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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Molto lombardo] #2403041
03/27/15 04:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Molto lombardo
We are talking about mostly small kids and preteens, who play in student recitals and exams. Most of them quit playing before they hit 15. Only very few, or if none of them will eventually become as a professional musician.

My students do not know that memorization is terribly important to other people because they assume that the goal is to play music, as well as possible, with the best sound possible, in the shortest period of time, and with the most efficient means possible.

I tell each child that I do not want him (or her) to play in front of people from memory until he has played successfully at least 5 times. Then after then, if he plays from memory, and it goes wrong, he will not remember it as a horrible experience.

If you had to give a speech, would you rather do it, for the first time, with or without something to look at?

I would argue that if you would prefer to give the speech, with nothing, it would be because you are partially illiterate.

And most performers are partially illiterate in the sense they can NOT play from music, smoothly, convincingly, because their reading skills are undeveloped.

Again and again we read about the insane bias of judges who would not give equal marks to two performers who both played superbly, one with music, the other without.

Worse, the student who plays from memory, in an inferior manner, would every time get a better rating than someone else who played far better, with music.

Someone like Joseph Hoffman, who could not read music to save his soul, will always be given more credit than an aging Richter, who could still play with complete mastery with music but, for whatever reasons, no longer felt comfortable playing without it.

Just one of many reasons why I loathe the whole "classical" mindset. It is always ruled by rather stupid and narrow-minded people. And also, by the way, why I have almost completely avoided this forum.

Last edited by Gary D.; 03/27/15 04:44 AM.

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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: TheHappyPianoMuse] #2403049
03/27/15 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
I had no idea that the option of performing with the score even existed when I wa a student. It was expected. I remember being told that Myra Hess was the only performer who used a score, supposedly after a memory lapse.

Let's stop there for a moment. Now we have TWO famous, amazing pianists, who used music - Hess and Richter. So turn it around. Have you ever heard anything by Hess that sounded less than marvelous? Shouldn't that be the whole point? If anyone else, playing from memory, could not equal Hess, with music, should that not end the discussion?

Should we not laugh at people who are so impressed with the theatre that they only judge with their eyes, when music should be all about the ears, what we hear?

Brubek was once told that he could not get his degree unless he promised not to teach, because he could not read.

What a strange, strange, STRANGE world we live in, where one musician is criticized for NOT being able to read, and another is criticized for PREFERRING to read.
Quote

I can remember memory being a spectre looming over every competition or performance and being so terrified of a lapse that I memorized music in small segments and played the segments BACKWARDS to assure I had a "safety spot" if I forgot. laugh

Some people memorize effortlessly, and it has nothing to do with being musical. Think of people who have photographic memory. Such people are reading, without music, because they see the music in their minds. This says NOTHING about their superior musicianship. It only means that the are much like idiot savants.

I know people with such horrible ears that they can't hear a door slam, yet they play with no problems without music. They can't improvise. They can't create anything. But they can play from memory.

Most students are terrified at the thought of playing without music. Some push through, but most play pieces for the best part of year (or more) and are rewarded with a good grade, or good comments. Meanwhile they could not learn something quickly and then perform it to save their lives. And later, even if they want to, they will earn no money playing, because money is usually about learning quickly and playing with other people who learn quickly.

The whole things is upside down.
Quote

In one early competition the dreaded "memory " lapse jettisoned an entire group of twenty competitors. We were playing a Chopin Etude and perhaps the third or fourth contestant got lost. Immediately there was a flurry of pages as we all frantically consulted our scores to make sure what those missing notes were so we'd not stumble over them ourselves. And then ALL of us floundered. One by one. I was near the end of this tortuous event and was shaking by the time I got on stage ... and predictably made the SAME memory error. Memory lapses can even be contagious.

Because most people are never taught HOW to memorize. Even though I do not like to memorize - because it takes time to play things without music that I can play perfectly with music - I play my students' music from any measure, and even backwards. I play from many starting parts, hands separate, and backwards.

When people rehearse a play, they never start at the beginning and go through the whole thing - except when doing a dress rehearsal or a final performance.

