2017 was our 20th year online!

Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 3 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments.
Over 100,000 members from around the world.
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Shop our online store for music lovers
SEARCH
Piano Forums & Piano World
(ad) Piano Sight Reading
train piano sight reading with your iPhone or iPad
(ad)
Best of Piano Buyer
 Best of Piano Buyer
(ad)
Pianoteq
Steinway Spiro Layering
(ad)
Wessell Nickel & Gross
PianoForAll
Who's Online Now
56 members (chaplincap, c++, CharlesXX, Ampersand, 36251, anotherscott, briangmoore, 14 invisible), 528 guests, and 448 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
(ad)
Estonia Pianos
Estonia Pianos
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Hop To
Page 1 of 2 1 2
#3061043 12/25/20 09:53 AM
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
H
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
H
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
Informal poll:

When do you memorize your pieces?

I know there is no definitive way, I am looking for ideas. Immediately as you learn the piece? When you can play through no errors? Fifty percent tempo? Seventy-five? A way I have never imagined?

Thanks for lending me your experience,
Holly


but think how good I could be in five years...
(ad)
Piano & Music Accessories
piano accessories music gifts tuning and moving equipment
Joined: Jun 2019
Posts: 158
T
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
T
Joined: Jun 2019
Posts: 158
I stopped memorizing completely to make myself used to performing from the score. Of course, there's some memorization happening even as you read through the score for the first time, this is what allows you to play more fluently next time and next time and next time... But I stopped playing without the score completely as there´s no point in doing otherwise at this stage because I switch between the beginner-ish pieces pretty quickly and complete memorization would just be a waste of time.

If you are more advanced and want to build your rep. on purpose so that you can perform for others whenever you want even if you don´t have the sheets on you, then that´s a different question and I am afraid I can´t help here. What I´d do is that I´d spend time reading from the score, making sure I have the technicalities down and when I can play it well from the score, then I´d proceed to memorize it. I´d never start memorizing it right away. But I may be wrong smile

Joined: Oct 2016
Posts: 236
W
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
W
Joined: Oct 2016
Posts: 236
Mostly I don’t - but when I do, it kind of happens naturally or it might be a piece wher I have to look at the keys more often so I end up memorising it ( from beginning to end only) because I can’t keep looking at the music

Joined: May 2020
Posts: 1,106
J
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
J
Joined: May 2020
Posts: 1,106
Play it enough you'll memorize it. It just happens naturally. For the really long ones, you'll memorize most of it, you just need some queues from the sheet music in case you've forgotten something. Some pieces can't really be played well without optimized fingering, so you have to create muscle memory for those parts.

Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 4,275
4000 Post Club Member
Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 4,275
In my opinion, when you decide to memorize something, make a plan. I've had some experience in this area, since I had to memorize everything for my piano performance degree, and I was in my 60s at the time, so I had plenty of difficulty and challenges.

What worked best for me was starting early, doing whatever I needed to memorize a section, and then never looking at the music for that section again (unless I had to). You need to use three types of memory - muscle memory (how does it feel, and look, when you play it), knowledge of the piece (that's a Db major 7 chord), and aural memory (can you play it back in your head, away from the piano?).

I have also memorized by absorption - playing it so much that I mostly memorized it, and then focussing on the tough spots. This was not very successful for me, but it does work for others - maybe I am too old for that method.

Sam

Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,973
Z
3000 Post Club Member
Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Z
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,973
It's common advice that if you're going to memorise for performance it's best to memorise before it gets into muscle memory. If it gets into muscle memory before it gets into cognisant memory you will often need to go back to the score when taking up the piece after an absence. It will always be dodgy in performance.

Pieces that I learn without considering memorising I need the score for. I learnt Haydn's Adagio in F. It fits on a page and it isn't hard to read through or to play well and up to tempo. It took me a short while to learn it reading through once or twice a day. Then I fell in love with it and decided to add it to my repertoire. That took me a lot longer than Brahms Intermezzo 117/1. The Intermezzo is three pages, in three and six flats (Eb Major and Minor, the Minor section isn't easy for me to read) and difficult to play in a few spots. To this day I need the score when I go back to the Adagio. I have the same issue with Grieg's Notturno; I need the score for chromatic section just before the coda and I need to practise for a week with the score before I can play it from memory again. The Intermezzo is like a sonata, still in memory after a couple of years away - not solid in performance but solid in memory and it comes back over a few days without having to refer to the score.

