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#930459 - 07/31/08 10:19 PM Memorization  
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How much do you rely on it? Do you memorize the piece as you learn it, bar by bar or after fluently learning to read the entire piece? Clearly, memorization is a good technique to have. Conert pianists have no printed pages in front.


The thought of eternal efflorescence of music is a comforting one, and comes like a messenger of peace in the midst of universal disturbance--Roman Rolland, Musicians of Former Days

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#930460 - 08/01/08 03:42 AM Re: Memorization  
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currawong Offline
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Are you asking about our own playing, or how we teach our students?

If the former, I don't rely on it at all. The vast majority of music I perform is ensemble, and not many ensemble pianists play from memory (I've only seen one vln/pf duo ever do it in concert). I always read through things before working on difficult parts. I don't think that even when I was doing more solo work and memorising lots of music that I ever memorised it bar by bar as I was learning it. It seems a very bitsy way of learning a piece. I'd rather grasp the overall structure first.


Du holde Kunst...
#930461 - 08/01/08 09:08 AM Re: Memorization  
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"Memorization is a good technique to have"--I definitely agree with ClassicalMan. Like Currawong, most of the performing that I do is accompanying/ensemble music, but I sometimes find that the only practical way to play a passage is from memory. For example, I was playing a Schubert sonatina for violin & piano, and the first eight measures were octaves in both hands--I had to look at my hands as I played in order to make sure I would hit the right notes! Memorizing enabled me to play that passage securely.

However, I have never felt comfortable requiring my students to perform from memory. Because I care more about how a piece sounds than whether or not there is a piece of paper on the music rack, I allow students to have the score in front of them for reference (and security) as they perform. Many of my students do choose to perform from memory (and I give them special recognition and mention at recitals)--but it's always their choice.


Private piano & voice teacher for over 20 years; currently also working as a pipe organist for 3 area churches; sing in a Chicago-area acappella chamber choir
#930462 - 08/01/08 10:28 AM Re: Memorization  
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I teach my students memorization by the way I teach them to practice. As we begin a new piece, we look through it to discover the major parts. We then look for subsections within each part. We mark the parts, and then, after a play through to get a feel of the piece, the student begins refining the piece by working on each section as a single entity. Thus, they are learning the structure of the piece as they learn the whole. When I comes time to perform, they merely reassemble the whole, or to put it another way, they string together a series of memorized pieces. The piece is generally memorized long before it's totally refined.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#930463 - 08/01/08 01:45 PM Re: Memorization  
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Memory is important, whether or not one intends to play with a score. I therefore rely on it heavily for myself and with me students.

I teach that there are 4 primary sources of memory: I will even go to the controversial length of ranking them in order of importance (as I have found to be the case)

Aural
Analytical
Visual
Tactual

I list tactual last, not beacuse it is not important, but because, if one plays accurately over and over, with the same fingering, it is the only one that is a given.

-P-


Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs
#930464 - 08/01/08 02:00 PM Re: Memorization  
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Yes indeed. The aural, visual and tactile will occur automatically through practice. If practice is playing correctly, then the performance memory will be correct; if the practice is a progression of wrong notes slowly resolving to correct notes (to over simplify), then the memory will be confused when under pressure.

It's the analytical which most teachers tend to overlook, and thus students don't do it.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#930465 - 08/01/08 02:02 PM Re: Memorization  
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I agree 100% with John......the practice MUST be correct.

H1


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#930466 - 08/01/08 03:31 PM Re: Memorization  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
Memory is important, whether or not one intends to play with a score. I therefore rely on it heavily for myself and with me students.

I teach that there are 4 primary sources of memory: I will even go to the controversial length of ranking them in order of importance (as I have found to be the case)

Aural
Analytical
Visual
Tactual

I list tactual last, not beacuse it is not important, but because, if one plays accurately over and over, with the same fingering, it is the only one that is a given.

-P-
I would love for you to elaborate on this, I didn't want to steal the thread too much so I posted here - http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/2/18565.html

#930467 - 08/01/08 04:08 PM Re: Memorization  
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Whiteside fixates on aural memory...and as you mentioned Liemer fixates on the analytical side.

I agree that visual has the two components.

