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Memorisation #2729298
04/16/18 03:59 AM
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Colin Miles Online content OP
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John Mortensen, the Cedarvillemusic guy, identifies 4 type of memory; visual, motor, aural and intellectual. I am very good at sight reading and very poor at memorisation and I have come to the conclusion that the reasons for this is due to the order in which I process information when playing the piano. I see, I play, I listen, I understand.

To those who are natural memorisers I ask, how do you process the information?


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729302
04/16/18 05:14 AM
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I believe that you had to start memorising from an early age?

Ian


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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729305
04/16/18 05:49 AM
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Mortensen’s theory of memorization has been supported by others. The better you are at using all 4 types of memory, the better you are at Establishing long-term memory. There is a very good book written by Chaffin called ‘ practicing perfection: memory and piano ‘. In which a concert pianist verbalizes how she memorizes by talking out loud as she learns a new concerto


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Memorisation [Re: dogperson] #2729312
04/16/18 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
The better you are at using all 4 types of memory, the better you are at Establishing long-term memory.


Indeed! But does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this?

Last edited by Colin Miles; 04/16/18 06:48 AM.

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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729313
04/16/18 06:56 AM
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My teacher was a student of Dr Mortensen. Memorization begins when first learning a piece, not when you are done. Identify your weakest types of memory and focus on that those areas. Depending on muscle memory can be dangerous when it comes to performance time. These are people who are natural memorizers but I do not think this is something that needs to be learned when young.

BTW - This forum section is about anything to do with physical pianos. You might get a better response in the Pianist or Adult beginner section.

MIke


Acoustic: Cunningham Parlour Grand
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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729319
04/16/18 07:42 AM
04/16/18 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
John Mortensen, the Cedarvillemusic guy, identifies 4 type of memory; visual, motor, aural and intellectual. I am very good at sight reading and very poor at memorisation and I have come to the conclusion that the reasons for this is due to the order in which I process information when playing the piano. I see, I play, I listen, I understand.
Unless someone studies the score before playing it I think everyone processes the information in that order. For example, one cannot play before one sees the score and one cannot hear before one plays it.

Re: Memorisation [Re: Michael.] #2729324
04/16/18 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Unless someone studies the score before playing it I think everyone processes the information in that order. For example, one cannot play before one sees the score and one cannot hear before one plays it.

Quote

BTW - This forum section is about anything to do with physical pianos. You might get a better response in the Pianist or Adult beginner section.

MIke

Thanks Mike. But nowadays I assume that most people look at active threads.


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729334
04/16/18 09:09 AM
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Becoming better at memorizing and becoming better at sight reading are skills that can be learned. It is not like an eye color that it is genetic and cannot be changed. Since I took piano lessons as a child, there has been a lot learned about both and how they can be improved. If you look at the book I referenced previously, memorization by even a concert pianist is a deliberate process.

There has been a lot written about both subjects. You might want to start with looking at bulletproof musician
https://bulletproofmusician.com/?s=Memorize

Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729340
04/16/18 09:40 AM
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Poetry is rhythm
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729348
04/16/18 10:18 AM
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I play mostly by ear, although I can read music some. Reading is work, and playing by ear is just plain fun. So, I guess I'm lazy there.

That said, playing by ear is mostly visual, motor and aural memory. Not that I can play all that well, but I do have an opportunity to play in public a good bit, whether at Church or other activities/programs. The problem I have with memory is, as many times as I've played in public, I get extremely nervous and overcome with stage fright, to the point of affecting my memory receptors in my brain. Stage fright and stress can cause you to completely forget what notes to play, or even where to start, or even the song/arraignment you were planning on playing.

The only thing that helps is if I can somehow relax and calm down and focus on my playing. There have been times when I performed in public and never missed a beat or a note. On the other hand, there have been times when stress got the best of me and I messed up royally. Fortunately, most people likely didn't notice, but I certainly did. smile

So, there is a correlation between memory and stress, in a negative way...

Rick


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Re: Memorisation [Re: Rickster] #2729358
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Originally Posted by Rickster
I play mostly by ear, although I can read music some. Reading is work, and playing by ear is just plain fun. So, I guess I'm lazy there.