Most people use the "go magic fingers" method. That means that they pray they will not forget, and they try NOT to think about the music. It is insane.
Quote

The requirement for a flawless memorized performance eventually pushed me away from performing ... and into graphic arts. I relegated my music to the background ( after three degrees) and I never played piano in public again.

I could tell the story of at least a dozen people who had your same experience.
Quote

Now thinking back I can see two sides to this debate. For most people, not having to glance at the score does allow for more fluent playing ... particularly with technically demanding works .... Liszt, Brahms, Chopin. But for Baroque music, I find playing from the score much easier since I can follow all the voices simultaneously and "see" the patterns.

You are missing the most important thing. People who read effortlessly memorize the parts that cannot be played while looking. You mention Chopin. But there is a whole universe of difference between most of the Etudes, which must be memorized, and slow sections of so many other things (like the Ballades), which can be played with complete confidence with music.

Think about how an experienced musician tackles these pieces for competitions. Such a musician nails the technical spots that must be played while looking at the hands but feels free to look at the score for lyrical parts, then later memorizes everything.

Watch master classes. Always the teacher and student refers to the score and plays from the score. It is just moronic not to.

Last edited by Gary D.; 03/27/15 05:12 AM.

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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403087
03/27/15 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

The other side of music is being able to play what we hear, and that aspect music is horribly neglected in so called "classical" music.

But that is another subject.


Maybe not completely another subject. One way to play without music is to know the piece and play it by ear. That must require memory but it is not the traditional note-by-note memorization that is more common.


gotta go practice
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403195
03/27/15 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
And most performers are partially illiterate in the sense they can NOT play from music, smoothly, convincingly, because their reading skills are undeveloped.


Assuming this is true (I think it probably is, but I don't know enough "real musicians", meaning people who make their living from their music, to tell), I wonder whether you have a theory about why.

Most people can read Shakespeare (though not necessarily understand what it's all about) after 12 years in school, after all. Why is it that so many classical pianists cannot read Chopin after ten or more years of piano lessons?


Plodding through piano music at a frustratingly slow pace since 9/2012.

Standard disclaimer: I teach many things. Piano is not one of them.
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Saranoya] #2403204
03/27/15 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Saranoya
Originally Posted by Gary D.
And most performers are partially illiterate in the sense they can NOT play from music, smoothly, convincingly, because their reading skills are undeveloped.


Assuming this is true (I think it probably is, but I don't know enough "real musicians", meaning people who make their living from their music, to tell), I wonder whether you have a theory about why.



Maybe they work only on stuff that's too hard.


gotta go practice
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: TimR] #2403213
03/27/15 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR
Maybe they work only on stuff that's too hard.


Quite possibly true for many piano students who cannot read, including yours truly.

However, Gary was talking about "performers", which I took to mean professionals of some kind. It strikes me as odd that it would be a problem even at that (the professional) level. But if it is, I wonder why there hasn't been a widespread questioning of the teaching methods yet. And that includes assigning music (or letting people pick music) that's too hard for them.

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Saranoya] #2403249
03/27/15 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Saranoya
Originally Posted by TimR
Maybe they work only on stuff that's too hard.


Quite possibly true for many piano students who cannot read, including yours truly.



What I was thinking is that when you work on difficult material, you can't read fluently. You must work out small chunks slowly, and you end up memorizing much of it accidentaly. So you never get the opportunity to play something easily fluently, and you incorporate some stuttering.

Quote
However, Gary was talking about "performers", which I took to mean professionals of some kind.


I took him to mean concert or recital performers rather than working musicians.


gotta go practice
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: TimR] #2403275
03/27/15 04:47 PM
03/27/15 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR

I took him to mean concert or recital performers rather than working musicians.

The gist of the posts as I understood them were about professional musicians, which by definition means working musicians, and also I think the gap that exists between those preparing students for that role, and the reality of that role.

In what way is a concert pianist not a working musician?

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403349
03/27/15 09:05 PM
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Hi Gary D. and others, I don't know if I am alone here, but although I am literate I find reading to be a task that demands mental focus and attention. If I am trying to perform a piece as well as I possibly can, I am thinking very hard about what I'm hearing, what I'm doing, and where I am on the keyboard. Reading at the same time is one more task, and if I have to do it, there is less mental bandwidth available for all the other stuff. The big benefit of memorization is eliminating reading thus enabling me to be a more attentive musician in every other way.

