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Score reading v memorisation v visualisation #2882255
08/22/19 02:49 AM
08/22/19 02:49 AM
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earlofmar Offline OP
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there has been quite a bit of discussion on these forums of late on score reading and memorisation, but nothing on visualisation as a tool. Today, I tried to play a piece from memory at my lesson that I have been score reading for a considerable time. It was a disaster, and it highlighted that I probably memorise just on a superficial level. On discussing this my teacher she suggested I commit the score to memory. Not the way I used to memorise, which was by repetition, but a complete visualisation of the score, complete with fingering. Visualising the music both as notation, and as notes on the keyboard.

She said it would be difficult but worthwhile, so I am going to try it out on the piece that is giving me problems as an experiment, (and because I trust my teacher).

While I daresay I could continue to score read such pieces, this one in particular is for an exam. I would like it to be impervious to stress and nerves, as much as possible.

Any thoughts, anyone use this method?


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Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882260
08/22/19 03:30 AM
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For memorization, I agree it's a good approach, but it is a lot of work.

1. I take both traditional "classical" and improvisation lessons. That forced me to think musically in two ways: using the notation and using the key patterns on the keyboard.

2. There's a step where the notes in the score start to connect to the key patterns on the keyboard. So I can see (general) notation while I'm improvising. Vice versa, when I read notation, I see the key patterns & hand shapes. This step came naturally at some levels, but under the guidance of my two teachers, I've made a conscious effort to make the connection by visualizing notes when I improvise and visualizing the keys & hand shapes when reading notes. This greatly enhances my already good memory because I'm memorizing/chunking a complex highly detailed chunk of information.

3. There's another level to this. A part of my brain tracks the piece within the form structure using the possible harmonies, melody and rhythms of the piece. This skill really developed through improvisation where I'm forced me to select and apply harmonies, rhythms and melodies within a specific forms/structure. Ironically, applying that thinking improvisationally - helped me think more comprehensively when playing composed pieces.

- Once again, some of this happened naturally, but a lot of it was a conscious effort to engage all those parts of my brain as I play each and every piece, until that skill became a part of how I think musically.

- One last thing, notice that through all this I didn't really mention muscle memory, because it becomes secondary to all those other skills. If I mess up, it's not because of muscle memory, it's more about the musical memory skills that I mentioned above.


We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882269
08/22/19 04:02 AM
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Originally Posted by earlofmar
there has been quite a bit of discussion on these forums of late on score reading and memorisation, but nothing on visualisation as a tool.

Information about this is scattered on the site in different places, for example

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/557831/re-visualization.html.

And I ask again: where can we see statistics about the suitability of the visualization method in different age groups?

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882276
08/22/19 04:49 AM
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Grief! When you become a Septo, enough strange things happen inside your head. . . . sometimes, the music becomes nothing more than a prompt which one occasionally needs during a recital (I use the word lightly) but woe betide you if you lose your place . . .


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Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882291
08/22/19 06:56 AM
08/22/19 06:56 AM
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I don't recommend visualization as a main way to memorize a piece, especially the part of visualization that refers to memorizing how the printed score looks. The part of visualization that refers to memorizing how it looks on the keyboard seems reasonable.

As far as I know visualization is not usually considered one of the main memory techniques pianists should use. I think the main ones are muscle memory and aural memory probably as primary for many pianists with harmonic and musical analysis the other main ways.

It's not surprising that you had difficulty at your lesson trying to play the piece from memory if you hadn't made much of an effort to memorize it beforehand. Even if a piece is reasonably well memorized in muscle memory and aural memory one has to try going through a piece by memory and see where one's memory fails and work on those parts separately.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882300
08/22/19 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by earlofmar
there has been quite a bit of discussion on these forums of late on score reading and memorisation, but nothing on visualisation as a tool. Today, I tried to play a piece from memory at my lesson that I have been score reading for a considerable time. It was a disaster, and it highlighted that I probably memorise just on a superficial level. On discussing this my teacher she suggested I commit the score to memory. Not the way I used to memorise, which was by repetition, but a complete visualisation of the score, complete with fingering. Visualising the music both as notation, and as notes on the keyboard.