That said, playing by ear is mostly visual, motor and aural memory. Not that I can play all that well, but I do have an opportunity to play in public a good bit, whether at Church or other activities/programs. The problem I have with memory is, as many times as I've played in public, I get extremely nervous and overcome with stage fright, to the point of affecting my memory receptors in my brain. Stage fright and stress can cause you to completely forget what notes to play, or even where to start, or even the song/arraignment you were planning on playing.

The only thing that helps is if I can somehow relax and calm down and focus on my playing. There have been times when I performed in public and never missed a beat or a note. On the other hand, there have been times when stress got the best of me and I messed up royally. Fortunately, most people likely didn't notice, but I certainly did. smile

So, there is a correlation between memory and stress, in a negative way...

Rick



I can relate Rick. I play every several times a week, and I do just fine playing with the band or in church while the congregation is singing, but I can get very nervous when I have to play solo, and usually end up making mistakes on things that I know inside & out. I watched a video once about a pianist who decided to mess up on purpose from time to time to help himself face is fear. He said it really did help, and he was able to over come it and accept that he would occasionally mess up, it's a part of life, and it doesn't mean that your performance will be totally rejected by the audience. He was able to then relax more during performances. It was an interesting concept.

Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729376
04/16/18 12:10 PM
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Thanks dogperson but didn't find anything there which isn't obvious or particularly helpful.

Not sure about phantomfive. How to have a razorsharp mind - hmm. Ok.

I come back to my original question about the order in which you actually process the information. As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?


Roland LX7

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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729384
04/16/18 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
. I see, I play, I listen, I understand.


I start knowing what it's supposed to sound like, because I've heard several recordings, always. That's how I know that I like something enough to go to the effort of learning it. Then I take the sheet music and start marking out where the phrases are.... Figure it out, play and listen, over and over, and it ends up in memory.

I'm not sure I'd call that understanding, however. That to me means going deep into the theory.....


-- J.S.

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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729415
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When I first started to play the piano, I played by ear (I was 15 years old). I didn't know anything about reading music, music theory, until I started to take piano lessons. I found that having played by ear was a huge plus when I started ear training. As I progressed, I found that I memorized the pieces I was studying without wanting to. I would read through a piece and would find that I "knew" the notes after three of four times of playing it. My teacher would ask how I did it - and I didn't know. I am now 60 years old. When I approach a new piece of music, I play it very slowly, one hand at a time, then together. I still find that I have memorized the section I have been learning rather quickly. I really can't say what order it occurs - visual/aural/motor/understand. When I was in College, I had a professor in my education class that gave us a Chinese proverb to consider. "I hear and I forget ; I see and I remember; I do and I understand." Would say the last part applies to us musicians, but not the first two. Everyone learns differently.


Barbara
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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729429
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning. With beginners' music which contains few notes, it's a lot easier to learn to play from memory than from reading from the score, and that's the bane of many teachers, if you read the Piano Teachers Forum - often leading to students who simply never learnt to read music.

I've mentioned this before: like most students brought up on the ABRSM grade system, I never had to memorise any piece, but developed good reading skills. In fact, I never deliberately set out to memorise any piece until I started doing a regular monthly piano recital some years ago, when I decided that it would be better to play all my pieces from memory (mainly because I have no page-turner).

And that was when I discovered how time-consuming and slow the memorisation process is, and even when you think the piece is 'securely' memorised, things can still 'blank out' in the heat of the moment during performance. I remember watching a piano competition, and realised how all but one of the competitors had memory lapses here and there. Mostly small ones, and likely only noticeable to people who know the music very well. And these are pianists who've almost certainly been polishing and performing those same pieces for years.

On average, it takes me about five times as long to learn to play a piece from memory as to learn to play it from the score to the same technical & musical standard. 'Logical-sounding' pieces from the Classical era (which I can almost play by ear) take much less time, whereas composers like Bartók can take ten times longer to memorise. And I also found that it's much better to decide right from the start, before I start learning the piece, whether I'm going to memorise it. Because if so, I'll memorise while I'm learning to play the notes, section by section. Sometimes even bar by bar, and I keep looking out for patterns, groups of notes, harmonic and melodic features, key changes & modulations, regularities and irregularities that will help me to keep the music in my memory.


