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Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
outo #2753958 07/26/18 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by outo
I do not memorize easy and do suffer from random blanks, but those are still much less disturbing than having to perform with the score. I never know when my vision fails me or I fail a page turn horribly...even if I know I can forget something I am much more relaxed when playing from memory smile

But it does take a lot of time to memorize and if not maintained must be brought back...so there's really no great solution.
With practice playing from the score is not a problem. Page turns usually have to be planned carefully, and sometimes one must memorize a few measures either before or after the page turn.

I used to give lengthy Christmas recitals at a senior center. These were around 1.5 hours of music(I only played about half the music at a time) and well over 100 pages of late intermediate to advanced arrangements of Xmas songs in jazz arrangements. Since I don't really play jazz, memorizing the chords and rhythms would have been extremely difficult. I'd guess that around 15 minutes would have been possible for me if I had played from memory.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/26/18 10:50 AM.
Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
pianoloverus #2753961 07/26/18 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

Except for pianists who feel they play better from memory or memorize with extreme ease or professionals who usually have no choice but to perform from memory, I think most pianists would greatly benefit from not playing from memory at all.

My reasons:
1. Avoid one of the main causes of performance anxiety.
2. Instead of spending so much time trying to rea.ch a level of memorization that is near infallable, one can use that time learning much more repertoire or working on technique.


This certainly works for me. I have become accustomed to not memorizing due, in part, to my regular attendance at a summer piano "camp" where the opportunities to perform in masterclasses and in recitals are quite numerous over a two-week period. The emphasis is to get as much professional and collegial feedback on as many different works as possible during that time. Hence, my preparation is not focused on memorizing a couple of works but to prepare and have, performance-ready, several.

With works that are almost all "nearly memorized" along with considerable practice playing from the score, when I have to look away from the score momentarily I always know where I am on the page even when not reading. I mark crucial points with coloured "sticky dots" (so I know where my eyes are to return to) and the system has yet to fail me. Page turns are planned with, when necessary, the memorization of enough measures that I can execute the page turn easily.

That said, my regular teacher encourages me to do some memorization during the course of the year, but when it comes to performances of these works I have the score in front of me "just in case." Those performances are the ones where I am most at ease, nor do I feel confined or limited by having the score in front of me.

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Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
pianoloverus #2753963 07/26/18 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by outo
I do not memorize easy and do suffer from random blanks, but those are still much less disturbing than having to perform with the score. I never know when my vision fails me or I fail a page turn horribly...even if I know I can forget something I am much more relaxed when playing from memory smile

But it does take a lot of time to memorize and if not maintained must be brought back...so there's really no great solution.
With practice playing from the score is not a problem. Page turns usually have to be planned carefully, and sometimes one must memorize a few measures either before or after the page turn.


When I say I worry about failing a page turn I mean getting stuck somehow and dropping the whole score on the floor...I am that clumsy with papers...or not manage to turn because my figertips are too dry and slip on the paper.

Clearly people have different difficulties with both memorizing or playing from the score, so I will not advice what others should do... one's own teacher may be qualified to do that.

Anyway my point was that for me personally scores cause more performance anxiety that playing from memory.

Last edited by outo; 07/26/18 11:14 AM.
Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2753968 07/26/18 11:34 AM
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Having been a collaborative pianist/organist for most of my life, playing from a score was essential. Turning pages was a pain and a page turner always employed at concerts.

Now, I use an iPad Pro with a foot pedal for all my professional work and it has solved my problem. Learning to use it properly took about 6 months or more. Using the proper shoes and knowing the floor type is essential as well. I always carry rubber and felt pads to accommodate differing floors.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
itsfreakingmeout #2753982 07/26/18 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by itsfreakingmeout
My teacher pushes that on her students. Her philosophy is that you don’t really know the piece unless you can play the left hand by itself, and the right hand by itself.