The thing is that none of these are mutually exclusive...
The ear guides the tactual response...many other connections can be made

My personal favorite memory tool is closing the eyes...visualizing a keyboard, then watching your imaginary hands play the piece in front of you while humming along. You may need to slightly wiggle the fingers as you imagine, to involve the tactual.

I find that this is a practice method that really involves all aspects of memory. It takes a lot of practice and concentration. At first, the image is very "slippery", but after a while, you can get it to hold still. If you can play and entire piece like this, I can all but guarantee that you will not have any memory slips in performence.

It's great for when you can't sleep at night.


Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
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#930468 - 08/01/08 05:26 PM Re: Memorization  
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When I said I don't rely on it at all, I didn't mean that memorisation doesn't happen. It does, and as lalakeys points out, there are times when using the score where you need to look at your hands, so you have to be pretty familiar with the music. I suppose if I had thought that was what you meant by memorising I might have said something slightly different. But total memorisation of a piece is something I generally don't do any more, though I like to think I still could smile .

Like lalakeys, I don't insist my students play from memory. And like John, we examine the structure of a piece in detail.

What I see sometimes in posts on PW is the bar-by-bar memorisation method which is a substitute for fluent reading. You know, the sort that hammers it into your fingers slowly adding a bar at a time (often by people who admit their reading is poor) and then never looking at the music again. I'm not an advocate of that!


Du holde Kunst...
#930469 - 08/01/08 06:44 PM Re: Memorization  
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No, nor is that a good way to learn a piece of music. Of course, many pianists do that, but their ability to read other, new music is severely curtailed. Actually, when dealing with transfer students who have been taught that way, I find I have an overwhelming urge to go get that teacher and pull their finger nails out, as a suitable punishment for inflicting such unnecessary pain on their students.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#930470 - 08/03/08 12:05 AM Re: Memorization  
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I see someone mentioned that practice must be correct, but as a student don't I practice to work out errors and fine tune a piece? I always have errors that I try to eventually remove.

Mark...

#930471 - 08/03/08 06:04 PM Re: Memorization  
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currawong Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Mark...:
I see someone mentioned that practice must be correct, but as a student don't I practice to work out errors and fine tune a piece? I always have errors that I try to eventually remove.

Mark...
Interesting you should say this, Mark. I have heard the "perfect practice makes perfect" thing quite often around PW, and whereas it's obvious to me that it's a Bad Idea to repeat a mistake over and over, and a Good Idea to make sure you have it right, some seem to take this to such an extreme that they want to prevent all mistakes before they happen. A few things wrong with this, in my view:
[1] You can't prevent all mistakes.
[2] To have this as your aim results in careful playing, not musical playing - ie it's a negative aim, not a positive one.
[3] If you only allowed yourself perfection, you would never be able to do any sight-reading, or any quick reads through something to see whether it appeals to you.
[4] There is a value in making a mistake and analysing why you made it. This usually results in a surer solution than if you only fluked the right note in the first place.

Maybe I'm putting up a straw man when I mention the "perfect practice" brigade. If so, I apologise smile . I suppose I'm talking about an extreme position which not many would hold. But I'm with you, Mark, on practice being a working time where you solve problems. If you don't have any you can move onto something else, can't you? smile

[edit] I wasn't referring to you John smile and what you said about practising correctly, or going from a string of wrong notes eventually to right ones. I'm with you there - it was a more extreme view I've heard at other times.


Du holde Kunst...
#930472 - 08/03/08 07:46 PM Re: Memorization  
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Why do you desire to memorize something if it is not well played? If you don't have enough perspective of the piece for the complete understanding of it musically, and you can't control yourself to "get it proficiently, for Pete's Sake, why would you want to memorize it in this condition.

And, don't tell me you'll fix it after you memorize - you won't - the brain will hold on to it with any error until you are exhausted from trying to fix things.

If in your scrapbook of pictures, every photo of you made you look strange, ditzy, goony, lost, not you as you see yourself, you'd want to be better prepared for the photo in the first place.

I'm going to say something that my mother always said when giving an opinion: "Do you agree with me or are you wrong?" She also said:"Any one in their right mind would agree with me."

I don't really mean to be rude, I just wanted to use that for once in my life, and this was my once. Promise.

Give a new prespective to what you are accomplishing when you poorly memorize - that must mean you are poorly playing and poorly intrepreting it from the written page too. So where should you start? At the first step which leads you astray.