"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: Memorisation [Re: Music Me] #2729467
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Originally Posted by bennevis

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Nothing to do with difficulty learning to read with music. My cousin at the age of 5 could hear and play a piece just like that. And my nephew, now an accomplished guitarist had never played anything until the age of 17 and 6 years later still can't read music - he is trying to learn.

Originally Posted by Music Me
I really can't say what order it occurs - visual/aural/motor/understand.

Yes it is difficult to work out how one learns and plays. Has taken me quite a while but I hope it is going to help me improve. I rely too much on motor skills.

And -JohnSprung - perhaps I am rather an odd case. With a new piece I still tend to simply sit down and play it without even looking at the title and with just a glance at the key and time signature. And for any piece up to at least intermediate level expect to be able to play it at the correct speed. This is NOT a good strategy and I do now practice hard whereas when young it meant I didn't need to practice other than playing pieces through. Am in the first year of a ten year attempt to rectify my misdemeanours!


Roland LX7

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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729493
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
... good at sight reading and very poor at memorisation and I have come to the conclusion that the reasons for this is due to the order in which I process information when playing the piano. I see, I play, I listen, I understand. ... To those who are natural memorisers I ask, how do you process the information?

FWIW I've always been a good memorizer . I process musical information by hearing first, then I try to understand and physically play/see the keyboard. Perhaps it is because I was first taught by my mother/aunts/grandmother without notation; they would just show me stuff directly on the piano so I could play along. This is probably why I was such a poor reader for many years.

I'm a much better reader now, but I do notice when I'm tired and focusing too much on the notes that the memorization skill can "drop out". It's probably my most easily fatigued skill (turning notation into music). I have to mentally step back from the score, so that the other musical senses kick in. It's like I'm processing them with a completely different part of the brain! Oddly enough, I find it very easy to do the reverse - turning the music into notation.


We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Memorisation [Re: bennevis] #2729805
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Joshua Foer wrote a book where he spent several years looking for natural memorizers. He didn't find any: those people who were considered natural memorizers used the same mnemonic tricks as everyone else (maybe more of them). They may have discovered those tricks on their own (which is why they were considered natural), without a tutor or reading a book, but ultimately it was the same thing all our brains do.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Memorisation [Re: phantomFive] #2729816
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Joshua Foer wrote a book where he spent several years looking for natural memorizers. He didn't find any: those people who were considered natural memorizers used the same mnemonic tricks as everyone else (maybe more of them). They may have discovered those tricks on their own (which is why they were considered natural), without a tutor or reading a book, but ultimately it was the same thing all our brains do.


I haven't read the book so I can't comment on his findings. However this lady would certainly seem to be what I would call a natural memoriser.

Natural Memoriser


Roland LX7

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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729832
04/18/18 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Joshua Foer wrote a book where he spent several years looking for natural memorizers. He didn't find any: those people who were considered natural memorizers used the same mnemonic tricks as everyone else (maybe more of them). They may have discovered those tricks on their own (which is why they were considered natural), without a tutor or reading a book, but ultimately it was the same thing all our brains do.


I haven't read the book so I can't comment on his findings. However this lady would certainly seem to be what I would call a natural memoriser.

Natural Memoriser


Hi. Colin
Further down in the interview, she talks about the difficulties of memorizing Chopin and the steps she takes. further on in the article she discusses about tactile and auditory part of memorization. I would find her not to be a natural memorizer, but just someone who systematically thought of a process and uses it


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Memorisation [Re: dogperson] #2729838
04/18/18 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Joshua Foer wrote a book where he spent several years looking for natural memorizers. He didn't find any: those people who were considered natural memorizers used the same mnemonic tricks as everyone else (maybe more of them). They may have discovered those tricks on their own (which is why they were considered natural), without a tutor or reading a book, but ultimately it was the same thing all our brains do.


I haven't read the book so I can't comment on his findings. However this lady would certainly seem to be what I would call a natural memoriser.