If it's a piece I'm intending to play from memory then I memorise it as music in my head before I start work at the piano. When I start work I play it through or read it through (without playing) once every day and work each phrase two or three times each from memory in the section I'm working on. I only practise as much as will fit in working memory. I don't make many repeats until I have the phrasing and fingering down and the tempo fluent, performance tempo with individual hands (that I can repeat more often), and not slow with hands together. When I can play each phrase from memory without having to look at the score first, I start putting phrases or sections together. When I have the piece in sections of four or more phrases from memory I start on the repetition (more than two or three times a day).

Graham Fitch has a blog about beginning a new piece that is very similar to my own strategy.
https://practisingthepiano.com/how_begin_new_piece_1/


Richard
Joined: Sep 2017
Posts: 1,678
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Sep 2017
Posts: 1,678
We can sight-read below the level we're capable of playing. Having a score around is a security that we don't have to rely on memory. However,

There are other things that would help us get through a piece including muscle memory, learning sound patterns & chord progressions, ear training that we can pick up pieces in certain keys by listening.

There are certain things we'd remember because we do it so many times. We don't think about our mailing address, phone number, the number of our office and a friend we'd call every week. We just pick up the phone and dial the number even when it is not in the phone's memory.

When we play a piece often enough, do we remember all the notes? Many of us don't go through a piece by memorizing individual notes like G-C-G-B etc. We'd remember the melody notes and the intervals (the gaps between the lower notes and the melody notes). We may have heard a sound recording of the song we're working on and subconsciously play it in our head. When we hit the piano keys, we're matching the notes to what we hear in our head.

The last song I worked on I wasn't consciously memorizing each note of the melody, the bass & the chords. I simply repeated different sequences over and over an hour a day for 3 weeks. Get to the point I 'd read the first measure of a section and be able to reproduce the rest of the section by ear. There was a lot of repeated sections and similar chords: C, F, Am, G. When I come across an Am chord I know the starting note is an A and my ear picks up the sound of the chord when I hit all 3 notes A-C-E correctly without thinking a note is a C or E.

Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,476
B
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
B
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,476
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
When do you memorize your pieces?

I know there is no definitive way, I am looking for ideas. Immediately as you learn the piece?
This is an issue that has been occupying me for almost a decade. (When you get to my advanced age, things move pretty slowly cry).

I never memorized anything when I was a student (except for the pieces for my diploma exam, which I promptly forgot once over). There was just no reason to, as I never performed for anyone, and anyway, I enjoyed sight-reading and would have a go at anything I could get my hands on. Any piece that I remembered and could play from memory was by accident, not design. (Actually, there was only one, and that was because I used it for warming up, so it became lodged in my memory forever; others just came & went, depending on how often I played them at the time).

So, when I decided that I needed to memorize some pieces about eight years ago (because I started doing a monthly recital, and I had no page-turner), finding the best method was by trial & error. I soon realized that it took almost as long to memorize pieces I could already play perfectly from the score as to memorize pieces I'd never played before. So, it was obvious that - for me, at least - the most efficient method of memorizing was to do it right from the start when learning a new piece. Therefore, as I was 'getting the music in my fingers', I was also getting it into my memory. I normally did it section by section, usually only a few bars long at a time, beginning at the beginning. I tried to find logical pattens (both in the score and visually at the keyboard) and harmonic progressions, as well as melodic contours that will help with long-term memory. (There are a few pieces that are so logical that I could almost play them entirely by ear, so it takes only a few minutes to learn & 'memorize' from scratch.)

I've often said in ABF: I only memorize pieces that I intend to keep forever (or at least, keep revisiting, and performing regularly).

