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I was going to write something along the lines of what Ainar wrote, that kind of practice-away-from-the-piano is really good.

Another thing you might try when doing that kind of practice is to have a story about the music. Telling the story to yourself will reinforce your memory of the piece.

Lastly, given your experience with a false start playing for friends, you probably want to make as opportunities as possible to play for an audience. This is its own kind of practice and is hard to simulate. You might give a daily Zoom concert or FB livestream. Or commit to sharing one recording every day, do a one-take recording, share it as-is no matter how many mistakes or false starts you have. These activities will put you on the spot and the stress of the that strains the memory. One of the best ways you can prepare for a performance is by getting used to that kind of stress and learning to keep your focus and memory intact despite the pressure of performing.

Good luck!


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by albydooby
yes memorisation is optional in this exam but I really want to challenge myself and also the fast pieces do need to be memorised in order to play them properly.

Anyway, today I had a few friends over and so I thought it's a good idea to do a mock performance.
The whole thing actually went really well with no major memory slips EXCEPT at the very start when I began to play the first piece, within the first 4 bars suddenly I forgot everything and I scrambled to find the right notes, eventually I just need to restart..
Why would you put extra stress on yourself in an exam (assuming that passing it is important to you)?

If you've already done lots of AMEB grade exams and played the pieces from memory (even though that's not required) without mishap, that's fine. But I don't think it's a good idea to do this for the first time in a diploma exam, if it's not required. Unlike grade exams, stopping and restarting will be judged harshly.

BTW, fast pieces don't need to be memorised in their entirety to play them properly. Just watch any pianist playing chamber music. You only memorise the parts where you need to look at your hands, but of course you have to rehearse playing them from the scores too, so that you know where you are in the score when you look at it again.
My sentiments exactly.

You seem very stressed about the possibility of memory slips during the exam. So much so that you were willing to try numerous different methods of practicing to minimize the chance of them occurring. Unless you are already or are planning a professional career where it is more or less required to play from memory I see no reason to take the exam without the score.

You will have to practice the page turns and even mark them if they occur in a non obvious place. You will have to practice playing with the score. But all that seems far easier than attempting to memorize the program. All the extra time you would have to spend trying to memorize the pieces so securely that your chance of memory slips is minimal could be spent perfecting your pieces to a higher level or learning new rep. As you can tell by now, I am not a fan of memorizing music unless one is a professional or one who feels they can play much better without the score.

I once read some book that included an interview with Misha Dichter. He claimed that he had found some method of memorizing that was foolproof. Sometime later while playing the Rach transcription of Mendelssohn's Midsummer's Night Dream at Carnegie Hall he had a memory slip.

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I just had lesson today. My teacher wanted me to memorise everything. We reached a middle ground. I told her I will memorise the three smaller works and use the score for the Beethoven sonata. I had a major memory lapse during my grade 8 with another Beethoven sonata and had to restart (luckily it was at the beginning of the piece), I somehow passed that exam with a B. I know they won’t be as lenient with a diploma.

Anyway, the lesson today went quite well, I didn’t have any major slips. I discussed with her the false start problem and she said I need to take my time at the start and sing it in my head first. She made me play the Rachmaninoff prelude a couple of times and the third time my right hand suddenly didn’t know where to go, but luckily I have the tune continuously playing in my head and somehow able to improvise a little and get back on track without too much hiccup. I gave the Rachmaninoff a jazzy twist 😬

I think I will concentrate the next few weeks to practice hands separately from memory and start recording myself,

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Originally Posted by albydooby
I just had lesson today. My teacher wanted me to memorise everything. We reached a middle ground. I told her I will memorise the three smaller works and use the score for the Beethoven sonata.
Seems like a good compromise. Did she say why she felt you should memorize everything? Did you try to figure out why you had a memory slip in the Rach Prelude during your lesson?

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She didn't really explain much other than she felt I play better when I memorised the pieces.

The memory slip during the Rach was interesting because it happened on the third or fourth time I played. So I definitely know the notes because I played it right before. I think the lapse happened because I was looking at my right hand when I usually look at my left hand during that section. And when I was looking at my right hand I had a moment of self doubt of where my fingers would go and I ended up just repeating that bar (without pausing) until I manage to get the right notes using a combination of muscle and aural memory.

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Originally Posted by albydooby
The memory slip during the Rach was interesting because it happened on the third or fourth time I played. So I definitely know the notes because I played it right before. I think the lapse happened because I was looking at my right hand when I usually look at my left hand during that section. And when I was looking at my right hand I had a moment of self doubt of where my fingers would go and I ended up just repeating that bar (without pausing) until I manage to get the right notes using a combination of muscle and aural memory.
Memory lapses are actually a lot more common than most people realize. I remember there was one major piano competition a few years ago, where I listened to every performance by every competitor who made it to the quarter-finals: the only pianist who had no memory lapse in every round was the eventual winner. All the others came adrift in one or more pieces (obviously, I can only definitely vouch for the pieces I know......there were one or two who played some Szymanowski pieces which I haven't heard before) but most covered up their memory lapses very well. You just noticed a string of false notes or wrong harmonies etc, but with no break in rhythm, and certainly no dead stops.

