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For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
#2833550 03/31/19 08:34 PM
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So I'm starting a new thread on this instead of taking over interstellar's on paper vs digital. I'm largely copying the following message from that thread.

I'm seeking techniques for intentional memorization of piano music scores from those of you out there which find you mostly remember things in an automated fashion, without intentional effort, but who, like me, don't remember "everything" - not everything is stored. The question of this thread is, when that happens and you find that your automated memorization mechanism has failed you, what are some techniques you use for musical scores to memorize the portion(s) that are not in your memory and connect those smoothly to the portions which were automatically "saved." And do you then have to do anything special to smooth out where the intentional memory connects to the automatic memory?

Also, do any of you who fall into this category of automatic memorizer find that your automatic memory is one thing (say visual) and your intentional memorization is another thing (say handshapes, fingering, etc)?

The rest of this post below is taken from my post on interstellar's thread over here.

So let me give an example of how automated memorization has crippled me in school. So many people learn to take notes in class. Through experience, they outline, they abbreviate. Note taking skills then develop over a period of time. However, because I'm an automated memorizer, most stuff I write down is useless - I already remember it and if I'm studying for a test for example, I find my notebook full of stuff I already know. So then the answer is write down the stuff that I will forget. But how do I determine in advance what is the stuff I would forget? Well data and statistics for one. Yes, that, I did figure out early in life I should write down as random sounding lists of numbers or words I will forget. The ultimate result is that I would never take notes unless the professor would give data (countries that didn't sign the Geneva Convention, year that Mozart went to Vienna, etc), and that had an interesting effect which was that my ability to write with pencil and pen deteriorated. Today, I can barely write for 5 mins with pencil/pen without suffering muscle cramps in my hand.

Going back to musical scores, I'm determined that I should not let this automated memorization thing hamper my piano, as my memory hindered my note-taking in school. So I want to learn all the ways people with good memories try to intentionally memorize things that they didn't already happen to remember, and see if I can use those ways myself.

Originally Posted by ShyPianist
but it was always the case that I could quite easily memorise the look of the music on the page and also get the muscle memory down. I would call this passive memorising. In my younger days this was almost always enough to see me through, although I found playing from memory an incredibly stressful experience (perhaps because I knew I was “winging it”). But I don’t ever remember having to make a conscious effort to memorise anything.

Well, as determined on the other thread you alluded to, we determined my memory is at least a shade worse than yours wink so yes, there are things which I do have to make a conscious effort to memorize, but for which I'm at a loss for how to do it. This is not an entire score, but probably amounts to 10-20% of the score. Different methods I've tried range from staring intently at the notes which seemed to have slipped away, to repeating their letter names and durations to myself, to just "copping out" and seeing if muscle memory can remember something instead of my brain. I've also tried just remembering the intervals, but in all respects, I find that worse than remembering the letter names of the notes.

Originally Posted by ShyPianist
Now I find memory acquired through those passive methods is not so reliable, perhaps because I’m even more self aware, and so I’m paying much more attention to the analytical side of things.

Interesting. Not sure why that would have an effect unless it is something akin to "analysis paralysis" - over analyzing? Thinking some pattern of notes can't possibly be correct because of some analytical knowledge you have about the music?

Originally Posted by ShyPianist
I was always taught to memorise a piece in chunks starting at the end and I still do this, because then you are always playing into and reinforcing what you know. But I now definitely need to have deep knowledge of the notes and the structure of the piece to feel it’s going to stick.

I've tried that some times. But haven't done it consistently. Often, the very end of pieces, are among the things that get remembered automatically so I don't have to spend time trying to memorize those. The sorts of things that I do seem to have to manually memorize are where two different themes connect, places where the note durations vary a lot, because in those places the note pitches might automatically go into memory but not their individual durations, etc.


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833567 03/31/19 09:25 PM
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I can't memorize a dang thing so I always play from the score. I believe it was Liszt and Clara Schumann who established the custom of playing from memory. It worked for them but Is it really necessary? I don't think so for obvious reasons.