Memorization should be the final product of working on the piece - after security and accuracy and musicality is obtained.

#930473 - 08/03/08 07:54 PM Re: Memorization  
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"And, don't tell me you'll fix it after you memorize - you won't - the brain will hold on to it with any error until you are exhausted from trying to fix things"

Well, I think that depends on the kind of error. When I have something solidly memorized (and perfectly memorized, which isn't the same thing), I can still make an occasional mistake - it's hot my hands are sweaty and I slip off a key and hit the white one next to it.....I get momentarily distracted and reach for an octave and I just miss.....this doesn't mean it is built into my learning and knowledge of the piece. It could mean there is a cat standing on my note....


SantaFe_Player
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#930474 - 08/03/08 08:48 PM Re: Memorization  
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I'm not sure to whom you're addressing those remarks, Betty, or to what specific view. As it came straight after my post, it seemed like it was to me. If you read my posts in the thread carefully I don't think you'll find I disagree with your view on memorising after a piece is well learnt. I also don't think you'll find I advocate making mistakes - only that it's not a realistic goal to aim to never make any, and that a mistake can be illuminating.


Du holde Kunst...
#930475 - 08/03/08 09:21 PM Re: Memorization  
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Quote
[1] You can't prevent all mistakes.
[2] To have this as your aim results in careful playing, not musical playing - ie it's a negative aim, not a positive one.
Currawong,

I received this same information from my own teacher and it liberated me. She referred to as "stealing the joy of the music from myself". As an older adult student, I'm grateful to have you say the same thing. That absolute perfection can be a negative goal.

Debbie


A Hero is one who hangs on one minute longer. Author: Unknown
#930476 - 08/03/08 09:34 PM Re: Memorization  
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Originally posted by Debbie57:
As an older adult student, I'm grateful to have you say the same thing.
Hi Debbie. I mostly teach "older adult students" - perhaps you can tell wink .

It liberated me, too - in performance particularly (of which I do a fair bit). I know we've gone a bit off-topic but many of the issues are related.


Du holde Kunst...
#930477 - 08/03/08 10:38 PM Re: Memorization  
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Let me be a contrarian for a moment.

It seems that 99% of all students play faster than their ability to read the notes correctly, and to execute them, along with phrasing, dynamics, etc., correctly.

This is assuming that you're learning a piece roughly in line with your level of advancement.

For example, you can just barely play Bach's Minuet in G. No matter how slowly you try, your brain, nervous system, muscle and skeletal structure is going to be overwhelmed if you try to play his Italian Concerto.

But let's assume that you can play the Invention #4 very well, and your teacher now assigns #8. You can and should play it through almost note perfectly on the first read, but most students will not, because they will give in to the temptation to play faster, far, far faster, than their ability to read and execute a new piece.

When teachers say, "slow practice," what does a student hear? Instead of going 100mph, slow down to 95mph. What does the teacher really mean? Instead of going 100mph, slow down to 5mph.

The other aspect of practice is breaking the musical work down into sections. My guess is that 99% of students resist doing this with every fiber of their being. It is far more fun to play through a piece several times, than to divide it up into very small segments and work out the details. It is an excruciating process for most, and I would hazard a guess this is why most do not succeed.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#930478 - 08/03/08 11:00 PM Re: Memorization  
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That was to Mark, Currawong. Sorry for the way it seemed to you.

But, I do think we can avoid mistakes in the under construction study.

I am a good sightreader and I teach analysis of the pieces we work on. Relying on that background, music plays better when you can avoid making mistakes. (My opinion.) I think a student can be trained to that degree in all levels of learning that they have participated in so that when the music gets difficult, they have some good habits to read and plan with.

The kinds of mistakes I meant were learned mistakes - not slippages and a wrong note occasionally.

Perfection is not as important to me as having high standards and a recognition for excellence.

Maybe there is a big difference in those who memorize too easily and those who must put lots of effort into learning to memorize?

I didn't mean to superimpose my remarks on anyone elses, it simply was my thoughts on the process of learning a piece and memorization as I understand it to be.

Betty

#930479 - 08/04/08 09:17 AM Re: Memorization  
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John,
I tell my students to play "so slow it sounds stupid." That pretty much brings it down to a speed at which their brains can think (not to insult their intelligence, but the brain need sit slow enough to be able to process it!).

