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Posted By: BJenkins The four forms of memory - 08/01/08 07:28 PM
In the past I used exclusively tactual memory and was plagued with frequent memory lapses in performance. Now that I am starting to use other forms of memory I feel more confident about how well I know the pieces I am working on. However I cannot help but feel that there is something big that I am still lacking.

When we hear about famous pianists who learn pieces with such rapidity that it seems almost God-like, I cannot help but think that this ability is tied very closely to their memory skills. I feel that if one can learn and apply the memory techniques that these pianists use, it may be possible to memorize a piece of music in the first or second read through. If that was possible then it would leave a great load of time for the acquirement of technique and musicality.

In my understanding of memory and the piano there are four major sources of memory, akin to what pianoexcellence posted in another recent thread:
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Originally posted by pianoexcellence:

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
Aural memory I can only imagine demands some pitch recognition abilities. Here is where I can see a person with absolute pitch has a large advantage. A person who has absolute pitch would be able to hear the piece, either played by themselves or on a recording, and already begin the memorization process. I think that the advantages of absolute pitch in how fast a piece can be memorized and played are easily recognizable in looking at those pianists that can learn a piece of music very quickly. The pianists Argerich, Hamelin, Horowitz, Rubenstein, the list could go on and on, all had absolute pitch. There must be a correlation.

In Gieseking's and Liemer's books they write solely on the analytical memory. The way that he explains the process of memorization makes it sound possible to learn such a technique for memorizing a piece of music very quickly. However in practice I have found his ideas difficult to apply.

I have done a lot of studying on memory outside of the context of music and have learned that it is easier to memorize something that is meaningful, and that is memorized in chunk. These two ideas make a solid argument of Gieseking's approach. Basically Gieseking teaches that before we even play a note of the piano we can memorize the music theoretically. He goes through a Bach 2 and 3 part invention and then a Beethoven sonata in this way. He analyzes the pieces in such a way that memorizing becomes a manageable task.

By visual memory I think of two possibilities. The memory of the written page and the memory of the movements we play on the keyboard. These two aspects of memory have been what have helped me greatly in the last few months. It helps in such a way that I can replay, and even practice the piece in my mind away from the piano. Hoffman once said, "There are four ways to study a composition: (1) On the piano with the music, (2) away from the piano with the music, (3) on the piano without the music, and (4) away from the piano without the music." When I was only using tactual memory number four was an impossibility.

What many people call a photographic memory seems, by research on the memory, to be a misnomer, and that "photographic memory" does not even exist. All memorizers (even savants) memorize by associations, and no one takes a perfect snapshot of anything.
See: No on has a photographic memory
Also see: Your Memory: How it Works and How to improve it

Finally tactual memory is the phenomenon we are all familiar with. We play a piece of music so many times that the movements are ingrained into our fingers.

I would really like to hear everyone’s take on this subject matter, as I feel it is something that seems to be overly neglected in the world of piano pedagogy.
Posted By: pianoexcellence Re: The four forms of memory - 08/01/08 08:06 PM
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.
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/01/08 09:13 PM
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Originally posted by BJenkins:
In Gieseking's and Liemer's books they write solely on the analytical memory. The way that he explains the process of memorization makes it sound possible to learn such a technique for memorizing a piece of music very quickly. However in practice I have found his ideas difficult to apply.

I have done a lot of studying on memory outside of the context of music and have learned that it is easier to memorize something that is meaningful, and that is memorized in chunk. These two ideas make a solid argument of Gieseking's approach. Basically Gieseking teaches that before we even play a note of the piano we can memorize the music theoretically. He goes through a Bach 2 and 3 part invention and then a Beethoven sonata in this way. He analyzes the pieces in such a way that memorizing becomes a manageable task.
BJ - how well versed are you in music theory? Can you easily do Roman Numeral analysis on the pieces you play? Can you play from a lead sheet?

I have the worlds most useless natural memory. In fact it caused me to give up piano for many years until I finally hit on the idea of analyzing my pieces thoroughly and using that analysis to memorize (and learn to play) them. It has given me a second life with the piano.