Natural Memoriser


Hi. Colin
Further down in the interview, she talks about the difficulties of memorizing Chopin and the steps she takes. further on in the article she discusses about tactile and auditory part of memorization. I would find her not to be a natural memorizer, but just someone who systematically thought of a process and uses it


Yes indeed. I know exactly what she means, but if playing from memory from the age of four doesn't constitute a natural memoriser that I really think that there is something wrong with the term 'natural'.

As she says later on 'When I was 8 years old, a friend asked me how I memorised pieces. At the time I thought this was a silly question – I don’t do anything, the music is just there! She replied that this was very dangerous, because ‘if you’re ever feeling unwell there’s nothing to rely upon’. Fifteen years later I realised what she meant! As we get older, our lives get much busier (and the music usually gets harder too!) and our brains can easily get overloaded. So now I find I need a strategy for memorising.'


Roland LX7

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Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729853
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Joshua Foer wrote a book where he spent several years looking for natural memorizers. He didn't find any: those people who were considered natural memorizers used the same mnemonic tricks as everyone else (maybe more of them). They may have discovered those tricks on their own (which is why they were considered natural), without a tutor or reading a book, but ultimately it was the same thing all our brains do.


I haven't read the book so I can't comment on his findings. However this lady would certainly seem to be what I would call a natural memoriser.

Natural Memoriser


When I read what you wrote here, it seems like you are saying to me, "I am ignorant and don't want to research, but I still want you to take my opinion seriously." You are a case study in confirmation bias, you only see things that support your already chosen view, you ignore other people who tried to explain it to you, and furthermore you seem somewhat perturbed and emotional. How can your opinion possibly be taken seriously?

To answer your question though, Bennevis gave a good description of how someone might appear from the outside to be a natural memorizer, even though what they are doing is not so unique. Read his post again and see what you think.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729875
04/18/18 12:46 PM
04/18/18 12:46 PM
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Derek Paravicini apparently remebers every tune he has ever heard, and can play them all, and as such should qualify as a (super)natural.

Most of you have seen the Amadeus movie at one point or another, I assume. The way he was portrayed in the movie, he was a natural as well, listen then play(an improved version).

In both cases there is a hearing(recording), and intellectual process(replay/transform) going on. But no visual or muscle memory for the music itself.

Those who have photographic memory, and with advanced skills, could in theory skip the muscle memory part?

Blind people who play, also have a ‘visual’ phase when reading sheet music with fingers. I have cousine that can replay just about anything I can come up with, close to perfection, so his memory definitely works differently than mine.

Personally, when I learn something, I do it by association. I prefer to play by memory, because then you always have the songs with you if the chance (a piano) reveals itself. However, it takes more intense practice.

One of my children that plays jazz, learns all pieces just by hearing. It takes about one hour to learn a new piece; all children following this school do the same thing. They always play together, so the learning process is quite intense.


Last edited by Skjalg; 04/18/18 03:19 PM.
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729883
04/18/18 01:11 PM
04/18/18 01:11 PM
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Concerning the question whether natural memorisers exist or not, I would definitely say yes. And probably the most well-known memoriser was Rachmaninoff. I read the memoirs by his friend Goedicke who was absolutely shocked by Rachmaninoff's unique memorization abilities. That's what is written on that topic in Wikipedia:

Quote
Rachmaninoff ... could hear a piece of music, even a symphony, then play it back the next day, the next year, or a decade after that. Siloti would give him a long and demanding piece to learn, such as Brahms' Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Two days later Rachmaninoff would play it "with complete artistic finish." Alexander Goldenweiser said, "Whatever composition was ever mentioned—piano, orchestral, operatic, or other—by a Classical or contemporary composer, if Rachmaninoff had at any time heard it, and most of all if he liked it, he played it as though it were a work he had studied thoroughly."


Hofmann was reported to have similar abilities too.

I have no answer how this is possible but I guess it's becuase of the combination of unique inborn memory for music and a sublime pitch which allowed Rachmaninoff to turn instantly and almost effortlessly his musical memories into playing. I think the memory for music (for symphonies, etc.) can hardly be substantially improved by training. I personally could not do it. It may be an interesting topic to discuss on its own. But I confirm that ear training and the ability to play from memory by ear greatly helps in that matter, exactly because it allows to turn musical memories into actual sound on-the-fly without any disruptions. If you don't struggle with every note when trying to play from aural memory, it makes difference.