Converting a score-read piece to a memorised piece is a whole different kettle of fish (as the Poms would say) or a whole new ball game (as the Americans would say). Not sure what the Aussies would say. wink

I had lots of experience of that in the past seven years, when - to expand my memorised performing rep quickly - I tried to commit many pieces which I could easily play from the score (and many of which I learnt as a kid) to memory. It was a slow process and often a frustrating one. Score-read pieces that I know very well are partially memorised, but I rely on frequent 'pointers' in the score - the twists and turns, the 'shape' of phrases, the general 'appearance' of what's coming next (more so than individual notes) etc - to keep me on track.

Without any of that, I almost have to re-learn them from scratch, phrase by phrase if not bar by bar. I don't have a photographic memory, so I can't "see" the score in my mind, only a vague generalised impression of the music. I have to look at what my hands are doing over the keys while 'feeling' their movement, as well the shapes and finger movements I have to make. But most of all is the combination of the memory of the keys I need to play and the sound I'm expecting to come from playing them (auditory memory), greatly helped by my knowledge of the harmony: which key I'm currently in, where I'm heading next, the harmonic progression etc. Fingering of course had to be set in stone - much more so for some composers (like Bach) than others, and also dependent on the style of the music. Music based mostly on slow chords can still be easily played correctly from memory even if I accidentally use the wrong finger (or forget which finger) on some notes, because my memory is based on the keys I need to press rather than which fingers need to move.

In other words, I cannot memorise using a 'visual memory' (which I take to mean photographic memory) of the score but am reliant on a combination of muscle memory, the way my hands and fingers move in relation to the keyboard and the knowledge of what keys need to be played in relation to the sound I'm expecting to hear.

When I learn a new piece, I decide beforehand whether I'm going to memorise it, because learning a piece to play from memory is quite different to learning it to play from the score.

BTW, you can't suddenly just play a piece from memory that you've learnt to play reading from the score, even if you know the piece very well, unless it's a very short, easy piece that you could play by ear. If you're going to partially memorise it, make sure you practice looking at the score at specific points, and mark them on the score, otherwise you'll be completely stuck when you suddenly lose track..........unless you have a photographic memory and are reading from your mental score all the time when playing.


"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: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882302
08/22/19 07:34 AM
08/22/19 07:34 AM
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The three terms you're using, score reading, memorisation and visualisation all have several meanings or understandings.

When you read from a score do you see the score as a piano roll to a player-piano? A list of mechanical instructions, if you will. Or do you hear the resulting music in your mind, as in audiation, that you could sing - also in your mind so you have an unrestricted compass?

When you say memorisation do you mean recall, as in playing without the score? Or do you mean still following the score but knowing which fingers are used for which note, not having to read every single note, able to play at a faster tempo than your first few readings, knowing what the music sounds like before you actually play it, able to reproduce some figurations from muscle memory from many repetitions?

When you say visualisation do you mean making a mental picture of the music, like a photographic memory? Or do you mean being able to describe the music in terms chord progression, melodic lines, compositional structure, rhythmic figurations, the individual notes of particular phrases, etc.? Can you play the piece away from the piano, like a CD in your head? Can you play (much more slowly) it on a virtual piano with or without moving your fingers? With and without the score?

Repetition builds memory, but it builds muscle memory, procedural, implicit, cue-based, kinaesthetic memory.

Playing slowly from the score, and I mean dead slow, reading every note, knowing or reading every finger, every hand move, two to four seconds per beat slow, counting out the beats and any necessary subdivisions, builds a stronger association of each note with its surroundings and puts in into context, musical, aural, tactile and visual (position on the page or on the keyboard).

Examining the score away from the piano, comparing phrases, examing chord progressions, melodic sequences, patterns - near and far such as the scale sequence used in Chopin's Prelude in E Minor, builds a knowledge of the music deeper in the memory as ways of seeing (or imagining, or visualising, or knowing) the music.

If you're just using repetition then recall is difficult unless you happen to have good recall anyway. It sounds from your post as though you don't have that. You can't build recall by memorising. You build it by recalling it. The more you struggle to recall it, the greater the number of associations you make for easier recall next time. If you want to play without the score you'll need to build recall, if you want to play with the score you don't (though I find it helps).

