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#2676235 09/19/17 09:59 AM
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Hey, guys.

As a re-intro: Lessons age 6-21, some playing after college, dropped for 15 years and picked back up last Thanksgiving.

I'm wondering how you all approach memorization. When I was taking lessons, I always started to memorize once I got the piece into my fingers and some modicum of expression. Then I'd work on speed. I never got pieces up to the recommended speed by the end, though. (End being guild or year-end recital.)

Right now I'm working on Bach's 2-part Invention #8 in F major. I was at quarter = 62 and then jumped to quarter = 82. I tried doing quarter = 94 this morning and my fingers laughed at me and said, no. The final suggestion is quarter = 120.

In no way am I bored. I can play the same piece over and over for half an hour and not get bored. But I wonder if I'm holding myself back not memorizing now and then picking up the speed. My thoughts are the small delay between seeing the music and the response in my fingers holds me back. I also tend to do only a bit of expression when I'm music reading and feel I'd get more in once I have the piece memorized and can "feel" the phrasing rather than just read it.

Thoughts?


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- J.S. Bach: Invention #8 in F major
- Chopin: Waltz, Op 70 No 1 in G-flat major
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I try to adapt my approach according to the piece I'm studying.

If it's simple I usually get it into my fingers and only at the end I commit it into memory.

If it's hard (let's say that 70-90% of the piece is built around difficult passages, i.e. a study) I usually do the other way around: first I memorize the notes, so that later I can focus on the technique without reading the sheet.

If it's somehow in-between (e.g. there are some difficult passages but the rest of the piece is not that hard), I start by memorizing the difficult passages first, and then the rest.

I've done like this a lot of times, and to me it's the most efficient way to study a new piece.

It requires you a bit of work "away from the keyboard" though.
- You need to identify the difficult passages as soon as possible: this is easily done if you're studying with a teacher, as it's the teacher who could point out for you the most problematic sections, but if you are self-teaching this could require a lot of analysis.
- You need to commit to memory the sections without having them "in your fingers". This is usually not easy for beginners, but if you have a recording you can quicken this process by regularly listening to the piece while reading the sheet music.

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It varies from person to person. In my case, I work with the paper in front of me on the piano, and by the time I can sort of play it, most of it sticks in memory - No memorization effort required. There are often a few little places where I'd be lost without the chart. Some people find memorization easier than that, some find it harder.


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The right time to memorize is probably when the piece is at the point where it won't get any better while you're still reading from the page.
Either because you want to play it faster than you can read it, or because you can't be as expressive as you want while you're reading.
Maybe the right time is now! smile
BTW, for that invention, memorize it hands separately as well as hands together, if you have the time available. That will make it more secure as well as help you understand the interplay of the two voices better.


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As JohnSprung said, it varies from person to person. So there are probably hundreds or thousands of different ways and everyone has to find what suits them. Mine is particularly weird. I first have to thoroughly learn the piece, then I have to learn the left hand. If I get the left hand right the right automatically plays correctly!


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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I first have to thoroughly learn the piece, then I have to learn the left hand. If I get the left hand right the right automatically plays correctly!


Interesting -- are you left handed or right handed? So, you learn the whole thing hands together, and then learn the left by itself?


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Originally Posted by hreichgott
The right time to memorize is probably when the piece is at the point where it won't get any better while you're still reading from the page.


I'm doing it right then! smile

It also depends a lot on the nature of the piece. If it's basically melody + accompaniment everything gets much easier and you can probably follow the harmonic progression and/or melodic contour on the score (examples: Chopin's Prelude in e minor; Andante from Mozart's Sonata K. 545). I find Bach too difficult to play at tempo or close to that without memorising it. You need to have the two (or more) voices very clear in your mind at all times. And most of his pieces are usually played fast, there's just no time to read, or think much. That's why I never play Bach at tempo laugh

Last edited by sinophilia; 09/21/17 05:38 AM.
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Hi JohnSprung. I am right-handed though not massively so. Can use my left hand quite well. The problem probably started very early on when I was around 8 and found that half of the piece disappeared from view - I was seeing it in front of me without it being there. I then decided that I couldn't memorise anything and as I was very good at sight reading didn't attempt to memorise anything until I was 60 - long complicated story. Not a question of learning the left separately, just memorising it. Am trying to integrate everything, sound, muscle actions, vision, etc. Been doing that for over 15 years and maybe I will get there eventually. And very weird.


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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
..... And very weird.


Yes indeed -- our hands are all different, and our brains even more so.


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Originally Posted by sinophilia
Originally Posted by hreichgott
The right time to memorize is probably when the piece is at the point where it won't get any better while you're still reading from the page.


I'm doing it right then! smile



I'm glad you said this, Heather, and I'm with Sinophilia. I decide when (and whether) to memorize based on when reading starts to limit me. But I thought I was a slacker, because some people say you should start memorizing right from the beginning. I'm too lazy for that, and it seems to waste mental energy, because some things will automatically get into "muscle memory" as the piece is learned. I thought, why force it? Nice to be validated, though I may still be a slacker in other ways smile.


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Thank you all for the responses! I like the "when the piece is at the point where it won't get any better while you're still reading from the page." That's kind of how I felt with the Bach, as I sped up I wanted to watch my fingers rather than the page.

I'd like to report that the 2-part invention was memorized today, at least to the extent of one-day of memorization. Will definitely be working on the piece for a while longer.

Time to add the 3-part invention, I think.


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- J.S. Bach: Invention #8 in F major
- Chopin: Waltz, Op 70 No 1 in G-flat major
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Life's too short to worry about memorizing. Besides, my head is already filled with useless clutter. Just play on!

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Originally Posted by metaresolve

I'm wondering how you all approach memorization.
...
Thoughts?


I don't approach any memorization. After I get a piece in a fully polished state, I just know how to play it.

If I had it memorized note fore note, I should be able to write it out on a piece of music paper, but I can't. When not looking at the sheet music, I can't even start the piece in a random measure. I can only start at the beginning, obviously, and on clean breaks or obvious phrases.

Thus... yes, I can play a piece from memory after enough practice and polishing, but I don't have it memorized. In the end, when playing it, most of it is automatic/from memory, and I use the sheet music to remind myself of repeats, or unexpected notes/turns, or fingering, and such. If there's a long run, I often only read the first note, and then the run is automatic, during which I read the first note and fingering of the following part as a reminder of what to play

Last edited by Falsch; 09/22/17 10:42 PM.

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Originally Posted by hreichgott

Either because you want to play it faster than you can read it, or because you can't be as expressive as you want while you're reading.


This. As long as I have to _actively read the music_ to play the correct notes, my correctness, speed and expression all suffer (in large part, also due to my very poor eyesight. Reading sheet music is _hard_ for me). As soon as I can start to just play the piece, using the sheet music as a guide and reminder only, then I can start polishing the piece and putting in an interpretation to my taste. From that point on, the piece gets better, and actually starts to sound like music.

Last edited by Falsch; 09/22/17 10:46 PM.

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Originally Posted by metaresolve
I'd like to report that the 2-part invention was memorized today, at least to the extent of one-day of memorization. Will definitely be working on the piece for a while longer.
Yay!


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music

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