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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
...
Also — and I think this comes down to my not having a photographic memory — if I'm playing from memory, even if I have the music in front of me, it's very disruptive to switch to reading the music because then I have to figure out where I am. And if I do choose to read the music (so as not to lose my place, or for some other reason), it feels very different, almost like a different piece in some ways.

You don't need a photographic memory. What is there to photograph? Certainly not the score if you're trying to eliminate the score.

It's like you're driving down the road and a tune you used to love but haven't heard in years comes on the radio and right away you are belting it out in unison with Elton John or Bon Jovi and maybe even getting most of the words right. The music guides you and you know what's coming next which makes it way easier. Turn the radio off and you'll quickly lose your way again.

Classical pro's definitely need good reading skills and so do non-classical pros, especially if they are going to be playing with others. But, trying to get away with just reading skills outside of classical wouldn't work out so well either.

The argument of which is more important, is senseless. They are both important and one or the other gets emphasized more depending on your focus.

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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
I bet she’s no slouch at sight-reading either :-)

Martha Argerich already played many piano concertos that she would be able to read through pieces at a lower technical level the first time. Even a concerto she hasn't played, she'd be able to learn the notes in a few hours and have all 3 movements polished within a week.

Saying that she still have the stamina to play like a 20 years old isn't an accurate description. Most young people won't be able to keep up with this grandma. A while ago I learned the 1st movement of the Bach Italian Concerto in F (as an adult learner), the piece was barely 4 min. Played it at a gathering from memory and within a month forgot half the notes. Learning 1 movement of a concerto in 2 1/2 weeks seemed like a big deal but when you watch M.A. performs some of the most difficult concertos you know you'd never catch up.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Martha Argerich from Argentina plays entire concertos from memory at 80. Totally stunning performances...

The memory part is not at all unusual for an 80 year old professional pianist.


Didn’t Richter start using the score because of memory lapses?
In fact, haven’t younger professional pianists had memory lapses? There was a large one by Yundi Li in concert.


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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
I bet she’s no slouch at sight-reading either :-)

Martha Argerich already played many piano concertos that she would be able to read through pieces at a lower technical level the first time. Even a concerto she hasn't played, she'd be able to learn the notes in a few hours and have all 3 movements polished within a week.

Saying that she still have the stamina to play like a 20 years old isn't an accurate description. Most young people won't be able to keep up with this grandma. A while ago I learned the 1st movement of the Bach Italian Concerto in F (as an adult learner), the piece was barely 4 min. Played it at a gathering from memory and within a month forgot half the notes. Learning 1 movement of a concerto in 2 1/2 weeks seemed like a big deal but when you watch M.A. performs some of the most difficult concertos you know you'd never catch up. She is like a jukebox for Classical music. You name a piece, she'd play it for you on the spot.

The other famous pianist from England is Derek Paravicini. He is born blind and diagnosed with autism. He is able to reproduce any piece he hears once and improvise in any style (Classical, Jazz & anything in between). He probably learned to read braille but don't think learning from sheet music makes a difference when he hears a piece played live or in a recording. He picks up songs by ear while we (the sighted people) need to painstakingly reproduce a piece note by note.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Martha Argerich from Argentina plays entire concertos from memory at 80. Totally stunning performances...

The memory part is not at all unusual for an 80 year old professional pianist.


Didn’t Richter start using the score because of memory lapses?
In fact, haven’t younger professional pianists had memory lapses? There was a large one by Yundi Li in concert.
Almost all pro pianists have had memory lapses on occasion. And Richter did start playing from the score because of memory lapses. None of that changes what I wrote that you quoted. The overwhelming percent of pro pianists play from memory at every age.

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Using pro pianists as examples, in particular someone of the magnitude of MA, is not very meaningful for basic amateurs. It is like comparing the abilities of Einstein with an amateur physicist doing this for enjoyment as a hobby. They are in a different world. Pro pianists have years of study and practice at top level and therefore a knowledge of the style of composers, of which they already played many pieces, some tens of time. So all of that makes reading much easier. And not all pro pianists are top notch readers, some are just good or average at that (which anyway puts them far above 99.9% of all amateurs).