I think that for most people this would also be true, with the exception of those who would be distracted by fear that they would have a memory lapse. So I'd really prefer that students play from memory, except for those who are too scared, and they should play from the score, no big deal.

HOWEVER
Originally Posted by Gary D.
90% of the money I have made playing demanded that I read the music.

I don't know why this is never addressed...

This definitely SHOULD be addressed. But I don't think it needs to be addressed in the context of a recital, in which students are playing alone with lots of preparation time to the best of their ability. Instead, it should be addressed by real-world tasks that give an immediate benefit to reading and quickly making sense of a score with limited prep time. Like you, Gary, that's what most of my work life has entailed. All my students get short-term reading assignments: sight-reading in lessons when beginner through early intermediate, then short easy-for-them pieces assigned by the week (starting with Czerny Op. 139 at the same time as they are tackling Clementi sonatinas as longer-term repertoire.) Then, I help the ones who have an interest in developing their playing skills beyond private lessons to find opportunities, maybe accompanying a violin student, playing for school chorus or school play, playing in jazz band etc. Sometimes I am the one to connect them with these opportunities, and sometimes they find them on their own and I just cheer and help support them when needed. Really, their reading improves fastest when they need it to, especially if they need it to in order to do something cool with peers.

Piano lessons really shouldn't just be training to learn the hardest solo pieces you possibly can, then performing them in a concert setting. They should be training for many different facets of what piano-playing can involve.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

Working on:
Cabaret (whole show)
12+ variations from classical ballets
Verdi: Stabat Mater
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Tangos and other fun music for piano duo

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: hreichgott] #2403382
03/27/15 11:42 PM
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Very well said Heather, especially this:

Originally Posted by hreichgott

Piano lessons really shouldn't just be training to learn the hardest solo pieces you possibly can, then performing them in a concert setting.


Unfortunately many, if not most, students/teachers are doing exactly this. And 3 months after their recitals the students can hardly play the pieces they "mastered".

It would be great to fully develop a student on every front, but few of today's busy student will have the time and drive to get there.

If we have to choose between able to play a few difficult solos very well or able to pick up easier pieces and play them well on short notice, like on the spot, I would pick the latter every time.

And for the kids at school, to be honest, who cares if you can play Chopin Andante Spianato, but if you can play just "The sun goes down, the stars come out", everyone cheers.

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: The Monkeys] #2403391
03/28/15 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by The Monkeys
Unfortunately many, if not most, students/teachers are doing exactly this. And 3 months after their recitals the students can hardly play the pieces they "mastered".

Ever heard of muscle memory? Those who rely on muscle memory will remember pieces they learned (correctly or incorrectly) from 40 years ago. For my students, I actually try to discourage muscle memory because students tend to memorize too soon, before all the right notes, fingerings, and rhythms are learned. And then those kids can't undo their wrong memories.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: The Monkeys] #2403396
03/28/15 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by The Monkeys
Unfortunately many, if not most, students/teachers are doing exactly this. And 3 months after their recitals the students can hardly play the pieces they "mastered".


Adult student here.

I definitely resemble the remark about "hardly playing the pieces they mastered," but I'm not sure if that's a pedagogical thing or just an aptitude thing.

What I do know is that I just busted my ass working on some Jelly Roll Morton and then I found that the Joplin that I really love to play seemed much more approachable.

I agree with your last point.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: AZNpiano] #2403399
03/28/15 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

Ever heard of muscle memory? Those who rely on muscle memory will remember pieces they learned (correctly or incorrectly) from 40 years ago. For my students,

Muscle memory, just like any other type of memory can significantly become weak with age. For me it is unfortunately not dry theory ...

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: TimR] #2403410
03/28/15 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Gary D.

The other side of music is being able to play what we hear, and that aspect music is horribly neglected in so called "classical" music.

But that is another subject.


Maybe not completely another subject. One way to play without music is to know the piece and play it by ear. That must require memory but it is not the traditional note-by-note memorization that is more common.

