major issue with memorization, mainly I can do it with a mix of aural, visual and muscle memory... enough time means... weeks, or months... the more, the more attack point I can memorize, and I can get to the point where I can restart from any major phrase of the the piece... than I feel my memory secure and I can play it... ( even if I will still use the book because all the phrasing, notes, concepts, ideas are notated on top... pretty much that is what I need to read ).
My issues is to fix something easy in a short amount of time. That is where the big struggle is, that I really feel that does impair my ability to improve quickly. frown



Private Piano Teacher. MTNA
working on:
Albeniz: Iberia
Beethoven: Op 53
Bartok: Mikrokosmos vol. 5
Debussy: Estampes
Moszkowski: Op 72
#2163885 - 10/09/13 10:27 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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So powerful is the brain's dependency on vision, even if I use a simple lyric and chord page (cheat sheet), there is something inside that says, "it's Ok, lean on it." To truly memorize something, I have to take the "training wheels" completely off. Only then can I knuckle down and commit the piece to memory. Shortcut? No. Repetition. Tried and true. I don't play anything I don't love or at least like, so it's really not torture. This a good point is retrospect; I can't imagine memorizing/playing something I do not like. So far, it has not picked my pocket. If The Man tells me to learn Chozobotsky's Concerto in Gdemolished, I better get to liking it. smile


Rhythm & Chords, it's what I do.
#2164197 - 10/09/13 10:31 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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CA
I'd say the same here with memorization challenges. Some pieces come quicker though. What helps me is trying to memorize a piece in sections or blocks, and then piecing them together. Memorizing the starting note of a section/block helps move things along as you get comfortable. Working everyday on the above I'd say is essential to memorizing. What works for one however may not work for others wink


My music_website at http://www.OdysseyofaG.com
#2164366 - 10/10/13 09:37 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by Ataru074
My issues is to fix something easy in a short amount of time. That is where the big struggle is, that I really feel that does impair my ability to improve quickly.
The most obvious thing here is that the easy bits need no repetition in order to solve the technical problems so there's no imprint of them in memory.

Originally Posted by Ataru074
I'm just wondering if anybody else have the same issues of taking too long to properly memorize a relatively easy and short piece
Once you've passed twenty-five it's tough to build permanent memory but the things you learned before twenty-five don't go. Once you're past a certain age the memorising issues come with the territory.

I understand from the pieces you mention that you work the difficult bits until you get them to a playable standard, working from the score, and that kick starts the memorising but the easier bits, that you can pretty much play from sight, don't get into the memory.

My method is slightly different. I take each section until I can get it into memory. Once it's memorised I can then start practising - at the piano or away from it - until I can play it.

With you, it seems to me, when you've worked on it enough to overcome the technical difficulties you can play it from memory. With me, when I can remember it many of the technical difficulties melt away. The brain solves them in my sleep.

At the piano I start with the first phrase in one hand. If it's too long to memorise in a couple of plays I reduce the size. Then I get the left hand memorised. Then I put them together and get the phrase memorised before I leave the piece for the day. I repeat that each day until I get it done so quickly that I can move on to the next phrase. When I can play the first phrase straight off from memory I stop practising it until I start the next cycle through the piece.

If I leave it a few weeks it feels on Monday like I never learnt it. By Wednesday it's like I've been playing it for weeks.

Originally Posted by farmerjones
So powerful is the brain's dependency on vision, even if I use a simple lyric and chord page (cheat sheet), there is something inside that says, "it's Ok, lean on it." To truly memorize something, I have to take the "training wheels" completely off.
This is the key. Memorising is something we do automatically. All animals do. It's how we survive. The difficulty is conscious recall. This is what we have to practise.

Take the score away, put it where you have to stop playing and stretch over for it. Force yourself to remember what the next notes are. The more you try the stronger the connection with the conscious mind and the deeper they get into memory. Eventually you know all the notes.

It's important, if memory is important to you, that when you know the piece and you can play it automatically that you still spend some time going through the piece consciously, slowly, making sure the cognisant memory doesn't fade into finger memory only.



Richard
#2164479 - 10/10/13 01:54 PM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Ataru074]  
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landorrano Offline
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Hi Ataru
Originally Posted by Ataru074
wine once or twice a month


Definitely need to drink more !!!

By the way, might your weakness be reading rather than memorizing?


#2165131 - 10/12/13 01:35 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: zrtf90]  
Joined: May 2012
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Bobpickle Offline

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Bobpickle  Offline

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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 1,393
Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by Ataru074
My issues is to fix something easy in a short amount of time. That is where the big struggle is, that I really feel that does impair my ability to improve quickly.
The most obvious thing here is that the easy bits need no repetition in order to solve the technical problems so there's no imprint of them in memory.

Originally Posted by Ataru074
I'm just wondering if anybody else have the same issues of taking too long to properly memorize a relatively easy and short piece
Once you've passed twenty-five it's tough to build permanent memory but the things you learned before twenty-five don't go. Once you're past a certain age the memorising issues come with the territory.

I understand from the pieces you mention that you work the difficult bits until you get them to a playable standard, working from the score, and that kick starts the memorising but the easier bits, that you can pretty much play from sight, don't get into the memory.

My method is slightly different. I take each section until I can get it into memory. Once it's memorised I can then start practising - at the piano or away from it - until I can play it.

With you, it seems to me, when you've worked on it enough to overcome the technical difficulties you can play it from memory. With me, when I can remember it many of the technical difficulties melt away. The brain solves them in my sleep.

At the piano I start with the first phrase in one hand. If it's too long to memorise in a couple of plays I reduce the size. Then I get the left hand memorised. Then I put them together and get the phrase memorised before I leave the piece for the day. I repeat that each day until I get it done so quickly that I can move on to the next phrase. When I can play the first phrase straight off from memory I stop practising it until I start the next cycle through the piece.

If I leave it a few weeks it feels on Monday like I never learnt it. By Wednesday it's like I've been playing it for weeks.

Originally Posted by farmerjones
So powerful is the brain's dependency on vision, even if I use a simple lyric and chord page (cheat sheet), there is something inside that says, "it's Ok, lean on it." To truly memorize something, I have to take the "training wheels" completely off.
This is the key. Memorising is something we do automatically. All animals do. It's how we survive. The difficulty is conscious recall. This is what we have to practise.

Take the score away, put it where you have to stop playing and stretch over for it. Force yourself to remember what the next notes are. The more you try the stronger the connection with the conscious mind and the deeper they get into memory. Eventually you know all the notes.

It's important, if memory is important to you, that when you know the piece and you can play it automatically that you still spend some time going through the piece consciously, slowly, making sure the cognisant memory doesn't fade into finger memory only.



Great process. Most any piece not worth memorizing isn't worth playing in the first place.


"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."
#2165208 - 10/12/13 08:06 AM Re: From reading to memorizing. [Re: Bobpickle]  
Joined: Jun 2011
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Ataru074 Offline
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Ataru074  Offline
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Houston, TX
Originally Posted by Bobpickle

Great process. Most any piece not worth memorizing isn't worth playing in the first place.


that leaves what? few thousands of hours of music? laugh



Private Piano Teacher. MTNA
working on:
Albeniz: Iberia
Beethoven: Op 53
Bartok: Mikrokosmos vol. 5
Debussy: Estampes
Moszkowski: Op 72

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