With most composers it takes around six (characteristic) pieces before you get into their musical style and can mmemorise their music (as in learn a new piece, not play without a score) more quickly. With Bach it's a lot more than six because his music (largely polyphonic) is so much further removed from the style that developed after him (largely homophonic, melody and accompaniment).


Richard
Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: Nahum] #2882303
08/22/19 07:35 AM
08/22/19 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by earlofmar
there has been quite a bit of discussion on these forums of late on score reading and memorisation, but nothing on visualisation as a tool.

Information about this is scattered on the site in different places, for example

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/557831/re-visualization.html.

And I ask again: where can we see statistics about the suitability of the visualization method in different age groups?

I only read the first post in the thread you linked. It talked about someone reading Gieseking's book where he talked about memorizing a piece by looking at the score before he ever plays it.

Although the OP in this thread isn't recommending that kind of visualization, I think that post shows how incredibly inappropriate taking someone like Gieseking's ideas about visualization can be. What works for a musical genius is not appropriate for 99.999% of the rest of the piano playing world. In one Frederich Chiu's week long training sessions for very advanced already professional pianists he asked them to try and memorize
two pages of a Scarlatti Sonata just by looking at the score. They all failed quite poorly when they tried to play it the next day.

As I said in my last post, I don't think visualization(of the score) is generally considered one of the most often recommended ways to memorize, at least in the articles I've seen about memorization. I think the other very standard and usual approaches make more sense for most people.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/22/19 07:36 AM.
Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: bennevis] #2882332
08/22/19 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
In other words, I cannot memorise using a 'visual memory' (which I take to mean photographic memory) of the score but am reliant on a combination of muscle memory, the way my hands and fingers move in relation to the keyboard and the knowledge of what keys need to be played in relation to the sound I'm expecting to hear.


This is very similar how I remember music, not score, but connection between keys on the keyboard with the sound in combination of how music "feels" to my hands.

However, I also use visualization to help with "connecting" difficult parts of the score. For example, if I remember 8 bars and then next 2 bars, but cannot connect them smoothly and musically without glancing at the score during that day practice or morning lesson, I often play them note by note "on the keyboard" in my mind just before I go to sleep. I don't think of the score then, though it's kind of hovering on the back of my mind. I'm trying to do it as slowly and precisely as possible in my mind's eye. Sometimes it feels like a loosing battle and I almost never can do it perfectly, but if I persist, the results next day sometimes astounding. Everything falls into place and makes sense.

In other words - once I UNDERSTAND music completely, I know it, I remember it and can go back to "old" piece few months later and get it back into my hands in couple of days most of the time.

It was very different from how it worked for me when I was young. I think then it was just repetition and pure muscle memory and pieces were often forgotten as soon as they were abandoned for more than couple of weeks. I never thought how I actually learn and remember, I just played through it over and over, and remembered almost as soon as I could play it from beginning to end. I kind of like the way I learn now better. Little harder, but much more reliable. (I hope)

Last edited by initK; 08/22/19 09:23 AM.

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Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: zrtf90] #2882363
08/22/19 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
... builds a stronger association of each note with its surroundings and puts it into context, musical, aural, tactile and visual (position on the page or on the keyboard ...

I think this is a good guiding principle for memorization. Use different ways to put the notes in context making it easier to recall and at the same time easily keep track of where you are in the piece. When solidly connected to repetition and muscle memory - I find that approach very effective.

Similar to language arts it’s the difference between reading and reading comprehension.


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And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882369
08/22/19 12:07 PM
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I always memorise what my hands are doing but not what the score looks like. I don't see any reason to do that.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882386
08/22/19 12:56 PM
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In regard to visualizing a score in one’s mind:

It was not until I was in my 60s that I realized that I had a condition known as aphantasia, something that I had never heard of before. I can not voluntarily form a visual image in my mind. When I close my eyes I see nothing and can not form an image of, (for example) my wife’s face! All my life, when I came across the term “mind’s eye”, I had always assumed that this was a metaphor.

Here is an article from the BBC about this condition:
https://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

In spite of aphantasia, I had a successful career in a very visually demanding field of medicine (diagnostic radiology). I bring this up because there are some people out there who may not be aware that they have this and may be frustrating themselves putting in wasted effort to visualize a score when that is neurologically not possible for them.