There is memory involved in both learning to play something from music (reading) and playing by ear. In both cases, no matter how good you are, nothing will ever be better than the first time without memory.

In this way playing by ear and playing from music is similar. But the paths to both are very different.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Saranoya] #2403411
03/28/15 02:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Saranoya
Originally Posted by Gary D.
And most performers are partially illiterate in the sense they can NOT play from music, smoothly, convincingly, because their reading skills are undeveloped.


Assuming this is true (I think it probably is, but I don't know enough "real musicians", meaning people who make their living from their music, to tell), I wonder whether you have a theory about why.

It's easy. When we teach children to read to read language, our goal is to teach reading fluency. The same is true of teaching reading to anyone of any age.

That's my goal as a teacher. I want my students to learn music quickly. I want them to enjoy playing. I don't care if what they do is a bit sloppy, or a bit slow, and very imperfect, because I am always looking ahead to the future. They may quit at any time, but what about those who do not?

I can't predict who will quit after 6 months, 2 years, or never. So I am thinking about what they will achieve by the end of high school. Everything I do is along that path. If they quit early, what I do does not contribute to that. It is out of my hands. But those who continue will be able to by music and learn it for the rest of their lives. What they do with those skills is up to them. I also spend a lot of time on chords, because some of these students will eventually move to pop and jazz, and they may need theses skills to make money.
Quote

Most people can read Shakespeare (though not necessarily understand what it's all about) after 12 years in school, after all. Why is it that so many classical pianists cannot read Chopin after ten or more years of piano lessons?

I don't know. Because my students start on easy Chopin in well under 5 years, and they read the music.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: TimR] #2403412
03/28/15 02:25 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Saranoya
Originally Posted by Gary D.
And most performers are partially illiterate in the sense they can NOT play from music, smoothly, convincingly, because their reading skills are undeveloped.


Assuming this is true (I think it probably is, but I don't know enough "real musicians", meaning people who make their living from their music, to tell), I wonder whether you have a theory about why.



Maybe they work only on stuff that's too hard.

They work on things that are too hard under the guidance of teachers who are after results at the cost of skills.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: TimR] #2403413
03/28/15 02:28 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR

What I was thinking is that when you work on difficult material, you can't read fluently. You must work out small chunks slowly, and you end up memorizing much of it accidentaly. So you never get the opportunity to play something easily fluently, and you incorporate some stuttering.

This is exactly correct. It works like this: a student is taught that the goal is a perfect result, then is drilled in small sections. Each section is learned, in slow motion, then is repeated again and again until it is full speed. Then the next section is done the same way. Eventually the sections are assembled, but they have all been memorized.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: hreichgott] #2403414
03/28/15 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Hi Gary D. and others, I don't know if I am alone here, but although I am literate I find reading to be a task that demands mental focus and attention. If I am trying to perform a piece as well as I possibly can, I am thinking very hard about what I'm hearing, what I'm doing, and where I am on the keyboard. Reading at the same time is one more task, and if I have to do it, there is less mental bandwidth available for all the other stuff. The big benefit of memorization is eliminating reading thus enabling me to be a more attentive musician in every other way.

It's absolutely different for me. Think of our president. Obama can't say one sentence without saying, "and aaaah". But when he has a teleprompter in front of him and is reading, it sounds as if he is 100% natural, at ease. It may be that he is incapable of putting together such easy sentences on his own, and everything is written for him.

But it may also be that by nature he likes to plan out his thoughts, and that he is a VERY good reader.

When I have music in front of me, I can hear it in my head way faster than it needs to be played, sort of the way that we can read to ourselves way faster than we read text aloud.

Just looking at music makes it play my head with CD clarity. As I read, I am simply making my fingers reproduce what I hear, which is sparked simultaneously by what I see.

I was able to play long passages of very difficult music effortlessly with music in front of me when I was very young, so long as said passages were lyrical. So I only memorized very fast, technical passages effortlessly, things that demanded that I take my eyes of the music. But I did not figure this out until years later, when I finally realized that to perform from memory, I had to take extra steps to memorize what I could read perfectly.
Quote

I think that for most people this would also be true, with the exception of those who would be distracted by fear that they would have a memory lapse.