To me, there's absolutely no point in memorizing any piece unless you have to, or want to. "Have to" includes, of course, exams (like the RCM, which alone among non-advanced piano exams requires playing from memory); "want to" should only be pieces you really love and want to keep playing for yourself whenever you find a piano, or for family & friends, or beloved pets.

As I've mentioned previously in ABF, it takes me about five times as long to learn a piece to play securely from memory as it does to learn it to play from the score to the same musical and technical standard. In other words, I could learn four more pieces without memorizing in the same amount of time. That was the reason I could learn so much diverse rep when I was a student, because I never had to memorize any piece. My teachers all showed me by example - they always played from the score, and they all had excellent sight-reading skills.


"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."
Joined: Oct 2016
Posts: 236
W
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
W
Joined: Oct 2016
Posts: 236
Out of interest- if you memorise a piece- should you be able to play from any bar rather than beginning to end? Also should you be able to visualise in your mind, all the notes?

Joined: May 2015
Posts: 7,846
Silver Subscriber
7000 Post Club Member
Offline
Silver Subscriber
7000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 7,846
Originally Posted by Wayne2467
Out of interest- if you memorise a piece- should you be able to play from any bar rather than beginning to end? Also should you be able to visualise in your mind, all the notes?

Muscle memory alone in unreliable. This is confirmed by various renowned pianists in Roger Chaffin’s book, Practicing Perfection. Therefore you want to involve as many senses and analytical tools as you can. Most pianists do not have strong abilities of visualizing the score, but it would be great if you can do it. For analysis, you do not necessarily need to learn all of chordal progressions, but learning the key sections and their differences is important. Just knowing the next section changed from s major key to a minor helps. Set several ‘rescue points’ that you can jump to if memory gets really nasty, and practice jumping to and continuing from them. And learn to jump to the last few ending measures in case you need a quick exit plan. 🙀

FWIW I do not memorize many pieces so J make the decision during the polishing phase.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 4,275
4000 Post Club Member
Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 4,275
Originally Posted by Wayne2467
Out of interest- if you memorise a piece- should you be able to play from any bar rather than beginning to end?

I make "memory posts" throughout the piece, usually at logical spots, or trouble spots, where I can start. I start at those places anyway when I am practicing. I write those on popsicle sticks, mix them up and put them in a mug. Pull them out one at a time and start from that spot. Old-fashioned, but it works and doesn't require an app!

ave you ever been in a lesson, and the teacher asks you to start from a spot, and you can't do it? There is no better sign that you do not know the piece. You should be able to start from anywhere, not from memory, but after a glance at the score.

Originally Posted by Wayne2467
Also should you be able to visualise in your mind, all the notes?

I can't. My teacher tried to make me write out sections from memory, and I always failed miserably. But I could memorize how my hands looked at the keys, which I thought was a lot more useful.

But you should be able to HEAR the piece in your head, beginning to end, in the right rhythm and tempo, without looking at the music. If you can't remember how it sounds, how can you reproduce it?

Sam

Joined: May 2016
Posts: 2,049
I
2000 Post Club Member
Offline
2000 Post Club Member
I
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 2,049
I prefer to play a piece many times using the score until I remember it pretty well both by ear and by muscle memory (and, to a little extent, visually), and only then memorize it phrase by phrase. In this case memorization process is much easier for me than learning a piece right after sight reading it or learning it away from the piano.

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 1,755
S
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
S
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 1,755
I think there is no single answer; It depends upon each person abilities. At the end the purpose of practising is to make progress hence the score should not be the roadblock. Whether you play from memory or from the witten score, the objective is that the actual method does not slow you down.

Some people are excellent at reading, thus dont need to memorize much. Others are in the opposite camp. I memorize pretty easily, once I know the phrasing structure, the architecture of the piece, the harmonic progression. After a few repeats as I practice, I know the score, especially in the difficult passages without purposely trying to memorize. So when I play, I still use the score for the less difficult places, but I could as well without much effort play it all from memory.