I'm sure that the key to good memorization is really a well-trained ear.


P.S.: And one more piece of advice that I was given long ago by one of my teachers (she was a brilliant memoriser, with outstanding pitch, she was graduating from Moscow Conservatory at that time) and that may also be interesting and helpful for someone, is not to learn to memorize musical phrases, but instead to learn to recall them. "Just sit and recall", she used to say.

I hope it will help someone.

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 04/18/18 01:13 PM.
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729891
04/18/18 01:35 PM
04/18/18 01:35 PM
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I have a 50 year old student who has an excellent ear and reads poorly. He has perfect pitch and is able to name all the notes in dense chords quite easily. He listens to a piece many times first before attempting to learn it. He practices in his head imagining the keyboard. Then he "cheats" when he sightreads - he is following the music in his head and filling in the blanks with his eyes. If I give him a piece he has never heard his reading is very slow and he often uses his ear to guess where the music is going. When I sightread I rely almost totally on me eye first and then if it sounds wrong I look at it more closely. He seems to do the opposite.

I was practicing the Tchaikovsky piano concerto 1 a few years ago and my student came in for a lesson. He told me he had heard it on the radio a few days earlier and proceeded to play an outline of the first movement. Wow what I would give for that ability. When I hear a piece of music mostly the melody is what I remember. My student remembers all the harmony and the melody and seems to keep a record of all that stored in his brain after only a few listens. He is obviously a natural memorizer. His perfect pitch allows him to play what's in his head accurately. Part of his amazing ability is due to the fact that he practiced practicing in his head ever since he was a young child. He did this naturally - hence natural memorizer. When he would hear his dad playing a piece, he would play it back in his head and then practice it imagining the keys. He does this with every song he is interested in.

Also he has hundreds of pop songs in his head. He can play them in any key. I asked how he transposes them. He said "well, I hear it in the new key in my head and then my fingers follow the music". Duh lol

Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729905
04/18/18 02:05 PM
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Fascinating thread! As an adult, I do not seem to memorize songs as quickly as I did as a kid. However, when I watch kids I notice that they will quickly jump onto any piano and try to play something from memory, regardless of how many mistakes or if they get stuck. I realized that I memorize something faster the more often I have to play it impromptu without music available. I think this repeated experience and willingness to jump at the opportunity to play just for fun, regardless of mistakes, is why kids memorize songs faster than adults (or at least me). In many ways, we humans memorize things our brains think they need to recall quickly (e.g., social security number, phone numbers, address, names, important stories about our kids and family, etc.). Another reason I like seeing street pianos is that it gives the opportunity to push our brains into instant recall of music we can play. It is like child's play!

Re: Memorisation [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2729918
04/18/18 02:49 PM
04/18/18 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
... and helpful for someone, is not to learn to memorize musical phrases, but instead to learn to recall them. "Just sit and recall", she used to say. I hope it will help someone.

Yes this. thumb When you hear it, play it. Even better - when you hear it, audiate and then play it. The main thing is to engage the skill of hearing it, to playing it. If you constantly use a visual score to recall the music you're practicing a completely different skill.

A simple ear-training trick is to record short bits of a piece into an iPhone and then randomly shuffle the audio as a quiz - so you're prompting yourself by what you hear not what you see. The result looks magical - but it's not, it's just something you do until ... you just do it. And honestly, you've been training your ears for years like this so you're probably already very good at it without realizing it.

For example, everyone knows the famous beginning of of Beethoven's 5th, anyone can sing and audiate it ... even little kids and bugs bunny. If you quiz yourself occasionally by singing it, audiating or listening to it - and then play it, it looks like magic but of course it's not.