With new students Chopin was chiefly anxious to do away with any stiffness in, or cramped, or convulsive movement of the hand, thereby obtaining the first requisite of fine technique "souplesse" (suppleness). -- Carl Mikuli on Chopin the teacher.
Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833578 03/31/19 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
The sorts of things that I do seem to have to manually memorize are where two different themes connect, places where the note durations vary a lot, because in those places the note pitches might automatically go into memory but not their individual durations, etc.

Aural memory goes hand in hand with muscle memory. The former gets developed along with aural skills. Visual memory plays a big part in more complex stuff, e.g. the shape of your hands before they land slap bang on a chord - changing shape in mid-air during flight, along with knowledge of what kind of chord you're playing next etc, e.g. in Asturias. Ditto for arpeggios. Proprioception of course is essential to enable you to do that.

To answer your question directly, something like Von fremden Ländern und Menschen, where some notes are held during which others are played, muscle memory plays the dominant part. Incidentally, a piece like that which is very logical harmonically and melodically and can almost be played entirely by ear is easy to memorize, as are the outer parts of Asturias.

On the other hand, another popular piece like Danza de la moza donosa is tricky in its central section because its harmonic progression is not at all straightforward, and there's no short-cut other than a lot of practicing to get the muscle memory (along with visual cues) into the fingers.

But still the question remains - why memorize unless you're planning to keep a piece in your rep for a very long time (long enough to make the effort worthwhile), and only if you're intending to perform it from memory, or else doing it for the RCM exam.


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833583 03/31/19 10:08 PM
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When I worked in computers programming and developer support there were a number of people who could basically memorized anything they read and could regurgitate it, but most it really didn't help because knowing something and being able to use it are two different things. I did work with one guy who was amazing how he could not only memorize anything he read, but could put it to use. I think an important factor for him is he just didn't memorizes things he would start experimenting and putting to use as soon as he could.

I have a bad memory mainly in I can focus on one topic and master it, but not multiple topics. This has held me back in music I have trouble memorizing tunes and licks. Now what is odd to me I can remember concepts so improvising I don't memorize lick, but I can remember concepts to use in situation to create solos. i can remember rhythms which is key for sight reading but my ear is only so-so. I discovered ear training is tied to good memory ability because remembering frequency/pitch is complex detailed type of data.

I would say the better your memory is the better you can play because it frees you to focus more on expressing yourself, versus just reading the ink.

Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Fidel #2833584 03/31/19 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Fidel
It worked for them but Is it really necessary? I don't think so for obvious reasons.

Originally Posted by bennevis
But still the question remains - why memorize unless you're planning to keep a piece in your rep for a very long time (long enough to make the effort worthwhile), and only if you're intending to perform it from memory, or else doing it for the RCM exam.

Well, these are obviously good points, but my brain remembers 80-90% of a score automatically but then the remaining 10-20% aren't there. I still have to play with a score. And it has added problems.

Something I mentioned in another thread awhile ago is that because 80-90% are already already in my head, I sometimes stare blankly (eyes probably defocused) at the paper score but am actually looking at the score in my memory. This would be great if the score was entirely in my memory. But since it's not, the "piano roll in the brain" runs out and then.... panic!... "where am I in the score in front of me, and why am I looking measures away from what I'm playing.... oh no! I did it again!"

So unless all of it is in my head or none of it, have just 80-90% in the head is quite unsatisfactory and always is causing problems. Since I don't know how to have none of it my head, this thread is about whether those with exceptional memories have little tricks that can get the remaining 10-20% in the head with minimal effort. I figure that if I can already get 80-90% in the head with no perceptible effort beside just trying to play the music, that there might be features of my memory which can be leveraged to get the missing portion in also, only I don't know what those tricks might be. Some of the possible tricks might actually not work for normal memoried people but work brilliantly for me ... if I could only discover what those might be. frown

So anyone who falls into this boat that has discovered any tricks, please let me know!


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833585 03/31/19 10:14 PM
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I identify places in the piece where I can restart in case of trouble (memory posts). These are usually the beginnings of sections. Sometimes there are just a few, but a long sonata movement I am currently working on has 25. I name them and make a document with snippets of the score so I can identify them. My teacher uses that document to test me. For instance, she will say "start at 'right over left'" or "start at 'var 3 B2'". To practice this, I write the names on popsicle sticks, shuffle them, and run through the stack, starting at each spot. I usually play all the way to the next spot when I practice this - I think this helps me with the transitions.