Ideally both memorizing and reading are equally usefull skills, but in practice many people, either due to their practice or by natural abilities, are better in one of them. And thus, as the natural trend is to focus on what one does best, it leads to develop one at the expense of the other, because it is easier, because an adult is also looking at enjoying what he or she does and not suffer, and also because of lack of time. It is different with kids who start from scratch, learn faster and have no expectations.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
... It is different with kids who start from scratch, learn faster and have no expectations.

Kids are very different from one to another. I always had the best grades in school from kindergarten to high school, when they put a premium on memorization. Memorization was second nature to me and I enjoyed it. But my brother always had the poorest grades because he couldn't memorize and he developed behavioral problems. It's only recently I suspect he may have had dyslexia. However he is good with his hands while I am not but our mother let me learn the piano because I was the "good" kid :-).

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
... It is different with kids who start from scratch, learn faster and have no expectations.

Kids are very different from one to the other. I always had the best grades in school from kindergarten to high school when they put a premium on memorization. Memorization was second nature to me and I enjoyed it. But my brother always had the poorest grades because he couldn't memorize and he developed behavioral problems. It's only recently I realized he may have had dyslexia. However he is good with his hands while I am not but our mother let me learn the piano because I was the "good" kid :-).

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I struggle when it comes to reading music. I work through a stack of easy (prep and level 1) music every day to try and improve. For pieces at my level (somewhere in the intermediate spectrum) that I plan to have in my repertoire for a while, I've always memorized.

I've been thinking lately that I might switch to reading from the score all the time. I consider myself a good memorizer, but I'm only able to memorize a few bars a day. On the other hand if I read through a piece often enough while learning it, I find that I've memorized a lot of it without effort and get the benefit of regular reading practice while I'm at it. Not necessarily sight reading, but still music reading and I think it might help me.

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Quote
Didn’t Richter start using the score because of memory lapses?

Richter had perfect pitch when he was younger, but what he heard in his head started shifting down a semi-tone, and that caused him to mistrust what he was playing. I believe that he started using the score because of the shift in his "perfect pitch." I had a class with Craig Sheppard at the University of Washington a few years ago and he described the same shift in his perception of "perfect" pitch (although he still played recitals from memory).

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Originally Posted by vmishka
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Didn’t Richter start using the score because of memory lapses?

Richter had perfect pitch when he was younger, but what he heard in his head started shifting down a semi-tone, and that caused him to mistrust what he was playing. I believe that he started using the score because of the shift in his "perfect pitch." I had a class with Craig Sheppard at the University of Washington a few years ago and he described the same shift in his perception of "perfect" pitch (although he still played recitals from memory).
I have had the same problem and have previously talked about here. It is not their hearing that is at fault - for several years in the late 90's I thought it was mine but the change in pitch is because of the move to concert pitch. If you listen to pieces before around the the mid-80's you will hear that. Caused me no end of problems which was solved by getting a digital, playing a semi-tone lower for six months to get back into it, then going up to to concert pitch and staying there ever since.


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Originally Posted by Greener
You don't need a photographic memory. What is there to photograph? Certainly not the score if you're trying to eliminate the score.

You are right: I don't need a photographic memory. If I did, I would not play piano, since I don't have one :-)

That said, having met a couple of pianists with a photographic memory (including one of my teachers), one of the advantages is fairly obvious — the ability to pick up in any random spot and play from it. This is something I cannot do that they can, and I am a bit jealous of it.