You are absolutely right - analysis makes music "meaningful," i.e. reveals logic rather than randomness behind the notes, and allows you to see the notes in logical groups - a huge help in memorizing. I have written about this in another thread. Roman Numeral Analysis in particular allows you to see the notes in groups on two levels - chords, and progressions. Part of uncovering the "meaningfulness" of the music is revealing the relatedness of the notes. Notes relate to the chords they make up, chords relate to the the scale the piece is written in, melody notes relate to the chords, etc., etc.

If you were classically trained, most likely you have little or no experience analyzing the music you've learned to play. Most of us were taught music theory as just that, theory, and never taught to use it as a tool. Becoming proficient at analysis is just like becoming proficient at anything else. The more you do of it, the better and faster you become at it and the easier it becomes.

I am not saying that there is no place for the other forms of memory. They are essential, too. But I have found that truly understanding the music I learn has been the key to allowing me to memorize music confidently for the first time in my life.

One more point. I recommend doing the analysis as a first step in learning a new piece, before you learn to play the piece, and then using that analysis to learn the piece phrase by phrase. I recommend it because it forces you to rely on your analysis before tactile and aural memory have a chance to kick in. Later in the process you will find them balancing out more.
Posted By: Fleeting Visions Re: The four forms of memory - 08/01/08 09:25 PM
Edit.
Posted By: BJenkins Re: The four forms of memory - 08/01/08 10:07 PM
Quote
Originally posted by JerryS88:
Quote
Originally posted by BJenkins:
[b]In Gieseking's and Liemer's books they write solely on the analytical memory. The way that he explains the process of memorization makes it sound possible to learn such a technique for memorizing a piece of music very quickly. However in practice I have found his ideas difficult to apply.

I have done a lot of studying on memory outside of the context of music and have learned that it is easier to memorize something that is meaningful, and that is memorized in chunk. These two ideas make a solid argument of Gieseking's approach. Basically Gieseking teaches that before we even play a note of the piano we can memorize the music theoretically. He goes through a Bach 2 and 3 part invention and then a Beethoven sonata in this way. He analyzes the pieces in such a way that memorizing becomes a manageable task.
BJ - how well versed are you in music theory? Can you easily do Roman Numeral analysis on the pieces you play? Can you play from a lead sheet?
[/b]
I've finished college theory. I guess it is just something I need to practice more. I can do a Roman Numeral analysis, but I think the difficulty appears when trying to use that analysis as a method for memorization. It seems to work on a smaller scale just fine, but for an entire piece it becomes more difficult. I would like to get to the point where I can read through a piece of music and analyze it at the same time instead of sitting down and working it out like a math problem. I'm just not sure how to go about practicing that, other than sight reading very slowly while trying to analyze at the same time.
Posted By: BJenkins Re: The four forms of memory - 08/01/08 10:09 PM
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Originally posted by Fleeting Visions:
I would say forms, not sources. Sources of memory would likely be neural connections formed in response to information stimuli.
I agree. I changed the subject laugh
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/02/08 03:42 AM
Quote
Originally posted by BJenkins:
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Originally posted by JerryS88:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by BJenkins:
[b]In Gieseking's and Liemer's books they write solely on the analytical memory. The way that he explains the process of memorization makes it sound possible to learn such a technique for memorizing a piece of music very quickly. However in practice I have found his ideas difficult to apply.