In the same vein, my blues/jazz teacher gives me never-ending aural pop quizzes. He'll play something on the piano behind me or play something off his iPhone and have me repeat it back on the piano (many times I already know it, sometimes I don't). We also play a game where I'll be improvising and he'll play a bass line, riff, rhythm or chord progression and I'll have to incorporate it into what I'm playing. As you can imagine my first few sessions were tragic, but I've gotten much better over time. And it's amazing to me how quickly this all translates to hearing those things in actual songs off the radio/tv etc.


We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2729936
04/18/18 03:45 PM
04/18/18 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
As a sight-reader I am visual, motor, aural and then understanding/intellectual. With a natural memoriser would it be aural, motor, visual and intellectual? And does how you are initially taught as a youngster, or not taught if you simply sit down and play, determine what kind of memoriser or sight-reader, and ultimately musician, you become? And are there any strategies to change this other than 'simple' practice?

Is there such a thing as 'natural memorisers'? I suspect that kids - and adults too - who memorise do so because they had difficulty learning to read music when they were learning.


Joshua Foer wrote a book where he spent several years looking for natural memorizers. He didn't find any: those people who were considered natural memorizers used the same mnemonic tricks as everyone else (maybe more of them). They may have discovered those tricks on their own (which is why they were considered natural), without a tutor or reading a book, but ultimately it was the same thing all our brains do.


I haven't read the book so I can't comment on his findings. However this lady would certainly seem to be what I would call a natural memoriser.

Natural Memoriser


Hi. Colin
Further down in the interview, she talks about the difficulties of memorizing Chopin and the steps she takes. further on in the article she discusses about tactile and auditory part of memorization. I would find her not to be a natural memorizer, but just someone who systematically thought of a process and uses it


Yes indeed. I know exactly what she means, but if playing from memory from the age of four doesn't constitute a natural memoriser that I really think that there is something wrong with the term 'natural'.

As she says later on 'When I was 8 years old, a friend asked me how I memorised pieces. At the time I thought this was a silly question – I don’t do anything, the music is just there! She replied that this was very dangerous, because ‘if you’re ever feeling unwell there’s nothing to rely upon’. Fifteen years later I realised what she meant! As we get older, our lives get much busier (and the music usually gets harder too!) and our brains can easily get overloaded. So now I find I need a strategy for memorising.'


Colin, I would suggest that you re-read the interview in the entirety rather than picking out one sentence. There are two sections that indicates she is 'not natural' no matter the age she started memorizing: her process of breaking Chopin down into sections. Secondly, that she incorporates music theory and sound into the learning process. This is a 'natural memorizer' that incorporates the required elements of memorizing into a process. She is working smart, just not 'naturally doing it'


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Memorisation [Re: Colin Miles] #2730064
04/19/18 05:54 AM
04/19/18 05:54 AM
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I had a very good university friend that I think may have fitted into the 'natural memoriser' category. I was a complete non-musician at the time so do be sceptical about my observations :-)

He used to play classical and ragtime and his 'rule' was 'never play a piece more than twice at once then move on' and not surprisingly his repertoire was huge and his sight reading phenomenal, he could make a fair stab playing through most new material first time around and second time was if not faultless at least listenable and he wouldn't need to read the score for much of that second play either. He also had the ability to listen to a piece being played, just once, and then sit down and play a reasonable representation of it by ear.

Our memories worked very differently, I always dug up memories in exams (we studied science not music) by recalling concepts, he had a semi photographic memory and would bring up a visual memory of his lecture notes during the exam so maybe that was related to the music memorisation.

Re: Memorisation [Re: dogperson] #2730068
04/19/18 07:26 AM
04/19/18 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson


Colin, I would suggest that you re-read the interview in the entirety rather than picking out one sentence. There are two sections that indicates she is 'not natural' no matter the age she started memorizing: her process of breaking Chopin down into sections. Secondly, that she incorporates music theory and sound into the learning process. This is a 'natural memorizer' that incorporates the required elements of memorizing into a process. She is working smart, just not 'naturally doing it'


That is fifteen years later!! After she realises that she can't just rely on her natural memory.

And for the record I have or certainly had perfect pitch (try not to rely on it nowadays) but have a poor aural memory. I am more of a 'natural' sight-reader!

Last edited by Colin Miles; 04/19/18 07:29 AM.

Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
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