The way I memorise music is a sort of pathfinding process, and if I lose the continuity I can only start from well-known anchor points or landmarks, if you will — given time, I can create more such landmarks, but it's a process. My memorisation is also a bit precarious, as various things can throw me off the path — a stumble, or an unfamiliar piano, or a strange context (e.g., performing). Dealing with the process of trying to keep from going off track when playing in an unfamiliar context adds an additional level of stress that detracts a bit from my ability to focus on the music and the interpretation. I can get past this, but it takes a lot of time and concerted effort to build some resilience against those things in my memory, partly by building more anchor points, but also by making my sense of the piece more flexible to different contexts — playing on different pianos, playing in front of friends, etc.

Having a photographic memory of the score also gives the advantage of being able to consult the score without having to look at it. The dialogue / feedback loop I have between what is written and what I am playing would be much faster if I didn't have to pull the score out every time I want to engage with it.

That said, since I play mostly just for myself, this is not a big issue. And likely there are some tradeoffs to having a photographic memory that I would never know about — certainly the laborious process of memorising something gives me a relationship to the music that no amount of reading will ever do, and that is one of the main reasons I memorise music even if I am never likely to perform it. And of course I know that a photographic memory isn't (usually) magic — it takes its own concerted effort and investment in ways I know little about.

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What I’m doing at the moment for practise, which I’ve talked myself into (instead of it being all talk until now), is to keep the beat in different ways and measures, instead of always as per the stipulated score.

I got quite a surprise thereafter recently when playing my test - 3 or so current - practice titles when letting the music keep its own beat; where I avoid needing to keep any foot track per se – and thereby where my memory takes entire control rather than this be aided by keeping the beat with my feet – via the same with an understanding I’d guess of metronome positions (which I haven’t tried) – or in other words near to as mental as possible depending on the piece. I say not entirely mental since a piece that I’m trialling still has me wanting to engage a nominal degree of footwork to catch a very ‘out-in-the-open’ moment at a point that allows the gradual release of notes/chords relative to each other – the spaced out bar in ‘I Surrender Dear’ that ends the bridge with lyric “..blame,”. I’m sure I’ll have a growing list of such moments as I develop!

I found it takes some coming out the box when trialling the different keeping of the beat because of being acclimatised (too familiar?) to a certain one or two (like always A - stepping on or equidistantly off the beat (off-beat?); and hitherto never to B for the other extreme - of lifting off the beat or equidistantly off it in off-beat).

Almost my entire repertoire is of 30s song standards, therefore mostly in alla breve. However, to firstly learn the piece I break down the timing to 8 in lieu of the 2 taps thereby catching any semiquaver on or offs since my feet are registering the downs, ups, & mid-steps (when stepping on the beat); then whereby alternatively, lifting off the beat will instead reverse the registering of these to ups, downs, & thereby catch the remaining mid-steps that would otherwise be stationary when keeping on rather than up-off the beat or off-beat. After indulging in this minutiae I then make sure to cycle different time registers (e.g. strip down the keeping of the beat to common time, then alla breve, all on-beat and of course also trying off-beat; & with waltzes more so at the moment for me confidently being able to strip right down to keeping merely 1 of the 3 beats – all in progress.

As a concertinist, I feel extra compelled to locate the end of notes as well as their onsets so I have accidentally stumbled onto this system of keeping to-the-beat, i.e. so that my feet can catch all the starts & finishes of notes, ghosts, 3-as-2s, accents, even staccato/tenuto measures, etc. My first instincts on this would have been that I could sound too robotic or like a midi file with all this accuracy, but the absolute opposite has happened – I find my body flowing with touch, feeling or even emotion/s (& that’s even in spite of a very robotic looking nature on the page to ‘I Surrender Dear’; or is it that the MEMORY is finally being honed without a need to necessarily run with the - stabilisers of (?) - keeping on track of notation and time.

[I think it’s helped me also to have plugged in a relativity of sustenance so that notes marginally go over the 50:50 ratio without freely impinging on the next note (like say .1 for a crotchet relative to .4 for a semibreve since the engagement of a subsequent note is often at .5; accents and tenuto for me at generally .5 (of the beat) for all notes...]