I have done a lot of studying on memory outside of the context of music and have learned that it is easier to memorize something that is meaningful, and that is memorized in chunk. These two ideas make a solid argument of Gieseking's approach. Basically Gieseking teaches that before we even play a note of the piano we can memorize the music theoretically. He goes through a Bach 2 and 3 part invention and then a Beethoven sonata in this way. He analyzes the pieces in such a way that memorizing becomes a manageable task.
BJ - how well versed are you in music theory? Can you easily do Roman Numeral analysis on the pieces you play? Can you play from a lead sheet?
[/b]
I've finished college theory. I guess it is just something I need to practice more. I can do a Roman Numeral analysis, but I think the difficulty appears when trying to use that analysis as a method for memorization. It seems to work on a smaller scale just fine, but for an entire piece it becomes more difficult. I would like to get to the point where I can read through a piece of music and analyze it at the same time instead of sitting down and working it out like a math problem. I'm just not sure how to go about practicing that, other than sight reading very slowly while trying to analyze at the same time. [/b]
Analyzing a piece is a take-you-time project - I'm not suggesting you try to analyze while playing in real time - but it most definitely gets faster and easier the more you do it. Using analysis to learn and memorize a piece was something completely new to me when I started. If you just start out slowly you'll get the hang of it. It's all about thinking of and seeing notes in logical, identifiable groups. Over time those groups become easier and easier to identify.
Posted By: Lewbo Re: The four forms of memory - 08/10/08 05:23 PM
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Finally tactual memory is the phenomenon we are all familiar with. We play a piece of music so many times that the movements are ingrained into our fingers.
For me it has just been drill. Over and over. This thread gives me other things to work with. Thanks.
Posted By: TimR Re: The four forms of memory - 08/10/08 07:56 PM
For me the more modes of memory I use the better, with visual being the most secure and tactile the least.

But there might be a neglected strategy here. The memory experts use prememorization and association to improve their performance, and I've never seen musicians try this. I'm not sure how to go about it but maybe some of you are smart enough.

As an example of association, consider this. Memory experts that need to relate a word to a meaning will form a strong visual image for each and then for the link. Example: on my way to work I drive through the towns of Gollhafen the Uffenheim. Neither is easily rememberable. But for Gollhafen you can form an image of a harbor filled with seagulls, for Uffenheim the home of an oaf or ogre. Drop the home of an oaf into a harbor filled with seagulls and you can form an easily remembrable image.

Prememorization works very well for numbers or cards. If you memorize consonants for every number, work that you can do ahead of time atyour leasure, you can convert any number into letters that form a word. My car license plate is AD DR 485. That doesn't make obvious sense. But AD DR is very near adder, a snake. 485 converts to R F L, which as a word might be rifle. Okay, a snake rifle might be very useful! and now I have an image I can't forget.

Can something similar be done for music? I suspect so but don't know how to do it.
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/10/08 09:31 PM
Not only can something similar be done for music, I would contend something similar is done for music i.e. it's how the brain works. The question is how to access it.
Posted By: Loki Re: The four forms of memory - 08/11/08 02:01 AM
I think finding patterns in the music will help make the memory pretty solid. I guess this would fall under the analytical form of memory.
Posted By: Wood-demon Re: The four forms of memory - 08/11/08 09:52 AM
Pianists like Lili Kraus and Moura Lympany stated that memorization came to them just as a result of practising. They must have been "natural memorizers" as I believe the majority of the "international set" of concert pianists must be. Artur Rubinstein apparently relied primarily on photograpic memory of the score although one suspects the other aspects were highly developed too.
There is a great fetish for memorization and appearing in public without the score which places an unnecessary burden on many fine artists who find memorizing difficult. I was told that the English pianist Eric Hope devised a method where every bar of a piece was numbered, written down on individual cards and memorized; friends would later be invited to his practise sessions and would be invited to take these cards at random, call out the numbers to Hope who would play the appropriate bar and thus reassure himself that he knew the piece from memory! Surely this was a ridiculous and limiting method of learning which inhibited a fine pianist who would have been wiser to use the score in public, as did Myra Hess and Richter in his later years.
Moiseiwitsch reduced his repertoire to a handful of pieces at the end of his career because of memory problems and Mark Hambourg also regretted the necessity for having to play in public without the score. Joseph Hofmann's remarks on those who perform in public WITH the score is very perceptive, as he said that they, too, know their pieces from memory!
Posted By: Jan-Erik Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 07:00 PM
I wonder how you can adapt any theory on e. g. Rahcmaninoffs Etudes-Tableaux?

For me the tactile memory is supported by audial and visual memory.