Absolutely not true for me. And I want my students to be like me, not like most people.

I have talked to hundreds of people over the past few decades. Some people have photographic memory, so they can see the music even when the music is not there.

Other people have a degree of visual retention. Those people know what page they are on, without music, and if the page is on the left of right.

Some people are like me. When they take away the music, they see nothing.

But I have seen the greatest players on the planet have lapses in places that they could most likely sightread, on stage. They happen as frequently in slow sections of lyrical pieces. No matter how good your memory is of Shakepeare, if you are a superb reader of the English language AND know a play very well, having the book in front of you is not going to cause you to stutter, or have a lapse.

If having music in front of you in any way impedes you from playing something you can play well from memory, you have a reading weakness.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Nahum] #2403415
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by AZNpiano

Ever heard of muscle memory? Those who rely on muscle memory will remember pieces they learned (correctly or incorrectly) from 40 years ago. For my students,

Muscle memory, just like any other type of memory can significantly become weak with age. For me it is unfortunately not dry theory ...

I don't know how old you are, but I am 66. Muscle memory never goes away. I have students come to me who are older than I am, and they can still play the things they could play when they were young. But if they are weak readers, that's all they can play.


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Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403417
03/28/15 03:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

I don't know how old you are, but I am 66. Muscle memory never goes away. I have students come to me who are older than I am, and they can still play the things they could play when they were young. But if they are weak readers, that's all they can play.
You're lucky, I am 69 .In childhood and youth, I was reading very well; but it refers to a distant history.

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403419
03/28/15 03:30 AM
03/28/15 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by TimR

What I was thinking is that when you work on difficult material, you can't read fluently. You must work out small chunks slowly, and you end up memorizing much of it accidentaly. So you never get the opportunity to play something easily fluently, and you incorporate some stuttering.

This is exactly correct. It works like this: a student is taught that the goal is a perfect result, then is drilled in small sections. Each section is learned, in slow motion, then is repeated again and again until it is full speed. Then the next section is done the same way. Eventually the sections are assembled, but they have all been memorized.


OK. I recognize that. Now, if that leads to "performers who can't read", then why, in the name of all that's good and holy, do so many teachers still teach that way? That's what I don't understand!


Plodding through piano music at a frustratingly slow pace since 9/2012.

Standard disclaimer: I teach many things. Piano is not one of them.
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403490
03/28/15 08:04 AM
03/28/15 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

And also, by the way, why I have almost completely avoided this forum.


Glad you are back, Gary. The prodding is invigorating.

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Saranoya] #2403556
03/28/15 11:27 AM
03/28/15 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Saranoya

OK. I recognize that. Now, if that leads to "performers who can't read", then why, in the name of all that's good and holy, do so many teachers still teach that way? That's what I don't understand!

They produce students who can play in a manner that is very impressive, and some students play so well by ear that they end up working around huge reading deficits. I mentioned Hofmann. He had a phenomenal ear and an amazing memory. I remember being shocked when I found out about that.

Last edited by Gary D.; 03/28/15 11:28 AM.

Piano Teacher
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Molto lombardo] #2403568
03/28/15 12:11 PM
03/28/15 12:11 PM
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Students should be able to play with and without the score. Being unable to both is a deficiency.

Just as there's a problem with students having deficient reading skills and only learning the music by ear, there are also students who put the music together primarily visually with minimal connection to their ear. Say what you will about students who can't read, but at least they are able to perform and communicate the music. The students who put things together only visually struggle with performance.

So yes, I'm not surprised at all that there are talented performers with limited reading abilities, because you can get away with it. However, I'm not sure the opposite is as true. You aren't going to find talented performers for those who put things together visually with minimal involvement of the ear.

Interestingly, I've found the mainly visual learners to be bad readers as well, as paradoxical as that seems. They can't see the bigger picture, and don't see the overall structure in the music.

There's a balance of both needed. Your senses should be united and coordinated.

I read an interesting discussion about the composition teacher Nadia Boulanger the other day that I think is relevant, that should be the standard of what we and our pupils should aspire to:

Quote

The real magic of keyboard playing lies in what Nadia Boulanger called 'hear with your eyes and see with your ears'.