And Betty, I agree that memorization is a good skill to teach students. I have my students participate in Solo/Ensemble and WMTA Auditions in which they have to memorize. Every once in a while I'll have them memorize something for a recital, or the student will choose to do so. A piece performed from memory will stay with them for a long, long time. I even recall songs I memorized as a child! There is some value in this.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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#930480 - 08/04/08 09:39 AM Re: Memorization  
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:


A piece performed from memory will stay with them for a long, long time. I even recall songs I memorized as a child! There is some value in this.
This may be an area where there is a substantial difference between the young beginner and the adult beginner.

We oldtimers have significantly more difficulty memorizing anything. At 55 I struggle to do so, and if i don't play something for a week it's largely gone - sometimes in much less. It's often said that the repertoire you memorize by age 20 will always be with you, and that seems to be my experience.

But what memorizing I do manage can be largely done before the piece is well learned. Of the four types (i would say there are five - I think visual memory of the score differs from a visual image of the keyboard and/or fingers) only tactile would have to wait. The other three or four can easily be done prior, and probably would help the learning process. Certainly for small sections I am more secure if I can retain the visual image of the score and the aural image of the sound while practicing, and then tactile follows naturally.


gotta go practice
#930481 - 08/04/08 10:03 AM Re: Memorization  
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It bothers me when I read the old tale suggesting that we have some kind of mental deterioration or inflexible mind hard-wired into our system, like a programmed auto-destruct. We're the same age. My ability to learn, retain, think clearly, acquire both music and language, are much greater than they were when I was young. It is a matter of mental habit and approach.

It is possible that some people in their fifties cannot remember things as well as when they were younger. It is possible that some of these people simply are not accustomed to memorizing things anymore, or have mental habits that interfere with that memorizing. The others might actually have that difficulty. This does not mean, however, that everyone who is in his 50's has that difficulty. Nor does it mean that a 15 year old will learn better and faster than a 55 year old, because of age.

Did you try to learn music when you were young, so that you have a point of comparison? What bothers me about the theory of age-related disability is that it may prevent someone from acquiring skills. If I believe you have a disability I will not try to help you. But if I believe you may not yet have an effective approach, we would examine that approach to find out why it's not working and what we can do about it. As soon as we believe we cannot do something because of age, race, dietary habit, culture then we have put ourselves into a position of helplesness.

#930482 - 08/04/08 02:19 PM Re: Memorization  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
It bothers me when I read the old tale suggesting that we have some kind of mental deterioration or inflexible mind hard-wired into
It's not an old tale. It's true. There is plenty of research to show that memory and certain types of learning, particularly language, decline as we age.

There are physical changes in the brain that are seen on MRI. And people who start piano young have changes in their brain cells that people who start older don't have.

Rather than claim it isn't true, we need to find strategies to deal with it and work around it.

There are trombone solos I memorized when I was 12 that I have no trouble playing today - some of the Arthur Pryor stuff, for example. Yet this past summer I memorized IGSOY three separate times, and still can't play it.

Children soak up a foreign language almost without effort. People my age work their rear off, with little success.

Ask any experienced, er, mature pianist if they can still play the stuff they learned as a child. I'll bet they can. Now ask them how long it takes to memorize something new.


gotta go practice
#930483 - 08/04/08 02:43 PM Re: Memorization  
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I am a linguist. I am learning my 6th language in my fifties. I am teaching a new language simultaneously to a fifty year old adult and a 14 year old child in separate sessions. Both are doing well, both have five languages under their belt already, and both are progressing at about the same speed. In all cases I am applying my expertise, experience, knowledge and methods that I have put together over the years. I am learning things faster and more effectively and mastering them to a greater extent than I did in my late teens or early twenties. When I teach, I do not just teach language, I also teach approaches to learning the language. I speak with a fair amount of fluency.

What are the variables and circumstances that these researchers take into account? Is it immigrants who try to learn the language in a classroom situation? Are they learning language by trying to read first? What approach are those trying to learn a language using - I mean deep down approach?

I believe the hang-up is right there: in how we approach what we are learning. How many of us will adopt a childlike state and allow ourselves to learn without filtering or over-directing ourselves? What is the actual process, moment to moment, in learning something new? If the process is at fault, then memory capacity is not the issue.