Romantic music is not theory - it is expressed feelings.
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 09:28 PM
Quote
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
I wonder how you can adapt any theory on e. g. Rahcmaninoffs Etudes-Tableaux?

For me the tactile memory is supported by audial and visual memory.

Romantic music is not theory - it is expressed feelings.
Jan-Erik - I can appreciate the reluctance to "look under the hood" of beautiful Romantic music, but I must say, as musically beautiful and expressive as it is, it is still very analyzable and it makes full use of the things we learn in music theory (including the Etudes-Tableaux!). Romantic composers did not just write notes following their instincts and ear for beautiful sound - they all had thorough knowledge of theory and used it to compose their pieces.

You are a lucky person to have great, reliable tactile, audial, and visual memory. For me all of those without analytical memory are just not enough. Also, for me, analyzing what makes the most beautiful music tick detracts nothing from the experience of playing or listening to it. If anything, it makes me appreciate it even more. Analyzing Romantic music is really fascinating - discovering just how composers pushed the envelope, expanded the harmonic language, and created such moving masterpieces. In addition to all that, it makes learning, playing, and memorizing these pieces much quicker and easier (for me) for all the reasons I stated earlier in this thread.

In the end, everyone must use what they find useful.
Posted By: thepianist2008 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 09:58 PM
As much as I love mnemonics and the exploration of memory and learning, I haven't been able to find a good way to link mnemonics and music. I think this is because mnemonics are based upon spoken language. If anyone has any ideas that are workable, please get a document going on them.

Also, I'm assuming that, to help you analyze, you make a copy of the score and write on it. Even if you don't, would you do up a piece as an example and make a .pdf of it to post? For those of us who haven't started the practice of analyzing our pieces, an example might be helpful.
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 10:46 PM
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Originally posted by thepianist2008:
As much as I love mnemonics and the exploration of memory and learning, I haven't been able to find a good way to link mnemonics and music. I think this is because mnemonics are based upon spoken language.
Not all are verbal. The key to good remembering (association) is a rich visual imagination. I'm sure we all do it subconsciously anyway.
Posted By: keystring Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 10:51 PM
I am curious because I see such an emphasis placed on the visual. Music is sound. Doesn't anyone remember using the ear first? I can barely think of any visual component to my music.
Posted By: Kreisler Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 10:55 PM
It's because of the way pianists are (unfortunately) trained. A premium is placed on reading, and nobody bothers to do much singing or solfege anymore.

I spent a lot of time on solfege and singing, so my memory is mostly aural and tactile.
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 10:59 PM
No. The memory works with visual cues. We remember in pictures. When you hear an old song do you not then see in your mind's eye where you originally heard it? Who you were with? This can be used in reverse to set memories.
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 11:01 PM
Quote
Originally posted by thepianist2008:
I'm assuming that, to help you analyze, you make a copy of the score and write on it. Even if you don't, would you do up a piece as an example and make a .pdf of it to post? For those of us who haven't started the practice of analyzing our pieces, an example might be helpful.
Gladly - here is a link to an analysis I posted here a while back of Debussy's Clair de Lune.

I also recently did an analysis of a Scarlatti Sonata . You'll have to dig through the thread to see my analyses. I didn't post the Roman Numeral Analysis I wrote in on the original score and the reduction I did on a separate sheet of paper in the original thread, but you'll see some other forms of analysis I did that I found extremely useful. I''ll see about posting them. The Scarlatti project took me much more time than it would have normally because it was a special project to learn a piece completely away from the piano. Doing analysis AT the piano is much easier and faster!

To answer your question, I tend to write my analysis right in the score, but often I do make photocopies first - especially to keep expensive Urtext scores clean.
Posted By: thepianist2008 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 11:14 PM
Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
No. The memory works with visual cues. We remember in pictures. When you hear an old song do you not then see in your mind's eye where you originally heard it? Who you were with? This can be used in reverse to set memories.
I think it's more the characteristic of memory to be associative (is that the right word?). Meaning, our brains are not like computers that pick out a piece of data based on location. Our brains work by following a web of connections/associations to the information. This is why it is best to learn all four forms of memory, even though we primarily rely on one or two. In fact, along the lines of what keyboardklutz is describing, the best sense memories are actually smells; they're the most vivid, and encountering a smell from a long time ago can conjure up memories almost instantly. At least, that's what I learned from Psych 101.