She frequently spoke about this with her pupils. What it means is quite an advanced concept to get your head around. An amazing musician can look at a score he or she has never heard before, and hear it in their head with incredible accuracy and clarity, just by looking at the notes. They can HEAR with their EYES, a complex document that would amount to gibberish to a layperson.

On the flip side, that amazing musician knows their repertoire and their instrument so thoroughly, that any music that they hear, their eye can instantly visualize on the staff.


It is this link, this powerful link, between the score and the music, that creates musical authority. Great conductors can read thick-textured scores and hear every single voice or part with perfect clarity. They can hear with their eyes and see with their ears. This is primarily why they get the big bucks.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE LEARNING in your lessons is this. How to see with your ears and how to hear with your eyes.

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=51983.msg564376;topicseen#msg564376


And yes, she expected her students to memorize. She had them memorize Bach chorales and the WTC. The chorales were learned so well that you could play it with hands crossed playing opposite parts while simultaneously omitting a played part and singing it in solfege instead.

And it seems absolutely preposterous to me that any of them were unable to read. That was a given.

Last edited by anamnesis; 03/28/15 12:31 PM.
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Molto lombardo] #2403572
03/28/15 12:15 PM
03/28/15 12:15 PM
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I have been thoroughly enjoying this conversation. laugh laugh

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Gary D.] #2403582
03/28/15 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

Because my students start on easy Chopin in well under 5 years, and they read the music.


Define easy Chopin. Is there such thing as easy Chopin? Mazurkas?

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: hreichgott] #2403600
03/28/15 01:11 PM
03/28/15 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Reading at the same time is one more task, and if I have to do it, there is less mental bandwidth available for all the other stuff. The big benefit of memorization is eliminating reading thus enabling me to be a more attentive musician in every other way.



I'm an adult student. For me, retrieval from memory is a harder task than reading, and so I would find it more distracting in performance to play from memory. I do have pieces mostly in memory by the time I play them for an audience. The score is a reminder and orientation.

I get into trouble, though, if I start to think I know the piece and forget to look at the score. So, ironically, I can make errors from memory lapse even with the score!


1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Chopin, Waltz in E minor (op. posth.)
Schubert, Op. 90 no. 2
Mendelssohn, Op. 19 no. 2
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Molto lombardo] #2403601
03/28/15 01:11 PM
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anamnesis: interesting concepts.

"Hearing with your eyes" is what Gary describes when he talks about audiating a score in CD quality. "CD quality" is not what I would say my own ability to hear by looking at a score results in. However, I am able to get a good enough idea of a four-measure section of music that I can practice it without looking at the score again, after having read that score away from the piano. I can also do what Boulanger calls "seeing with your ears": I can listen to a recording, and not only visualize it on the staff, but actually write that music down, though not necessarily in the right key (more on that below). It takes me longer than it probably should, but I can do it. Yet, I am still reading-impaired.

So let me introduce a third concept that I think is important here: the ability to anchor what you hear somewhere on the keyboard (or on any other instrument). In spite of what has been argued on this board lately, I would think that for *this*, having absolute pitch can be a huge help. I can hear something on the radio, or more likely in a student recital (because the music is often simpler there), and then later write it down mostly accurately. It will probably be in the wrong key, though, which is to say: most of the pitches will be correct relative to each other, but not necessarily correct relative to the starting pitch the composer intended.

And then the fourth thing one needs, is the technical ability to actually execute (i.e., play) what one hears on one's head. That's a lot harder to do on the piano, or any other polyphonic instrument, than it is on say, the trumpet.

My point is: being able to "hear with your eyes" and "see with your ears" may help you become a better musician, but it won't necessarily make you a better reader. For that, you also need a good sense of which piano keys go with which sounds in your head, and the technical ability to play what you hear. If I had to guess what *my* primary reason for being a lousy reader boils down to, I'd say it's a combination of those two: lack of an internal "sound map" of the keyboard, and (to a lesser extent) lack of technical skill.