However, I have heard a couple of famous pianists (who I won't name - they're now deceased) who had catastrophic memory lapses in concert, and everyone could see them fumbling aimlessly for a few seconds before suddenly jumping ahead to another section, or back to the start of the development. Despite their immense experience, they were unable to cover up their lapse. Sviatoslav Richter reportedly switched to always playing from the score (with a page-turner) in the late 1960s following a major memory lapse in concert (and he was known to have a great memory). That also had the effect of releasing him from playing just the usual warhorses, and he soon started tackling a lot of other stuff like Hindemith, Bartók, Reger, Szymanowski, even Gershwin......because he didn't have to memorize any more. How much more diverse rep would many concert pianists play in public, if they didn't have to play from memory?

Incidentally, even major pianists at the height of their powers have memory lapses - Pollini and Zimerman among them......


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Thanks Bennevis for the post. It actually makes me feel a lot better.
I have been putting in my hours with slow mindful practice and I think I am slowly beginning to see major progress. The slips are getting less frequent and the Czerny is getting more even and not as fatigued.

Today I played my Beethoven Sonata to my teacher. I was kind of proud because I didn't make any major slip and followed all the dynamics. So I asked her if I would pass if I performed at this level in the exam..and she said NO! Apparently my phrasing is all wrong. 😭😭😭

Apparently the examiners are more lenient to slips but not so if the phrasing and musical style is not correct, especially with a Beethoven Sonata. So this week I will work on the phrasing... sorry to stray a bit from the topic, I should rename this thread to Albydooby Exam Journal LOL. Anyway have a nice weekend all!

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Originally Posted by albydooby
Today I played my Beethoven Sonata to my teacher. I was kind of proud because I didn't make any major slip and followed all the dynamics. So I asked her if I would pass if I performed at this level in the exam..and she said NO! Apparently my phrasing is all wrong. 😭😭😭
Unless you've had no or only a few lessons in this piece it seems like your teacher should have mentioned this previously.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Memory lapses are actually a lot more common than most people realize. I remember there was one major piano competition a few years ago, where I listened to every performance by every competitor who made it to the quarter-finals: the only pianist who had no memory lapse in every round was the eventual winner. All the others came adrift in one or more pieces (obviously, I can only definitely vouch for the pieces I know......there were one or two who played some Szymanowski pieces which I haven't heard before) but most covered up their memory lapses very well. You just noticed a string of false notes or wrong harmonies etc, but with no break in rhythm, and certainly no dead stops.

However, I have heard a couple of famous pianists (who I won't name - they're now deceased) who had catastrophic memory lapses in concert, and everyone could see them fumbling aimlessly for a few seconds before suddenly jumping ahead to another section, or back to the start of the development. Despite their immense experience, they were unable to cover up their lapse. Sviatoslav Richter reportedly switched to always playing from the score (with a page-turner) in the late 1960s following a major memory lapse in concert (and he was known to have a great memory). That also had the effect of releasing him from playing just the usual warhorses, and he soon started tackling a lot of other stuff like Hindemith, Bartók, Reger, Szymanowski, even Gershwin......because he didn't have to memorize any more. How much more diverse rep would many concert pianists play in public, if they didn't have to play from memory?

Incidentally, even major pianists at the height of their powers have memory lapses - Pollini and Zimerman among them......
Of course, most pianists, even the greatest, eventually have memory slips. But I don't consider them as very common, at least not in my 50+ years of attending recitals. Just because Richter decided to start playing with the music doesn't mean he often had memory slips. It only means that when he did he found it very unnerving or upsetting,

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[/quote]Of course, most pianists, even the greatest, eventually have memory slips. But I don't consider them as very common, at least not in my 50+ years of attending recitals. Just because Richter decided to start playing with the music doesn't mean he often had memory slips. It only means that when he did he found it very unnerving or upsetting,[/quote]

Fascinating stuff! We're all human I guess? It would make sense that having the score in font of you would deter, if not, completely stop memory lapse?


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Just because Richter decided to start playing with the music doesn't mean he often had memory slips. It only means that when he did he found it very unnerving or upsetting,

There is an interview with Richter on YouTube someplace (I wish I could post the link, but I don't remember the exact documentary) in which he explains the reason for shifting to playing with the score. Richter had "perfect pitch" but sometime later in life the pitch he perceived began to be off by a half step. This was indeed unnerving, since the "perfect pitch" was one of his memory cues.

Since I don't have "perfect pitch" I personnally cannot relate to that particular issue (I can only relate to the part about having a poor memory and being afraid of memory slips). However, I did take a class at the university with a pianist who said that he was expieriencing a similar problem with a shift in his sense of pitch down by a half step (although he was still playing his concerts from memory).

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