This is nonsense


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Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2753984 07/26/18 01:20 PM
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I never memorized any pieces (apart from those for my diploma exam when I was a student, but not for my ABRSM grade exams) until seven years ago, when I started a monthly recital series for colleagues and those in allied professions - none of whom are musicians.

Playing from the score would look amateurish because I have no page-turner, so I resorted to memorizing all my pieces. (BTW, I didn't even own a home computer until 2012, so fancy electronic gadgets are beyond my comprehension). As most of my audience changes from one recital to the next (apart from a small hard core who attends regularly), I can recycle pieces regularly, and only need to add a new piece about once every two to three months to my performing rep.

I've learnt how to deal with memory lapses, and they don't bother me anymore - especially since I discovered that hardly anyone in my audience were aware of them (as I don't play 'popular classics', so almost all the pieces I perform are unfamiliar to them) grin, as long as I kept going without missing a beat.

The great side-effect of my memorizing spree over the years is that I now have about two hours' worth of a wide range of classical music that I can perform anytime, anywhere - which stood me in good stead when I went on my first cruise recently, and was given a free run of the Yamaha baby grand in the piano bar during the daytime. A great way to win friends and influence people...... wink


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Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2753987 07/26/18 01:33 PM
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Maybe too obvious, but if you don't want to memorize, just pick pieces that are short enough to not need page turns. You may want to xerox and tape together 3 or 4 pages.


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Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2754001 07/26/18 02:41 PM
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I’m envious of anyone who memorizes easily. As a young adult, I did all my recitals from memory. Then life intervened.

Wang Yuja used an iPad Pro and footpedal for her last recital in Toronto a month ago, so I don’t feel so bad.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
JohnSprung #2754004 07/26/18 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Maybe too obvious, but if you don't want to memorize, just pick pieces that are short enough to not need page turns. You may want to xerox and tape together 3 or 4 pages.



Wouldn't help much because I have specific problems with my vision and actually have to enlarge my scores so that there are even more pages...

Those vision problems are the other reason why I would not want to perform with a score. The page can suddenly blur or the notes move around and that's not fun...and after enough reading I will start developing a headache if I cannot take a little break. Short memory lapses are better than saying I need to stop for a while to rest and close my eyes smile

These problems were the main reason why I gave up the idea of any serious instrument study when young. When I played the flute as a teenager I used to black out during my lessons and saw nothing on the page for a while...I just kept playing whatever and it drove my teacher nuts. Didn't occur to me that I should have explained what happened. Then again I had tried to tell my former piano teacher but she obviously thought I was just lazy and didn't want to practice reading.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
JohnSprung #2754005 07/26/18 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Maybe too obvious, but if you don't want to memorize, just pick pieces that are short enough to not need page turns. You may want to xerox and tape together 3 or 4 pages.


That was the way I played my grade exam pieces, to avoid awkward page turns. But there, you get a breather between pieces while the examiner writes his report, so you have time to set up your music for the next piece.

In a recital - even an amateur one of the sort I do - all that faffing before each piece is definitely a no-no, apart from the fact that with classical pieces, you don't want to limit yourself to short pieces, or pieces that provide good opportunities for easy page-turning. Also, many fast pieces - the ones I really enjoy performing - take up many pages even though they don't last very long. For example, Ravel's Ondine, which takes less than seven minutes to perform, takes up twelve sides of dense notation with no opportunity to free a hand to turn a page. (BTW, the tempo indication is lent, but......).


"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: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2754009 07/26/18 03:17 PM
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I have no choice but to memorize as I can’t see past 18 inches or so to read. I’ve thought of rigging something from the ceiling to hang my pad or a sheet up. I made huge flash cards to learn the Bass clef.