On a similar note, speaking of aural and visual cues, there's a scientific reasoning for, when you're playing from memory, watching your left hand only. This is because both the left hand and visual processing are rooted in the right hemisphere of the brain. Also, aural processing and the right hand are rooted in the left hemisphere of the brain, so you can remember the right hand easier by concentrating on the music it's playing.
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 11:24 PM
The deepest memories may well be embodied - stored around the body as feeling. That would explain why songs are the last to go in Alzheimer's.
Posted By: keystring Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 11:39 PM
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Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
No. The memory works with visual cues. We remember in pictures. When you hear an old song do you not then see in your mind's eye where you originally heard it? Who you were with? This can be used in reverse to set memories.
I perceive in sound, I learn in sound, and I remember in sound. My primary senses are sound followed by touch. Even when I do visual art, It is a tactile thing - am feeling the shape of the object. I remember music very easily, and memorize very easily ... in sound.

When I remember old music, I remember the sound of it, and maybe how I felt inside. There is little visual memory associated with it. If I remember a person, it is voice first of all.

When we did our learning disability training, we were taught that people connect to the world with different primary senses. For most it is vision or hearing. The ones who begin as tactile learners life is harder.

When teaching in a classroom environment, it is best to distribute teaching between the two senses. Speech which paints visual images is not really working with the auditory. I taught in a school where practicaly the whole school was learning disabled because it was in such a bad environment. The LD specialist came into my classroom and assessed an ordinary lesson. She commented in particular on the even distribution of my lesson toward both primary senses, because of the nature of my classroom population.

Our teaching environment has become too heavily audio-visual, with the visual coming first. Computers are visual, television is visual, so we increase the problem and create an imbalance in the use of the sense. It has crept into music, which is a strange thing if you think about it, since it's the one place where you would think that the audial and audio-tactile learner would have an advantage. But here we use the system from the modern academic world, and we're in the same place.

Maybe this tangent is still pertinent?
Posted By: keystring Re: The four forms of memory - 08/12/08 11:39 PM
Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
The deepest memories may well be embodied - stored around the body as feeling. That would explain why songs are the last to go in Alzheimer's.
I like that (minus the Alzheimer part) wink
Posted By: wr Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 09:10 AM
Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
No. The memory works with visual cues. We remember in pictures. When you hear an old song do you not then see in your mind's eye where you originally heard it? Who you were with?
No.
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 12:22 PM
For Coleridge, feelings are embodied - they invoke images. Much the same for William James and modern psychology. The feelings come first, brought about by an exterior stimulus. What response you have to those feelings - aural, kinesthetic or visual is a personal bias. Quite how it works in reverse (memorizing) is the intriguing bit.
Posted By: Stanza Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 01:57 PM
Jerry88 is right on.
The first thing I do with a new piece is write out the chords/roman numerals. This really helps in learning the structure of the piece and the notes as well since they are recognized within a context.

This also allows for improvization and "covering up for mistakes" due to memory slips.

If you were asked, from memory, to recite verbatim the book "The Wizard of Oz" it would be most difficult. (rote memorizing the notes)

If you were asked, from memory to recite the lines from the movie it would be much easier
(visual and aural)

If you were asked to tell the Wizard of Oz story from memory, that would be easiest. You could tell a compelling story even if some minor thing were overlooked, you wouldn't stumble or freeze up. (analytical)

Having said this, usually there is simply no time to think about what to play with dense, fast music. That is were the muscle memory comes in, but it is you knowledge of the piece that triggers the learned movement
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 03:53 PM
Stanza - actually what a lot of pianist (most?) do is the equivalent of learning to read, recite and recite from memory The Wizard of Oz in a foreign language they don't speak or understand!

