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Personally, I find returning to the piano at almost 60 quite challenging. The most annoying bit (that I haven't seen discussed so much here) is the limited ability to memorize. I was never very good at that as a kid but now its even worse. For me, it's the main limiting factor. If I can keep up with the reading, I can reach my technical limits. When reading is tough and I need to memorize, progress is unbelievably slow.

As an example, I started practicing an Etude Tableau - Rach 39:8. It's hard but not impossible, looking at the parts. Buts it incredibly hard to just memorize a couple of bars...

What about other grown ups - anyone else feeling that the brain limits more than the fingers? And is there anything one can do? Memory exercises? Eating fish? Jogging?


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I'm an older forever beginner, and can read, but not sight read then play much to my teacher's occasional irritation. I have a mixed repertoire memorised of 20 or so pieces. It takes more than maybe 70% of my practice time to keep these pieces in memory and fluent. The rest of my practice time, apart from exercises, including sight reading, is still to learn, memorise, new more advanced pieces and so add them to the repertoire, albeit more slowly than ever.

But then I started to learn improvisation, and composition, in various styles, cocktail, blues, jazz, modern. This way I found my piano and music knowledge being extended, and of course it's easy to create new pieces for my repertoire, even if they are one-offs that don't get remembered! It's more fun too!

My practice balance is changing from the aforementioned 70/30 to possibly one day 30/70 or something else as the improvisation landscape is, to me at the moment, huge.

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Why not just improve your reading skills when playing from the score?

Memorizing pieces is simply time-wasting if you don't need to play from memory - which, incidentally, the vast majority of professional classical pianists don't.

Of course, if you practice a piece often enough for long enough, you'll develop some muscle memory of it here & there (which is all you need to play it fluently from the score), but it won't be enough for you to play it from beginning to end from memory........but do you need to?


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Originally Posted by ColonelBogey
... The most annoying bit (that I haven't seen discussed so much here) is the limited ability to memorize...

As an example, I started practicing an Etude Tableau - Rach 39:8. It's hard but not impossible, looking at the parts. Buts it incredibly hard to just memorize a couple of bars...


It is harder to memorize something that not only is new, but is entirely new territory which makes it much harder. Do you have something you have not yet memorized, but so familiar with the score it is very comfortable to play and not that big a stretch? If so, start there.

I have never not memorized a piece in my life. But new ones that venture into new technique, or weird chord voicing, irregular rhythms are always harder. But eventually they come and mostly, just from repetition.

I can't still play every piece I have ever learned, but if I could ever find the score (not likely) I'd be able to restore them much faster than if I were just reading it anew. Even though my reading needs more attention than my memorizing does, I have never wanted to rely on a score, or need to except in early stages of developing a new piece.

So for me, memorizing has been far from a waste of time. It's why I am still here and still love playing.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Why not just improve your reading skills when playing from the score?

Memorizing pieces is simply time-wasting if you don't need to play from memory - which, incidentally, the vast majority of professional classical pianists don't.

Of course, if you practice a piece often enough for long enough, you'll develop some muscle memory of it here & there (which is all you need to play it fluently from the score), but it won't be enough for you to play it from beginning to end from memory........but do you need to?

Absolutely right. I am hopeless at memorising and I never even try. I feel that my time is much better spent practising than memorising.

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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by bennevis
Why not just improve your reading skills when playing from the score?

Memorizing pieces is simply time-wasting if you don't need to play from memory - which, incidentally, the vast majority of professional classical pianists don't.

Of course, if you practice a piece often enough for long enough, you'll develop some muscle memory of it here & there (which is all you need to play it fluently from the score), but it won't be enough for you to play it from beginning to end from memory........but do you need to?

Absolutely right. I am hopeless at memorising and I never even try. I feel that my time is much better spent practising than memorising.

Right for you and bennevis, perhaps. But, we are not all the same, nor wish for the same things. Everyone has their own unique journey and experience, and it is the way it should be.

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Here is the greatest pianist of the last century performing Mozart......from the music:



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Is your dream to be like him some day?

Should we all wish the same?

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Originally Posted by Greener
Is your dream to be like him some day?
Are you asking me?

If you are - no, I have a good job and have no wish to be a concert pianist.
Unlike him, I do perform from memory, but only because I don't have a page turner.

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Should we all wish the same?
As you're not into classical, why would you ask such a question?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Greener
Is your dream to be like him some day?
Are you asking me?

If you are - no, I have a good job and have no wish to be a concert pianist.
Unlike him, I do perform from memory, but only because I don't have a page turner.

Quote
Should we all wish the same?
As you're not into classical, why would you ask such a question?

Because, in your earlier post you stated, that memorizing is a waste of time. So, by that I assumed that you are suggesting that because it is a waste of time for you, it should be for everyone.

BTW, I know you don't listen very well, but perhaps you should get familiar with what people play around here before you make such ridiculous statements. If you don't wish to listen at least look at the recital index of what people are interested in. I have only recorded classical there with few exceptions for specialty recitals.

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Originally Posted by Greener
Originally Posted by bennevis
As you're not into classical, why would you ask such a question?

Because, in your earlier post you stated, that memorizing is a waste of time. So, by that I assumed that you are suggesting that because it is a waste of time for you, it should be for everyone.
Perhaps you should stop making silly assumptions?

I was replying directly to the OP (which should be obvious), who is a classical pianist.

Quote
BTW, I know you don't listen very well, but perhaps you should get familiar with what people play around here before you make such ridiculous statements. If you don't wish to listen at least look at the recital index of what people are interested in. I have only recorded classical there with few exceptions for specialty recitals.
And perhaps you should look at yourself, and what you say in your posts - and what you actually know?

Unlike you, I know exactly who I address my posts to.