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Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2754012 07/26/18 03:21 PM
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To the topic of the thread - No, I don't think it is necessary to memorize pieces hands separately. Actually I would recommend NOT to do so. It might be necessary to memorize certain passages separately because the unique difficulty of one hand. However, I will not do that for the entire piece as a whole. My reason is that playing a piece hand-separately is a completely different task than playing hands together. It's like playing two completely different pieces for me. Also hands coordination IS part of the memorization process for the piece. I asked my teacher about this topic. She generally agreed with me (especially in my case personally). However, she did point out that sometimes with her younger/beginner students, she let them play hands separately first so the student could feel like he/she accomplished "something". She uses this approach with some kids during the lesson - the kid plays right hand and she plays left hand so they feel they are making music together. She does not use this approach with her intermediate or advanced students.

Now to the topic of "playing from memory" - this topic comes up a lot, both in PW and in real life discussion among musicians. I have been debating this myself. In my personal experience, playing with music and playing from memory is also two very different tasks even though I am playing the same piece. When I perform from memory AND everything goes as well as planned, I do feel much better about the whole experience, feeling I gave an extra "kick" to the performance. The audience seems to respond better too. Of course I have my share of memory slips and LOTS of anxiety before the performance. For now I am willing to deal with it but not sure how much longer I want to keep going that. Also, memorizing a piece (for me) is a lot of extra time and effort. I can certainly see why many people don't want to invest the time and effort on memorization.

My struggle is that after spending so many days/weeks memorizing a piece, I perform it with OK result. However, a few weeks/months later I already forgot lots of it and could not play the piece from memory anymore. Not being able to maintain the memory is extremely frustrating for me. Not sure what other people do to improve this.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
Midlife_Piano #2754020 07/26/18 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Midlife_Piano
.........not sure how much longer I want to keep going that. Also, memorizing a piece (for me) is a lot of extra time and effort. I can certainly see why many people don't want to invest the time and effort on memorization.

My struggle is that after spending so many days/weeks memorizing a piece, I perform it with OK result. However, a few weeks/months later I already forgot lots of it and could not play the piece from memory anymore. Not being able to maintain the memory is extremely frustrating for me. Not sure what other people do to improve this.




It takes me at least five times as long to learn a piece to play from memory as to learn it to play from the score with the same fluency, so I don't waste time trying to memorize pieces I have no intention of keeping indefinitely in my rep. I learn many more pieces than I actually memorize, and occasionally, I find riches in a piece that I hadn't intended to keep, so I end up memorizing it. (I also sight-read through a lot of pieces that I don't actually intend to learn properly.)

I kept recycling 'old' pieces to perform, so even if a previously memorized piece becomes half-forgotten after a couple of months of neglect, by returning to it and bringing it back to performance standard, it goes deeper into my long-term memory. Each time I do that, it becomes more securely memorized until it never gets forgotten again, even if I don't touch it again for years. Many of the pieces that I memorized seven years ago have been recycled often enough that I never forget them, even if sections here and there might require a bit of practicing to get them back to performance standard technically.

Of course, if you accumulate a lot of memorized rep, it becomes harder and harder to keep all of them in your 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: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
itsfreakingmeout #2754037 07/26/18 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by itsfreakingmeout
My teacher pushes that on her students. Her philosophy is that you don’t really know the piece unless you can play the left hand by itself, and the right hand by itself.