The speed of notes doesn't necessarily correspond to faster moving harmonic rhythm or more complicated harmony - in fact often it is just the opposite. I do find that when playing faster passages I will be cognizant of chord names, but not necessarily their function (RNA).
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 04:45 PM
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Originally posted by JerryS88:
Stanza - actually what a lot of pianist (most?) do is the equivalent of learning to read, recite and recite from memory The Wizard of Oz in a foreign language they don't speak or understand!
Too true!
Posted By: Jan-Erik Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 07:58 PM
In the Rachmaninoff-pieces I just now study, there comes fast notes which I can by no means anlyze or systemize.

And it would hardly help me play if I had to remember the names of chords and harmonies in eg Tchaikowsky's January or August or whatever of his smaller piano pieces.

And who can "explain" Chopin's posthume etude in F-minor?

It is certainly different with Scarlatti, Mozart or Beethoven. And especially with hymns, folk songs etc. They flow quietly and follow musical rules. Harmonies are often very simple.

Of course I can analyze pieces in that I split them up in elements and sequenses, and remember excactly - note by note - how they begin. But also here, I feel it is more the visual and audial memory that helps.

P.S. Music is an universal laguage. Undestanding piano music includes hearing and distinguishing harmonies.

In a spoken languages there is a grammar, but normally thousands of exceptions. And you can well use a languge without knowing the grammar.

Most of the music we hear is produced and reproduced by people knowing nothing about theory. But they have some kind of rhythm sense and musical ear.

It lies in the nature of western science to try to explain everything by rules and theories. in music there is very little you can explain. But you can still experience and enjoy music!
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/13/08 11:46 PM
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Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
In the Rachmaninoff-pieces I just now study, there comes fast notes which I can by no means anlyze or systemize.

And who can "explain" Chopin's posthume etude in F-minor?
Jan-Erik - I don't know exactly which Rachmaninoff piece you are referring to, but the Chopin F-minor Postumus Etude is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. To you it may look like 1,395 individual notes, but to me, having experience analyzing music, it looks (and sounds) incredibly simple. It's just a very simple chord progression with a flowing melodic RH that contains lots of non-chord tones. I'm sure that it would take me a fraction of the time to learn and memorize this piece as it would someone who doesn't have a quick natural memory and who doesn't have the knowledge and experience to analyze it. Do a Roman numeral analysis on it and circle all the non-chord tones in the right hand and you will see how basic and simple what you are left with is.

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In a spoken languages there is a grammar, but normally thousands of exceptions.
In music there are rules that are followed sometimes and broken others, and chord progressions that are basic and others that are more far-reaching. But all these things are still analyzeable. Discovering and analyzing the unusual or far-reaching elements is no less helpful in the practical sense of helping to learn and memorize pieces than the basic ones. In fact, the very fact of their being "exceptional" makes them even more helpful in this regard. I always have to add that for me, uncovering the inner workings of a piece is a fascinating and satisfying experience in and of itself - especially discovering the "exceptions."

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And you can well use a languge without knowing the grammar.
This is a really good point, Jan-Erik. Thousands of pianists do this every day - they learn pieces, play them and memorize them without understanding how they were put together. You don't NEED to analyze music in order to be able to play it - I would never argue that. All I'm saying is that for people for whom tactile, visual, and aural memory are not enough, analytical can be of great use. I am also saying that there are benefits beyond just helping with memory - including making the process of learning pieces easier and faster to begin with. I would also add that knowing the theory behind music can help master passages technically as well, but that's another topic.

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Most of the music we hear is produced and reproduced by people knowing nothing about theory. But they have some kind of rhythm sense and musical ear.
This is an interesting statement, Jan-Erik. I don't think most of the music we hear is "produced" by people knowing nothing about theory, if you are referring to composers. Certainly even composers and song-writers who may know little about functional harmony still must know chord construction, and I would argue that it would be a mistake to assume that most know nothing about functional harmony - it would surprise me greatly if that were true. Surely having knowledge of music theory can broaden a composer's vocabulary and offer many more expressive tools than they would otherwise have.