Maybe the reason so many teachers teach in a way that sometimes produces reading-impaired top performers is that they don't know *that* they should be addressing all four of those things, or they don't know *how*. It took *me* three years to convince my teacher that I can a) hear "well enough" what's in a score when I look at it, and b) write down what she plays for me, even when it's relatively complex music (as long as she tells me the starting pitch) but c) that I am unable to play what's in my own head unless I hunt and peck and practice for two weeks, because of a combination of not knowing where it's located on the keyboard, and lack of technical ability.

I have composed music (by writing down what I heard in my head) which I then had to practice for a month before I could play it fluently. Would you believe that was true, if I came to you as a transfer student, or would you think I was blowing smoke up your nose?

In summary, I think it is a complex issue. And I think that if teachers want to nurture truly all-round musicianship, there are more things to consider than what most of them think about when trying to "shape" a new student into a good pianist.


Plodding through piano music at a frustratingly slow pace since 9/2012.

Standard disclaimer: I teach many things. Piano is not one of them.
Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Saranoya] #2403605
03/28/15 01:21 PM
03/28/15 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Saranoya
anamnesis: interesting concepts.

"Hearing with your eyes" is what Gary describes when he talks about audiating a score in CD quality. "CD quality" is not what I would say my own ability to hear by looking at a score results in. However, I am able to get a good enough idea of a four-measure section of music that I can practice it without looking at the score again, after having read that score away from the piano. I can also do what Boulanger calls "seeing with your ears": I can listen to a recording, and not only visualize it on the staff, but actually write that music down, though not necessarily in the right key (more on that below). It takes me longer than it probably should, but I can do it. Yet, I am still reading-impaired.

So let me introduce a third concept that I think is important here: the ability to anchor what you hear somewhere on the keyboard (or on any other instrument). In spite of what has been argued on this board lately, I would think that for *this*, having absolute pitch can be a huge help. I can hear something on the radio, or more likely in a student recital (because the music is often simpler there), and then later write it down mostly accurately. It will probably be in the wrong key, though, which is to say: most of the pitches will be correct relative to each other, but not necessarily correct relative to the starting pitch the composer intended.

And then the fourth thing one needs, is the technical ability to actually execute (i.e., play) what one hears on one's head. That's a lot harder to do on the piano, or any other polyphonic instrument, than it is on say, the trumpet.

My point is: being able to "hear with your eyes" and "see with your ears" may help you become a better musician, but it won't necessarily make you a better reader. For that, you also need a good sense of which piano keys go with which sounds in your head, and the technical ability to play what you hear. If I had to guess what *my* primary reason for being a lousy reader boils down to, I'd say it's a combination of those two: lack of an internal "sound map" of the keyboard, and (to a lesser extent) lack of technical skill.

Maybe the reason so many teachers teach in a way that sometimes produces reading-impaired top performers is that they don't know *that* they should be addressing all four of those things, or they don't know *how*. It took *me* three years to convince my teacher that I can a) hear "well enough" what's in a score when I look at it, and b) write down what she plays for me, even when it's relatively complex music (as long as she tells me the starting pitch) but c) that I am unable to play what's in my own head unless I hunt and peck and practice for two weeks, because of a combination of not knowing where it's located on the keyboard, and lack of technical ability.

I have composed music (by writing down what I heard in my head) which I then had to practice for a month before I could play it fluently. Would you believe that was true, if I came to you as a transfer student, or would you think I was blowing smoke up your nose?

In summary, I think it is a complex issue. And I think that if teachers want to nurture truly all-round musicianship, there are more things to consider than what most of them think about when trying to "shape" a new student into a good pianist.


Assuming, you can identify pitches on the staff fairly well, I suspect, you are missing the tactile component of playing and then connecting that with the actual reading. I think the Richmann sight-reading book has the best approach toward fixing that.

Re: An alarming trend: Memorizing is out of fashion [Re: Molto lombardo] #2403684
03/28/15 03:56 PM
03/28/15 03:56 PM
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Once you had to memorize and if you didn't, you were sent to Siberia:

http://www.criticalmass.johnbellyoung.com/intonatsiia-and-the-politics-of-expression/

Last edited by Molto lombardo; 03/28/15 04:14 PM.
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