And I've heard of a few teachers and pianists who say you don't really have a piece memorized until you can write out the score away from the keyboard. That actually makes more sense to me than using the ability to play the hands separately as the criterion. But I think it should be whatever works for the individual, since we are not all the same.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
hexentanz #2754127 07/27/18 09:27 AM
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My teacher does not really ask me to write out the score but she does tell me there are many things we can do to memorize the music "away from the keyboard". For me personally, because my music theory background is not very strong, I actually memorize the music "the hard way" - almost like I am studying for a big exam. I will remember something like "the first note on next page starts with D" or "the left hand here should be on black key" - sounds stupid and not musical at all, but it actually works for me (most of the time). I try not to rely on muscle memory too much - muscle memory is where I mostly have slips during performance due to stress, unfamiliar room and unfamiliar piano.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a big advocate of playing from memory but I am still trying to do it as much as I could. I feel memorizing a piece is a very different task even though I am playing the same piece. Also, playing from the scores sometimes gives me a "false assurance" about a piece - meaning I think I am ready to perform but actually I am not quite there yet. I have seen this in many performances (with music) and I think that happens to many amateur pianists.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
Midlife_Piano #2754130 07/27/18 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Midlife_Piano
Also, playing from the scores sometimes gives me a "false assurance" about a piece - meaning I think I am ready to perform but actually I am not quite there yet. I have seen this in many performances (with music) and I think that happens to many amateur pianists.
This a very good point. Even though I don’t memorize anymore, I still need to get the music off the page, which takes as long as it did to memorize a piece. The score becomes merely reference notes. The music is internalized, one way or the other.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
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The last several posts get to the core of why memorization is deemed to be at least desirable, and for all intents and purposes necessary for pianists who seek to perform professionally. It is indeed very important to give the illusion that you are not chained to the printed page even if you're using the score -- and memorizing forces you to "make the music your own". I suspect that high-level concert pianists do in fact learn hands separately, if only as a tool to manage the memory lapses that inevitably occur from time to time. But in addition, it unquestionably also deepens the understanding of how a given piece of music "moves". The Amateur Competitions do not generally require memorization of repertoire, but that's understood to be an implicit acknowledgement that many of the participants have only limited time and/or performance experience to manage that demand gracefully, even those with high technical proficiency.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
Tim Adrianson #2754161 07/27/18 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson
The last several posts get to the core of why memorization is deemed to be at least desirable, and for all intents and purposes necessary for pianists who seek to perform professionally. It is indeed very important to give the illusion that you are not chained to the printed page even if you're using the score -- and memorizing forces you to "make the music your own".
But I think that is mostly because people are used to seeing professional pianists mostly play without the score. I don't think people think the pianists in piano trios or piano quartets or pianists playing contemporary music look chained to the score because they are used to seeing them play with the score in those situations.

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
pianoloverus #2754163 07/27/18 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson
The last several posts get to the core of why memorization is deemed to be at least desirable, and for all intents and purposes necessary for pianists who seek to perform professionally. It is indeed very important to give the illusion that you are not chained to the printed page even if you're using the score -- and memorizing forces you to "make the music your own".
But I think that is mostly because people are used to seeing professional pianists mostly play without the score. I don't think people think the pianists in piano trios or piano quartets or pianists playing contemporary music look chained to the score because they are used to seeing them play with the score in those situations.


I've been to quite a few recitals where the pianist play with the score and I admit there is a certain difference to when they played without...maybe it's partly because there's all the hazzle with the papers between pieces or the page turner jumping up and down that break the atmosphere a bit...

Chamber music is not quite the same, since there are usually one or two violinists ruining the full piano experience for me anyway wink

Re: Is it necessary to memorize pieces hands separately first?
pianoloverus #2754169 07/27/18 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson
The last several posts get to the core of why memorization is deemed to be at least desirable, and for all intents and purposes necessary for pianists who seek to perform professionally. It is indeed very important to give the illusion that you are not chained to the printed page even if you're using the score -- and memorizing forces you to "make the music your own".
But I think that is mostly because people are used to seeing professional pianists mostly play without the score. I don't think people think the pianists in piano trios or piano quartets or pianists playing contemporary music look chained to the score because they are used to seeing them play with the score in those situations.

I agree.

If it weren't for Clara Schumann and Liszt (oddly enough, the one pianist she couldn't stand......) who started the rot between them, we might all still be taking performing classical music from the score as standard, and anyone doing otherwise as 'show-offs'. After all Chopin never played from memory, nor did Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach..........

More than once in my recitals, I'd had people talking to me afterwards as if I was a professional pianist, rather than an imposter and actually 'one of them' (i.e. in a similar profession) grin; or even wondering why I played from memory, because they'd only ever seen classical musicians play from the music. Did I have trouble with my eyesight? Or was it because I cannot read music, and had to learn my pieces by rote?

I normally tell them I forgot my reading glasses, and so decided to play from memory instead..... wink


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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