On the other hand, I would agree that most performing musicians do not think of the theory behind the music they play (I do believe that most musicians who reach performance level have been taught at least some theory.). In this respect, I think that keyboard players are different from single-line instrument players and singers. Playing a keyboard instrument is more complex in terms of playing both harmony and melody simultaneously. Learning to play and memorize a single line has to be easier because pianists have to do it in addition to all the other parts that they have to play simultaneously.

Again, I would not argue that the performing pianist needs to understand the theory behind the notes he or she plays, just that it can be tremendously helpful in many ways.

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It lies in the nature of western science to try to explain everything by rules and theories. in music there is very little you can explain. But you can still experience and enjoy music!
I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence, Jan-Erik, but I don't share your apparent disdain for understanding the theory behind music. I am constantly reaping tremendous benefits from uncovering what can be explained in music, and if it has effected my ability to enjoy both making and listening to music, it has only been to enhance it. Knowing the simple theory behind Chopin's F Minor Etude detracts nothing from my enjoyment of the piece - I love it - it makes it easier and faster for me to learn and memorize, and believe it or not, it even enhances my enjoyment of the sound I hear.

Please do not take my remarks as badgering you into believing and feeling the way I do. I think that if you are successful and happy not analyzing the music you play there is absolutely no reason for you to do so! To repeat - I only offer my remarks here as a tool for those (unlike yourself) who find memorizing music challenging.
Posted By: computerpro3 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 01:47 AM
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Originally posted by JerryS88:
I'm sure that it would take me a fraction of the time to learn and memorize this piece as it would someone who doesn't have the knowledge and experience to analyze it.
How do you explain someone like me who isn't quite advanced enough in theory to analyze that peice 100% (I could get the basics but I would definetely make some mistakes) but can memorize pretty much anything after playing it once or twice?

My memory is pretty much entirely aural. When I got accepted into conservatory, I didn't know my scales or my chords. I was playing the music and I had no idea what chord I was playing. Yes, I realize now that perhaps that isn't the greatest thing musically and for interpretation (after all, the more knowledge the better), but hey, I got in. People tell me that memorizing using just one or two methods of memory is a terrible idea and is insecure, but I'm not so sure. The fact remains that my memory is quite good and I've never had a "real" slip using my method. Of course, I'm not arguing against visual memory or analyzing the score, those certainly can help deepen your understanding of a peice. I'm just saying that from a strictly memorization point of view, I have a worthless aural memory and don't have enough theory knowledge to analyze everything. Therefore, my aural memory is well developed and is all I need to securely memorize peices.

Even today when I am learning my peices, I will usually memorize them first and then analyze them (although that may be because I have to sit down and work at it to analyze a score with 100% accuracy).
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 02:12 AM
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Originally posted by computerpro3:
Quote
Originally posted by JerryS88:
[b] I'm sure that it would take me a fraction of the time to learn and memorize this piece as it would someone who doesn't have the knowledge and experience to analyze it.
How do you explain someone like me who isn't quite advanced enough in theory to analyze that peice 100% (I could get the basics but I would definetely make some mistakes) but can memorize pretty much anything after playing it once or twice?

My memory is pretty much entirely aural. When I got accepted into conservatory, I didn't know my scales or my chords. I was playing the music and I had no idea what chord I was playing. Yes, I realize now that perhaps that isn't the greatest thing musically and for interpretation (after all, the more knowledge the better), but hey, I got in. People tell me that memorizing using just one or two methods of memory is a terrible idea and is insecure, but I'm not so sure. The fact remains that my memory is quite good and I've never had a "real" slip using my method. Of course, I'm not arguing against visual memory or analyzing the score, those certainly can help deepen your understanding of a peice. I'm just saying that from a strictly memorization point of view, I have a worthless aural memory and don't have enough theory knowledge to analyze everything. Therefore, my aural memory is well developed and is all I need to securely memorize peices.