I personally play from the score and use muscle memory to get through passages that are too dense to read in tempo or are otherwise awkward such as at page turns.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: tedrp] #2882394
08/22/19 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by tedrp
In regard to visualizing a score in one’s mind:

It was not until I was in my 60s that I realized that I had a condition known as aphantasia, something that I had never heard of before. I can not voluntarily form a visual image in my mind. When I close my eyes I see nothing and can not form an image of, (for example) my wife’s face! All my life, when I came across the term “mind’s eye”, I had always assumed that this was a metaphor.

Here is an article from the BBC about this condition:
https://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

In spite of aphantasia, I had a successful career in a very visually demanding field of medicine (diagnostic radiology). I bring this up because there are some people out there who may not be aware that they have this and may be frustrating themselves putting in wasted effort to visualize a score when that is neurologically not possible for them.

I personally play from the score and use muscle memory to get through passages that are too dense to read in tempo or are otherwise awkward such as at page turns.

I also only see black/nothing when I try to "visualize" something . I read the article and am still unclear. Do some people literally see an image, like they're looking at the object, picture, or whatever?


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Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882397
08/22/19 01:21 PM
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I think that memorizing the score is a good thing and I'll tell you why.

There's a teacher named Zach Evans who has some techniques that he uses to help make your performance of a piece bullet proof. You know how you THINK you have a piece down but when you go to perform it you never play it as well or worse, it becomes a train wreck?

He says that you learning a piece of music is like having just ONE string holding a big boulder up...sure it can do it but the slightest gust or disturbance of that string causes it to break and the boulder fall. He says that the solution is to add more strings and duct tape to hold that boulder up!

So, having your piece memorized like you always do might be "one string" but going over the fingering measure by measure note-at-a-time until it's so ingrained you'll NEVER forget is like MORE DUCT TAPE too...and then memorizing the score so that you can see it in your mind is yet MORE tape or string or whatever holding this boulder up...so that when you go to perform it...you OWN it...there is no way you will lose your place, no way you'll forget, and no way you'll be paralyzed with nerves because you know the piece so well now.

In my SHORT time with these techniques, I can say with 100% assurance that what pieces I THOUGHT I knew but couldn't figure out why they'd suffer when the red recording light went on or when I tried to play in front of someone, were put through this practice ritual...I now OWN them and I've played them in front of relatives over and over without a hint of nervousness...because at any point in the piece I know exactly where I'm at and what comes next.

That's my 02 cents.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: PianoWVBob] #2882402
08/22/19 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoWVBob
I think that memorizing the score is a good thing and I'll tell you why.

There's a teacher named Zach Evans who has some techniques that he uses to help make your performance of a piece bullet proof. You know how you THINK you have a piece down but when you go to perform it you never play it as well or worse, it becomes a train wreck?

He says that you learning a piece of music is like having just ONE string holding a big boulder up...sure it can do it but the slightest gust or disturbance of that string causes it to break and the boulder fall. He says that the solution is to add more strings and duct tape to hold that boulder up!

So, having your piece memorized like you always do might be "one string" but going over the fingering measure by measure note-at-a-time until it's so ingrained you'll NEVER forget is like MORE DUCT TAPE too...and then memorizing the score so that you can see it in your mind is yet MORE tape or string or whatever holding this boulder up...so that when you go to perform it...you OWN it...there is no way you will lose your place, no way you'll forget, and no way you'll be paralyzed with nerves because you know the piece so well now.

In my SHORT time with these techniques, I can say with 100% assurance that what pieces I THOUGHT I knew but couldn't figure out why they'd suffer when the red recording light went on or when I tried to play in front of someone, were put through this practice ritual...I now OWN them and I've played them in front of relatives over and over without a hint of nervousness...because at any point in the piece I know exactly where I'm at and what comes next.

That's my 02 cents.