I also use a random timer app for my phone. I can set a range of seconds for it to beep. I will start the timer, and when it goes off, I jump to the next memory post as seamlessly as possible.

I identify the memory posts early in the process of learning the piece - I memorize from the beginning, not after I have learned to play the whole piece. I try not to look at the score after I commit a section to memory. Often I will spend entire practice sessions and never look at the score because I can start in different sections without looking. This instills confidence...

Before I started doing this, I would have a lot of difficulty starting at a random spot in the score. You have probably experienced this - the teacher points to a measure and says, "why don't you start here?" and you can't do it. You have to back up to a more familiar spot. I have gotten so used to jumping around that it doesn't bother me anymore.

Sam

Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Sam S #2833586 03/31/19 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Sam S
Before I started doing this, I would have a lot of difficulty starting at a random spot in the score. You have probably experienced this - the teacher points to a measure and says, "why don't you start here?" and you can't do it. You have to back up to a more familiar spot. I have gotten so used to jumping around that it doesn't bother me anymore.

Yes! I was just discussing this with my teacher a few days ago! I have only 2-3 spots I can restart per page. LOL. That sounds like a really cool idea I should try. Not sure it will help me with my main issue of "missing chunks" but this clearly could be helpful being able to restart almost anywhere.

Since I suffer from performance anxiety, being able to restart almost anywhere should help with that too.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833597 03/31/19 10:50 PM
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There are 3 things you can memorize: notes, finger patterns & sound patterns.

I can remember some intermediate pieces depending on how much repetition is in the music. Some pieces I can go by the finger sequences but if I don't practice for a few weeks, I'll need to read the sheet again. Some pieces that are repetitive after I learn the notes I can recall the piece easily. If I haven't touch a piece for a while, I can sit down for a few minutes and work out the best fingerings.

I don't expect to remember every piece I played but certain ones are easy to put back together once you learn the notes. The pieces with L chords & arpeggios tend to be the easiest to remember. Church hymns with 4-part harmonies tend to be harder without reading.

Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833639 04/01/19 01:47 AM
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This issue of filling in the last 10-20% is one I'm focusing on now. It took me a while to figure out that I was memorizing without trying. I heard all the warnings about going solely on muscle memory, so I've developed a few tweaks that help me - but YMMV. (I'm very impressed by Sam's memory post system, which is surely a lot more foolproof than what I do right now, and/but also requires a lot more diligence.)

What I see in my head is as if I'm reading across every "system" or row of music, without seeing the individual notes. If I stop, I can tell you I'm on the 2nd measure of the 3rd system of the 4th page. I also see or "hear" sticky notes in my teacher's voice with the instructions about a certain difficult spot. (I've learned other subjects by making mental sticky notes in certain places on the page, and can recall where those notes are and, more importantly, what they say.)

Before starting a piece, I divide it into sections, sometimes label them, and look for consistent patterns and for systematic changes such as shifting up a 5th or down a 4th, or from major to minor, etc. I also think about patterns such as hands moving toward one another and then away, interweaving, one hand over or under the other, or RH moves in while LH moves out, or RH moves two octaves up and LH stays put. Analyzing these patterns reinforces or complement muscle memory.

The last 10-20%, as I'm working it out on Dvorak's Dumka right now, occurs mostly where the music changes from an A section to B or vice versa, or where something unique is placed in the music that doesn't fit the general pattern. In the Dumka, there are slight differences at each of the transitions between sections, as well as differences in the dynamics in the large repeated sections. I've had to make my own mental sticky notes about what the differences are. And practice them ad nauseum with the music and then without. (My teacher says, 7 times with no mistakes or start over again. He has more patience than I do.) Since each gap is no more than 4 measures, this might seem relatively easy; the difficulty is remembering which difference goes where. So I have in my head a lot of "first time goes in this direction, 2nd time it's this way, 3rd time there's this totally unique part, etc." At some point, all this will be internalized and I don't have to think about it actively while performing. And I will [usually? often? sometimes?] be able to start "at the top of page 3" or "the second time the main theme comes in" as Sam does.