Even today when I am learning my peices, I will usually memorize them first and then analyze them (although that may be because I have to sit down and work at it to analyze a score with 100% accuracy). [/b]
Computerpro3 - you're right - I misspoke here, and I even thought of it while driving back from work tonight. I made my comments rather hastily at the end of work just before leaving. Of course, there are people who are blessed with quick natural memory who could memorize it just as fast, or even faster than I, without doing any analysis. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people. I have virtually no natural memory and for most of my life I could repeat a piece hundreds of times without it becoming memorized. What I don't know is what percentage of people are blessed with that kind of memory.

Just edited the statement in the quoted post.

I do have a question for you, though, computerpro3. Do you not think it easier and faster to learn pieces in the first place if you understand and see the notes in easily identifiable groups and the chord progressions as being familiar and logical (assuming you have the skills, knowledge, and experience to analyze fairly easily, which comes with practice)? To me it's like the difference between learning to recite a string of foreign words, vs. words that are not foreign and in fact make up sentences.
Posted By: keyboardklutz Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 10:26 AM
Knowledge of harmony is yet another way in to the composer's intention. The 'science' is not 'to explain everything by rules and theories' as Jan-Erik says, but to see the logic within. We have buttons that are pressed by music. Is it not an advantage to know how or when they are pressed? Why make a mystery out of the common place? Exploit intuition where it is really needed.
Posted By: Jan-Erik Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 12:44 PM
A very intense discussion has evoked about how theory helps memorizing.

Of course I recognize certain chords and patterns (although there are many harmonies and tonal lines that are unique for a composition) and that helps me, but I would not call it theory or even analyze, just observations.

They can give a certain support in some spots of a piece. But I must obviously see in reality how someone makes notes and uses music theory before I can understand the benefit of it.

P.S. I know the scales and basic chords - how they look and sound - but must admit I have not the faintest idea of Roman numeral analyze...

And I do not know for sure, but believe, that most of the music (I include folk music and hard rock) has been composed by intuition and
by trial and error while listening, and not with the help of mathematics and rules

P.P.S. I will be on vacation, so I cannot follow the fate of this thread for a while. I hope it will give new useful tools and insights to the participants.
Posted By: JerryS88 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 02:20 PM
Have a great vacation, Jan-Erik smile
Posted By: Wood-demon Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 04:57 PM
"And I do not know for sure, but believe, that most of the music (I include folk music and hard rock) has been composed by intuition and
by trial and error while listening, and not with the help of mathematics and rules"

But surely the "rules" were devised as a result of trial and error and by listening to the effect of various combinations. Consecutive fifths in choral writing were forbidden by theorists of previous centuries because they sounded ugly to the musicians of those times.
After a century of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Stockhausen consecutive fifths sound pretty tame, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that both Stravinsky and Schoenberg (not too sure about Stockhausen!) learnt all the rules about harmonizing 4-part chorales and writing species counterpoint before they became iconoclasts.
Posted By: computerpro3 Re: The four forms of memory - 08/14/08 05:32 PM
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Originally posted by JerryS88:

I do have a question for you, though, computerpro3. Do you not think it easier and faster to learn pieces in the first place if you understand and see the notes in easily identifiable groups and the chord progressions as being familiar and logical (assuming you have the skills, knowledge, and experience to analyze fairly easily, which comes with practice)? To me it's like the difference between learning to recite a string of foreign words, vs. words that are not foreign and in fact make up sentences.
I would certainly think that this would be the case, but for some reason, it's not for me. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that I had no knowledge of theory until I started at school. You know how when a person does not have one sense (hearing, sight, etc), the other ones have been proven to become more acute? I think it is a similar thing for me - I had such little knowledge of theory until I got into school that I was essentially learning the music without knowing it existed. Thus, it never even crossed my mind and my brain developed other ways to learn things.

I certainly hope that as I become more comfortable with theory that I will be able to analyze on the fly and start recognizing chords and scales as I come across them while sightreading. I doubt it will help much with memorization, but hopefully it will help on the sightreading/getting it under your fingers front. What you are saying makes perfect sense, so hopefully I will eventually be able to apply it to my studies.
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