1.There's no such thing as bulletproof memorization but using additional memory techniques besides muscle memory certainly increases the chances of avoiding a memory slip.
2. Visual memorization of the score is not something that's usually given as one of the most beneficial techniques to help memory. That doesn't mean it might not be helpful for some people.
3. I think the most important question is whether it's worth all the extra time involved to try and make memorization as close to bulletproof as possible vs. playing with the score. I'm heavily in favor of the latter because I think all the time spent memorizing can be far better spent on learning more repertoire or other musical activities.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: TX-Bluebonnet] #2882408
08/22/19 01:57 PM
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My understanding is that many or most people can "see" an image with their eyes closed. They can look at something in their immediate presence, such as a piano, close their eyes and continue to "see" the piano in some sense. When I (and people with aphantasia) do this, everything goes black. I just asked my wife to do this and she can continue to see the refrigerator after she closed her eyes (I can not) and she can also voluntarily bring up an image of a person she knows (I can not).

I first had an inkling of this issue when I purchased a several volume course on reading piano music some years ago. Forget the title at the moment. Part of the course procedure was looking at simple printed music examples (a bar or two) and then one was instructed to put the book away and play the notes. In the beginning I did fairly OK but when the music became more complicated, I could not do it. What I realized is that initially I simply memorized the notes such as C-G-E-G quarter notes in the treble with C whole note in base rather than memorize the score image. Once the music became even a bit more complex than this example, it became impossible. I thought that by repeated training, I could learn to do this and gave it a few months with no improvement at all so I put the books away. Now I know why this did not work for me and never would.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: tedrp] #2882421
08/22/19 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by tedrp
Part of the course procedure was looking at simple printed music examples (a bar or two) and then one was instructed to put the book away and play the notes. In the beginning I did fairly OK but when the music became more complicated, I could not do it. What I realized is that initially I simply memorized the notes such as C-G-E-G quarter notes in the treble with C whole note in base rather than memorize the score image. Once the music became even a bit more complex than this example, it became impossible.

As long as the music isn't too complicated, I can do this for one or two bars - but not by any form of visualization.

I simply imagine myself playing the music on the piano (and hearing it), and my fingers might even twitch slightly.....but there's no image whatsoever in my mind. I then hold all those "finger movements" in my mind to reproduce it on the piano.

When I read through music, I also 'hear' the music in my head, but it's not 'real' like an auditory hallucination, and it's fairly generalized, and certainly not in the right key, as I don't have perfect pitch.


"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: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882432
08/22/19 02:37 PM
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Israel
Originally Posted by tedrp
In regard to visualizing a score in one’s mind:

It was not until I was in my 60s that I realized that I had a condition known as aphantasia, something that I had never heard of before. I can not voluntarily form a visual image in my mind. When I close my eyes I see nothing and can not form an image of, (for example) my wife’s face! All my life, when I came across the term “mind’s eye”, I had always assumed that this was a metaphor.

Here is an article from the BBC about this condition:
https://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

tedrp , thank you so much, you opened my eyes ! I have never heard of this phenomenon, the symptoms of which are so familiar to me since childhood. Now I know why I can't draw, and I can calm down; and to any “drawing instructors” I would recommend contacting neurophysiologists to create a preliminary test of visual imagination, for example, Professor Joel Pearson from University of New South Wales (Australia).

Last edited by Nahum; 08/22/19 02:39 PM.
Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882434
08/22/19 02:37 PM
08/22/19 02:37 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 17,150
Canada
keystring Offline
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keystring  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 17,150
Canada
I ran into this a while back by accident and found it very useful. I passed it by some musicians who were underwhelmed because what she was saying seemed to obvious to them - but it was not obvious to me.

Re: Score reading v memorisation v visualisation [Re: earlofmar] #2882442
08/22/19 02:54 PM
08/22/19 02:54 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 3,203
Georgia, USA
Sam S Offline

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Sam S  Offline

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Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 3,203
Georgia, USA
I can't visualize scores, except in a very superficial way. Certainly not enough to even play a few notes. I've tried writing it out away from the piano and failed miserably. But I can write it out (more or less) if I am sitting at the keyboard, but that is not very useful, in my opinion.

I have to be able to play it back in my head in order to memorize it, which is an auditory memory I suppose. I have mental signposts or a roadmap to guide me through the piece and prompt me, a memory of the physical movements, and auditory memory to keep me on track.

Sam

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