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Apparently not. You didn't even know I have an interest in classical.

Remember from now on, the new age jazzer plays classical too.

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Classical music is for everyone.

That should be obvious.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Why not just improve your reading skills when playing from the score?

Yep. It is really that simple.

This is an extremely common situation with learning to play piano.

Memorize or play while reading notation.

Memorizing is easier to do early on but fails in the long run due to running out of memory.

Gaining the skill of reading while playing is more difficult and slower early on but opens up a whole world of music when mastered.


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If you don't have to memorize, and don't need to memorize, then don't.

When I was 62, I went back to University to get a BM in Piano Performance. I had to memorize almost everything, including 2 solo recitals. It was a definite struggle. If you have the time, I have a thread here that I updated as I went along (for 4 years): Back to School at 62

What I learned, and what worked for me, might not work for you. I couldn't just memorize something by playing it over and over. Neither could I see the score in my head (visual memory). I had to use 1) aural memory (what does it sound like) 2) analysis (form and function and so forth) and 3) muscle memory (what does it feel like to play it - the gestures).

One of those by itself did not work. It does no good to remember how it feels if I have my hands on the wrong notes. Knowing how it sounds helps to know when I go wrong, but not how to make it right.

I had the best success by doing whatever it took to memorize a short section (sometimes very short), and "never" looking at the score for that section again. In other words, divorce yourself from the score early in the process. Of course, you have to go back and look, but you know what I mean.

I identify memory posts in the piece and give them a name. This could be as easy as "Db" or something like "recap". Just before I get to that spot, I say the name out loud. This reinforces the memory. Don't do that in performance! I also write the names on popsicle sticks (craft sticks), put them all in a mug, and pull them out at random and start playing from that spot.

What did not work? Writing out the score from memory away from the piano - not in a million years. Hoping that I would magically absorb it somehow? Never happened - I have to have a plan, go through it measure by measure, and know what is going on at all times.

Start with a simple piece, not Rachmaninoff. A classical sonata first movement is a good choice - tonally conservative, predictable, and easy to remember. That will build your confidence.

Even with all that, I had problems in recital. So using the score should be the first option...

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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by bennevis
Why not just improve your reading skills when playing from the score?

Memorizing pieces is simply time-wasting if you don't need to play from memory - which, incidentally, the vast majority of professional classical pianists don't.

Of course, if you practice a piece often enough for long enough, you'll develop some muscle memory of it here & there (which is all you need to play it fluently from the score), but it won't be enough for you to play it from beginning to end from memory........but do you need to?

Absolutely right. I am hopeless at memorising and I never even try. I feel that my time is much better spent practising than memorising.

+1. It would be nice to have a selection of memorized pieces, but at age 67, it would be way too time consuming for me to accomplish.


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Well, for those that wish to do it, like the OP requested, this is what I do and I have been doing it all my life. But, it is just what I do.

What does it look like? Physically on the register. Not what it looks like on the page.

What does it sound like? This will play into your ear training too. So, double bonus there.

What does it feel like? Every chord or chord voicing or whatever has a physical feel to it that becomes familiar.

Don't try to rehearse the whole thing in your head like you need to be able to think of what is going to happen every step of the way from start to finish before you even start. No-one can do that. As you develop your ear and these other abilities, as you proceed through the work each step becomes a cue for what happens next as it becomes more familiar. But, you have to keep it simple, so forget about over analyzing it. Like, this is 5 and I am now going to one. Or this is Gm7 going to C with this fancy voicing, or Beethoven was from Germany. No, just how it looks, feels and sounds. Keep it simple.

Yes, it will fail. Everything needs to be refreshed. Just like when you haven't played something from the score for quite awhile, you will need to rehearse it before you perform it.

But, do as you wish, of course.

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I can read lower level pieces reasonably well. the past few years I've been reading new pieces assigned by the teacher and my reading is getting better.

A decade ago I attempted a few challenging pieces including the first movement of the popular Mozart Sonata #16 in C. My reading wasn't great so I'd practice a few measures or lines at a time and got the notes memorized. I learned the Bach Counterpoint Fugue #1 in Dm section by section and played it on a street piano from memory. I had a recording of the fugues & canons BWV1080 at home and heard it a few times so learning the notes wasn't a big deal although the counting was a bit awkward.

Once I was at a Christmas party and played the first movement of the Bach Italian Concerto in F from memory on an old upright. Worked on the piece line by line for about 2 1/2 weeks. Back in 1985 Keith Jarrett famous for his Jazz improvs made a recording of the piece. When I played the piece, I wasn't consciously thinking about the KJ recording or even tried to imitate his tempo or hand gestures. There was 1 spot he substituted lower A with a higher A that I noticed when reading the score.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Why not just improve your reading skills when playing from the score?

Memorizing pieces is simply time-wasting if you don't need to play from memory - which, incidentally, the vast majority of professional classical pianists don't.
Since this thread is about the adult learners, I find it necessary to add from my own experience. Memory for playing music without notes is not the whole problem, although it is the main thing. There is also the use of memory when reading the musical text: signs of alteration in the key, the location of the notes, a simultaneous look at the parts of both hands. All this requires the work of short-term memory, and for me it went wrong catastrophically; by the way, not only in reading music. In a youth, when everything acted quickly and accurately, there was no need to think about anything - just read the notes and play, play, play. Now, the one-time capacity of reading notes and its speed have been reduced to horror, and no amount of training helps here.
Each age has its own wisdom: much is required from the youth; and an adult should be indulgent towards himself .

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Thank you all for great input, great respectives! I realise that i have almost no visual memory of the score. I do have some visual memory of a few places in each piece where I have to have a look at the keyboard. I'll think just struggle along with what I do now, muscle memory guided by the score.


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