But If I had to play a simple piece without practising much before, I would play it mostly by reading.

if you are not good at reading, then (in addition of practising reading to get better) you have no other choice but to memorize so that you can play the piece fluently. The memorizing comes more or less quickly depending on your personal abilities. The earlier you start, the better. If you are good at reading, you dont have to memorize, but practising it is usefull as you may have to perform without the score.

Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
H
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
H
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful answers!

I never had to memorize pieces as a kid and in marching band our director gave up on getting the horns to memorize their parts so the rest of us got off easy, though the little stands that flute players have to put on their arms to march with music wiggle quite a bit as you march so I was usually memorized out of desperation.

Fast forward 35 years and I have a terrible time with wrong notes as I play. I can go over and over and over, slow and slow and slower, play icky sections 50 times without error and as soon as I try to play the piece as a whole there the dragons be once again.

I have found that in really ugly sections if I just memorize those measures, when I come up to them I can relax, because I KNOW what to do and don't have to coordinate my eyes and hands in the moment.

That got me thinking, maybe I've had it backwards trying to get the piece to a really good place before trying to memorize it as a whole, and should be trying memorizing by section as I go. After all, for me at least, errors go way down with confidence of knowing what my fingers should be doing before they get there. At least a few of you recommended a right off the bat approach, so I'm likely to give it a try.

For those who want to dig into this topic further or go off on a tangent about preventing errors, by all means proceed.


but think how good I could be in five years...
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,476
B
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
B
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 14,476
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I have found that in really ugly sections if I just memorize those measures, when I come up to them I can relax, because I KNOW what to do and don't have to coordinate my eyes and hands in the moment.
Definitely, in tricky sections, especially where both hands are flying everywhere, you have to have practiced them so often that you have a muscle memory of where your hands and fingers need to go.

Even if you're playing from the score and haven't set out to memorize the whole piece, you'll still need to memorize the bits at page turns too.

However. bits of memorization here and there in the piece aren't the same as complete (& secure) memorization of the entire piece in order to play without the score, which involve a lot more than just muscle memory of short sections.


"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."
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 5,669
D
dmd Offline
5000 Post Club Member
Offline
5000 Post Club Member
D
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 5,669
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I have found that in really ugly sections if I just memorize those measures, when I come up to them I can relax, because I KNOW what to do and don't have to coordinate my eyes and hands in the moment.

That got me thinking, maybe I've had it backwards trying to get the piece to a really good place before trying to memorize it as a whole, and should be trying memorizing by section as I go. After all, for me at least, errors go way down with confidence of knowing what my fingers should be doing before they get there. At least a few of you recommended a right off the bat approach, so I'm likely to give it a try.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that concept.

However, I think it is a mistake to stop paying attention to where you are on the written notation sheet as you play .... even if you can because you have it completely memorized.

If you do that, you may lose the ability to play while reading the music and depend upon memory entirely and that eventually will fail you for pieces you have not played in a long while. It is nice to be able to pick up the music and play it even if your memory has given up that piece of music.

Of course, if playing without the music is REQUIRED for some reason that changes things .... then you have to play it without music for that REQUIRED performance.


Don

Kawai MP7SE, SennHeiser HD 559 Headphones, Pianoteq, FocusRite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface, Focal Professional CMS 40 monitors
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,973
Z
3000 Post Club Member
Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Z
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,973
Originally Posted by dmd
I think it is a mistake to stop paying attention to where you are on the written notation sheet as you play .... even if you can because you have it completely memorized.

If you do that, you may lose the ability to play while reading the music and depend upon memory entirely and that eventually will fail you for pieces you have not played in a long while
I know reading is a perishable skill but this is still extremely unlikely. Once the student has learnt to read it is easy to maintain the skill. The ability to memorise deteriorates with age (reading ability doesn't) so any opportunity to exercise it is beneficial.

Bringing a piece up to tempo happens a lot faster when it's memorised. Many pieces cannot be played up to tempo while reading.
_________________________

Many students are given around three pieces, mostly around the same level, and spend the next several weeks working on them. This is fine as long as the student continues to read other works regularly but many don't. Memorisation of current pieces is normal and natural while the facility is there and progress is slowed if it is not.