Please excuse my terminology not being schooled and as a relative novice

Something I’ve not yet tried is different keys (but in becoming intimate in one key is presumably likely to help with becoming that in another). Later for that one I’m sure; and especially when I tackle those titles that are outside my instrument’s range (56 key English Concertina – C3 to C7, but with a fortunate Bb2 rogue).

I think I’ll later at some point ask for appropriate classical pieces that fit this range, but meanwhile there is indeed one and I’ve now uploaded it onto my YouTube channel (by Malcuzynski), ‘Etude in E Major’, which I think should have “Tristesse” in parenthesis since the B-side has parenthesis titles for Op 10. No. 5 & 12 (“Black Keys” & Revolutionary” respectively for Etudes in Gb Major & G Minor), which I will also upload in due course, but for the moment I’m prioritising on my overall 1930s songlist of 40+ titles of which ‘So Deep is the Night’ is one.

I’ll post a link separately on this Golden Age pianist’s (?) circa late 1940s rendition.

To recap, aiding or even honing MEMORY from an intimacy in keeping metronomic track positions (or with feet any run/s or points of ups/downs/high-steps/stoppages) of the beat from the notation (notes’ durations or starts & finishes relative to each other). I’m fairly lucky with ‘ I Surrender, Dear’ in that the notes play off each other lots due to the quite regular regimentations.

Apologies for the long post!

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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
You are right: I don't need a photographic memory. If I did, I would not play piano, since I don't have one :-)
A very good conceptual/theoretical memory for a piece can also do the trick. If you know every single chord progression etc. and can imagine yourself playing the entire piece in your head, you will have a pretty solid memory.

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I’m not a fan of memorizing because over time I start to decrease the accuracy unless going back to the music.


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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I have had the same problem and have previously talked about here. It is not their hearing that is at fault - for several years in the late 90's I thought it was mine but the change in pitch is because of the move to concert pitch. If you listen to pieces before around the the mid-80's you will hear that. Caused me no end of problems which was solved by getting a digital, playing a semi-tone lower for six months to get back into it, then going up to to concert pitch and staying there ever since.

It is the hearing that is at fault for the large number of people with perfect pitch who hear pitch differently later in life. Richter heard notes shifted by a semitone, although the piano was tuned the same as it had been throughout his life. A440 concert pitch has been standard for the last century (with a few exceptions).

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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I have had the same problem and have previously talked about here. It is not their hearing that is at fault - for several years in the late 90's I thought it was mine but the change in pitch is because of the move to concert pitch. If you listen to pieces before around the the mid-80's you will hear that. Caused me no end of problems which was solved by getting a digital, playing a semi-tone lower for six months to get back into it, then going up to to concert pitch and staying there ever since.

It is the hearing that is at fault for the large number of people with perfect pitch who hear pitch differently later in life. Richter heard notes shifted by a semitone, although the piano was tuned the same as it had been throughout his life. A440 concert pitch has been standard for the last century (with a few exceptions).
I don't think so. The standard was supposedly set just pre-WW2 but as my music teacher used to say in the 50's with regard to the school orchestra, we tune up to concert pitch when playing in church halls. Just listen to some old pieces and compare them with same modern ones, even ABBA. And to drop precisely by a semi-tone...


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Many who are musicians or took music lessons including myself don't have perfect pitch and rely on learning (memorizing) finger sequences to play the correct notes.

Found an online video people at random were asked to repeat a Jazzy sequence of notes to win a prize. Many including myself wouldn't be able to win the top prize.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Many who are musicians or took music lessons including myself don't have perfect pitch and rely on learning (memorizing) finger sequences to play the correct notes.
I would say this is a misunderstanding of what perfect pitch means. If you have good relative pitch, all you need to know is the first note. It's more about pitch memory. Granted, I know the tune, but I could get most of it right leaving aside 1-2 notes. I'm pretty sure a large number of jazz pianists will be able to do it perfectly, especially if they know the tune beforehand.

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