Quote
Children soak up a foreign language almost without effort. People my age work their rear off, with little success.
I can and do soak up foreign language without effort. I am your age. I do not work my rear off.
Quote
Now ask them how long it takes to memorize something new.
Ask me. At least the same amount of time, but probably less time, and retention is better.
Quote
There are physical changes in the brain that are seen on MRI. And people who start piano young have changes in their brain cells that people who start older don't have.
What happens to the physical blobs of gray matter does not concern me. I understand that we only use a fraction anyway. I am concerned with what I am capable of doing, and what people I tutor are capable of doing. If they can do what the research says they cannot do, then I would rather question the research - and do so gladly.

I do not like such theories being put out as fact, because negative expectations can cause those things be dint of those expectations.

#930484 - 08/04/08 03:07 PM Re: Memorization  
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Quote
Rather than claim it isn't true, we need to find strategies to deal with it and work around it.
We are not exactly on common ground, but close. What is true is that many adults experience difficulty learning languages and learning to play a musical instrument. Furthermore, the two keep being linked. But then we get to our measurement-crazy relatively superficial scientific ways. I'm not convinced that we are looking at the right things. We may even be looking at symptoms and considering them as results of the hypothesized ailment.

I don't have the time to develop the ideas and they would be OT to this thread in any case. But generally speaking I believe that capacity to remember, diminished abilities, or the image of impressionability as though young people were warm wax and we were hardened cool wax -- I don't believe in these things --- especially not as fact.

I believe that the manner in which we approach things and absorb them, how we direct and over-direct ourselves, the process of learning in a fine and intimate consideration of it, is at stake in a lot of cases. I have my theories, and I'm seeing what is happening in my own case. Either I'm an anomaly or there is something to it.

I can accept the hardened-wax model of human memory if presented as an hypothesis, but not as a fact. Believing in such things as facts can be debilitating. In addition, if it's not true, a student with a healthy mind, good capacity for learning, may be facing a teaching population who will not aim for much because the model has predicted limited capacity. Teaching literature is full of self-fulfilling prophesies, whether it be women, Blacks in certain historical periods, those belonging to the lower classes. The inferior abilities of any of these classes was always a "known" fact. I would rather err on the side of optimism than to become self-limiting.

#930485 - 08/05/08 05:45 AM Re: Memorization  
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I think for me the relevant question would be choice of approach.

Some of the posters above advocate learning a piece as the primary, with memorization likely to appear along the way.

But there are a number of teachers who advocate a different approach: a focused attempt to memorize a piece first, before (and as part of) the attempt to master it.

Either is possible. When I was young by the time I'd learned something it was pretty much memorized without the effort. As an oldtimer that no longer happens. I don't know why - the conventional wisdom says our memory declines as we age, despite keystring's isolated counterexamples. It is true for me. That doesn't mean i can't memorize, merely that it is difficult and doesn't stay with me.

So it might be that the teacher who has only young children would want to approach this topic differently from those who have a substantial component of adult beginners.


gotta go practice
#930486 - 08/05/08 06:56 AM Re: Memorization  
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It's worth considering the role of the ego in memory - the wish to know how/that something has been stored. It adds considerable stress to the system and is something I don't think young children bother with.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#930487 - 08/05/08 07:21 AM Re: Memorization  
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Why would ego be involved? I memorize music and cooking recipes because it's handy.

It is stressful and potentially debilitating, however, to ascribe to the belief that at a certain age we are subject to incremental deterioration and a kind of hardened inflexibility which will render us increasingly incapable of doing and learning. Then we may find ourselves fighting our supposed disability, looking anxiously for signs of what we "still have left" - all round it is a harmful and unnecessary thing.

If some common weaknesses in the learning by a given age group are actually matters of habit and behaviour, then it is also senseless to not address and change these habits in order to make learning effective where it is not, and break through the resulting barriers.

I gave my examples which come from an approach that addresses learning behaviour itself on a deeper level. There were two reasons for presenting it. One involves success through approach, and the idea that approach can make a difference (therefore disability is not necessarily involved - perhaps hardening of habit). The second is that if two people of a certain age are not having the results that are being put forth about age-related limitations, then in the least those limitations cannot be an absolute fact.

#930488 - 08/05/08 07:37 AM Re: Memorization  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Why would ego be involved?
It attempts to 'anchor' our memories but in realty the water's too deep. Why? Insecurity, I would guess.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

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