There must be easier, more systematic, more elegant, or more common sense ways around this. Just saying what works for me. My motivation is that I strongly prefer to play solo pieces without the score; I can express the musicality and direction of the piece more effectively. I try to keep 30 minutes or so in active memory for months, to play wherever I can.

I hope there's something helpful in the above.


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833664 04/01/19 03:53 AM
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The one thing above all that I have learnt from reading all the posts on pianoworld is that everyone is different. This applies to memory, the music they like, the pianos they like, etc., etc. With regard to memorising you simply have to identify your own problems, read all the suggestions that people make, and find out what works for you. Unless you are a super-memoriser there are no easy answers.

Just to illustrate what I mean, I 'automatically' memorise the right hand of any piece I play, but in order to play it from memory I have to learn/memorise the left hand, for which I use a number of strategies. And it takes a long time. That's the way my brain works, but I don't think this will be helpful for you or anyone else.


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833677 04/01/19 04:29 AM
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I was never a person to remember visually the notes on a page. But as a child I remembered nearly all the pieces I learnt and I think it was a combination of audio and muscle memory.

But I've not remembered any whole pieces as an adult, just some small snippets here and there so far. I'd like to be able to remember as I miss the extra bit of freedom it gives you. I remembered it gave me more space for giving the music colour because my brain was less occupied with matching what I'm reading on the page and making that into music.

So perhaps I should develop some strategies as others have done for remembering.

Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833692 04/01/19 05:57 AM
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Just to say to Tyrone, I’ve seen this, interesting questions! Will try to answer later!!


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833693 04/01/19 06:02 AM
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Personally I use several technics in combination; one of them is to lay out the sections of the piece into harmonic and melodic sequences, which I associate mentally with the visual position in the score, so at any point of time I know where I am and what will be the next sequence of chords associated with the melody; so it is a sort of story that I build internally which resonates with the audible result I hear when I play the piece. I also associate each section with specific finger patterns which helps me to lay out mentally how I will play the piece. I rehearse mentally that sequence of hand patterns to make sure it is well ingrained and the harmonic/melodic structure helps me to remember that hand pattern (for example what broken chords need to be played when). I also practice the restart points but anyway none of that prevents to have occasionally a blank type issue even if relatively small; when that happens no other way out but to fill in the blank to reach the next section ...

Re your issue of not being able to both read the score and play from memory, it is because your reading is much slower than accessing your memory, so switching from one to another is difficult; when your reading speed and associated execution will increase it will get easier (it will take time, so no hurry here ...).

Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833711 04/01/19 07:21 AM
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The stuff I can't remember is the stuff I don't understand.

My approach to playing music is first and foremost through my ears, although I learn classical from sheet music (painstakingly slowly). Basically, I don't have any working visual memory for sheet music; it's virtually all sound and tactile memory.

If I cannot remember a piece in its entirety, my solution is to a) play it through (aided by sheet music) many times, and b) listen to the piece, many times, played by a pro. Method a is better than method b, because it also increases muscle memory, but method b is not bad at all. If there is just a single section (or a couple of sections) which I don't remember, I will play through those rather than through the whole thing, most of the times.



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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833728 04/01/19 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I'm seeking techniques for intentional memorization of piano music scores from those of you out there which find you mostly remember things in an automated fashion, without intentional effort, but who, like me, don't remember "everything" - not everything is stored. The question of this thread is, when that happens and you find that your automated memorization mechanism has failed you, what are some techniques you use for musical scores to memorize the portion(s) that are not in your memory and connect those smoothly to the portions which were automatically "saved."

I "automatically" memorize sound and the keys itself entirely disconnected from sheet music and after practicing a piece enough, I can play it that way. I can't visually memorize written music.

But while in the professional piano business playing everything from memory has become the norm, as an amateur I think I'm not bound to that rule. So I try to play from sheet music as much as possible, revisiting older pieces, improving my reading at the same time and following the markings on the score more precisely.

For me I consider playing from memory as some kind of "bad habit" from the days when I was really struggling with reading music. I don't need that. Just my two cents.