Student that struggle with reading need to memorise all their pieces and this is also counterproductive. Pieces that are going to be studied over several week should be memorised naturally but the student should also wrap up several easier pieces too quickly for memorising.

I am not discussing playing or performing without the score here, though that is an option once a piece is memorised, just the process of memorising as an essential skill towards good musicianship.


Richard
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 1,755
S
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
S
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 1,755
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Fast forward 35 years and I have a terrible time with wrong notes as I play. I can go over and over and over, slow and slow and slower, play icky sections 50 times without error and as soon as I try to play the piece as a whole there the dragons be once again.

This is nothing but normal. Since you learn to play, you are always in a discomfort zone at the limit of your abilities. So you are bound to make mistakes here and there. To play without mistakes would imply that you really master the content by a couple of grades above the level of the piece. Most pianists make errors also. What you have to learn is to continue playing in spite of the errors. Unless there is like a big blank, small false notes and even more will go unoticed by most people.

dmd #3061359 12/26/20 11:06 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 29,690
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 29,690
Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I have found that in really ugly sections if I just memorize those measures, when I come up to them I can relax, because I KNOW what to do and don't have to coordinate my eyes and hands in the moment.

That got me thinking, maybe I've had it backwards trying to get the piece to a really good place before trying to memorize it as a whole, and should be trying memorizing by section as I go. After all, for me at least, errors go way down with confidence of knowing what my fingers should be doing before they get there. At least a few of you recommended a right off the bat approach, so I'm likely to give it a try.
owever, I think it is a mistake to stop paying attention to where you are on the written notation sheet as you play .... even if you can because you have it completely memorized.

If you do that, you may lose the ability to play while reading the music and depend upon memory entirely and that eventually will fail you for pieces you have not played in a long while. It is nice to be able to pick up the music and play it even if your memory has given up that piece of music.
In addition, when one says the music is completely memorized, I think for many people, especially amateurs, that does not include everything in the music besides the notes and rhythms. So if one starts playing from memory as soon as the notes and rhythms are memorized one may be ignoring/missing an awful lot of the composer's markings.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 12/26/20 11:07 AM.
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
H
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
H
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
Thanks to everyone for your input.

Over the last couple of weeks I've worked on newer pieces in smaller segments getting each little segment up to tempo before moving on. I find that the segment is memorized naturally and without much effort at about 50% tempo. From there tempo improvement come much faster than when I'm working multiple sections at a time for tempo without an effort to memorize.

I began a new piece today and am working on memorizing each little segment and getting it to at least 90% tempo before moving on to the next segment. At the very least spending 40 minutes at a time on 8 measures makes those measures feel like intimate friends.


but think how good I could be in five years...
Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  BB Player 

Link Copied to Clipboard
(ad)
Faust Harrison Pianos
Faust Harrison 100+ Steinway pianos
(ad)
Couch to Concert Hall
Couch to Concert Hall
(ad)
PianoDisc

PianoDisc
(ad)
Piano Life Saver - Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad)
Mason & Hamlin Pianos
New Topics - Multiple Forums
New Yamaha CX series vs Boston
by GraceTuraco - 04/20/21 09:15 PM
Thinking of buying a 2007 Yamaha G2 5'7" Grand
by Teresa100 - 04/20/21 07:52 PM
Estonia L190 Bass Scale
by mbd - 04/20/21 07:52 PM
A closer look at the Feurich 'Vienna' 123 model
by oswaldpeters - 04/20/21 04:22 PM
generic name for Mellotron
by TheophilusCarter - 04/20/21 03:24 PM
Download Sheet Music
Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads
Forum Statistics
Forums42
Topics206,432
Posts3,084,709
Members101,254
Most Online15,252
Mar 21st, 2010
Please Support Our Advertisers

Faust Harrison 100+ Steinways

Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver

 Best of Piano Buyer

PianoTeq Bechstein
Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
| Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | MapleStreetMusicShop.com - Our store in Cornish Maine


© copyright 1997 - 2021 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.5