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833730 04/01/19 08:45 AM
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You know, I had been on a repertoire-building kick, and tried to have about a dozen pieces memorized, but I feel it is really negatively impacting my attainment of other skills. Specifically, it cuts into practice time for sight reading and practice of other skills. Not only that, but even when I memorize a piece, if a month goes by, there are holes in it. It would take just too much time to keep up with this memorized repertoire, so, to some extent, I'm abandoning it.

That said, I have to agree c Bennevis - why bother? I understand your point about otherwise getting lost when you know a few measures, then have to look up. This is just a reflection of the duration of time you've been playing, and it will improve over time. I would recommend focusing on continuing to play, frequently, making a conscious effort to look at the score and follow what you're doing. Of course, this makes it harder to hit the right note, as you won't be able to watch your hands. This too takes time and practice...a lot of it. On helpful tip is to stay at your level without taking on pieces that are beyond your level, as those will require bigger jumps, bigger chords, more looking down and getting lost. How do I know? Because I was in this mode for a few years! Now I'm able to quickly glance at a note for a big jump and land one finger (eg L 5th on E3) and know where the next notes will fall (eg L 3rd on G#). Even so, it takes me a while to practice a piece to really get it to that level.

Bottom line....patience! A great teacher helps, but regardless, this endeavor takes a long time, there are no shortcuts. TINSTAAFL


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
Tyrone Slothrop #2833738 04/01/19 09:00 AM
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Playing for memory is usually for piano solo or concerts, where they play things so complicated that no one can play them from the sheet at the same standard. I don't remember seeing pianists playing from memory when they are in some small ensemble, and not the focus of the music...

As for memorization, I doubt any pianist knows the piece note by note, like telling Lang Lang "please play me that movement from the 145th measure, 3rd beat". Everybody is using keyframes, which might differ from people to people. Those might be chunks of measures or phrases or whatever they feel it would help. Of course great pianists have a fantastic memory and some fantastic ears, it's not only tons of practice as some want us to believe. I think there is no domain where the best people are in place solely by working hard and ambition and the will to succeed and other silly things like that, it's a combination of all that plus native inclination.

Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
cmb13 #2833743 04/01/19 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by cmb13
You know, I had been on a repertoire-building kick, and tried to have about a dozen pieces memorized, but I feel it is really negatively impacting my attainment of other skills. Specifically, it cuts into practice time for sight reading and practice of other skills. Not only that, but even when I memorize a piece, if a month goes by, there are holes in it. It would take just too much time to keep up with this memorized repertoire, so, to some extent, I'm abandoning it.

Decades ago I happened to memorize the Preludium BWV 846 with an additional measure in between measure 22 and 23 (instead of a hole). For some reason my brain thought I had to go through CmMaj7, where Bach never went. Now this is ingrained forever.

Beware kids, this is what happens, when you don't stick to the score!


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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
JoeT #2833759 04/01/19 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by JoeT
Originally Posted by cmb13
You know, I had been on a repertoire-building kick, and tried to have about a dozen pieces memorized, but I feel it is really negatively impacting my attainment of other skills. Specifically, it cuts into practice time for sight reading and practice of other skills. Not only that, but even when I memorize a piece, if a month goes by, there are holes in it. It would take just too much time to keep up with this memorized repertoire, so, to some extent, I'm abandoning it.

Decades ago I happened to memorize the Preludium BWV 846 with an additional measure in between measure 22 and 23 (instead of a hole). For some reason my brain thought I had to go through CmMaj7, where Bach never went. Now this is ingrained forever.

Beware kids, this is what happens, when you don't stick to the score!


You must referring to the Schwenke measure....not wrong, just different variation. There was a thread about this a while check here for details. Read my final three entries to the thread for details on this measure.

More info on the Schwenke measure here.

Last edited by cmb13; 04/01/19 09:47 AM.

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Re: For those remembering automatically, how to when you don't?
cmb13 #2833778 04/01/19 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by cmb13
You must referring to the Schwenke measure....not wrong, just different variation. There was a thread about this a while check here for details. Read my final three entries to the thread for details on this measure.

At least that explains it. Though none the scores I ever used contains this measure, otherwise I would have referred to that "wrong" edition.


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