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Topic: Memorising Techniques  (Read 9154 times)

Offline tooomf

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Memorising Techniques
on: January 18, 2004, 11:10:19 AM
I'm a beginner and now progressing through Bartok's "First Term at the Piano", teacher wants me to memorise a few pieces, although these pieces are not very long i'm finding it difficult to memorise them, does anyone have any memory technique's they could offer?

Offline bernhard

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #1 on: January 18, 2004, 01:44:13 PM
Memory is based on association. Therefore in order to remember something you must make a strong association with something you can already remember. Strongest associations are usually visual but you should try to involve other sense as well to make the associations even stronger. (e.g., if you want to remember to buy toilet paper you can picture a giant toilet roll rolling out of the supermarket door. Then it shouts: "buy me!". Then it rolls over you. Ther you have visual-aural-touch. Add smell if you wish. ;D So when you next pass in front of the supermarket, that absurd image – because of its absurdity – will flash in your mind and remind you that you need to buy toilet paper). Most good memorisers do these things unconsciously, so if you ask them how they can remember, they usually will not be able to explain. They will just say “I just do”. Or they will come up with some far fetched explanation that has little to do  with what they actually do.

You can also regard memory as food in the refrigerator. You can only retrieve the food you put there in the first place. People many times complain that they cannot recall things, when the problem is that they never remembered (put it in memory) in the first place. In order to place something in your mind  (so that you can recall it later) you must use full consciousness and awareness. Absent mindedness will simply not do.

Keeping these two principles in mind, memorising music has five different aspects, that most people integrate, but if you are having difficulty you will have to treat them separately for the time being.

1.      Aural memory. This means remembering how the music sounds, how the tune goes. Repeated careful listening of the piece (and your playing and practising of it) should take care of this. You can also try to hum it (or sing or whistle) the piece trying not to miss a single note. People with good aural memory and a good ear will “remember” a piece basically by playing it by ear.

2.      Visual memory. This means having a photographic memory of the score. For good sight-reading this is essential, since the process of sight reading is basically memorising a few bars while you play the previous ones. It is not necessary to be able to retain this memory for ever, but you should be able to do it for a few moments if you are going to be a good sight-reader. This also means looking at the keyboard and having a visual image of the sequence of black/white keys needed to play the piece.

3.      Touch memory. This means remembering the sequence of touch sensations needed to play a piece. The way to develop it is to play with closed eyes, or in the dark. You must use the black keys to guide you. (This is also essential for sight reading, since when you sight read you r eyes should be glued to the score, and you should find the keys by touch).

4.      Hand memory. This is when your fingers “know” the music. You may even be amazed that you can play the piece and not “know” it. This is a very necessary kind of memory (you cannot play fast passages without it), but it is very unreliable. Because it is based on sequence of events, any mistake and you will have to go straight to the beginning. If you have only hand memory, there is a good chance you will have a blackout in performance. Hand memory is acquired through endless repetitions hands together. And that is why that you must always repeat the correct thing, otherwise you will end up with wrong notes/rhythms/etc. inbuilt in your hand memory.

5.      Music memory. This means remembering how the music is built up, how it is structured. This is usually the aspect people pay the least attention to, since it involves knowledge of musical theory and harmony. Take care of this aspect by writing out the harmonic progressions, examining how the melody is built (ascending/descending scales, jumps, etc.). You can also try copying the music (several times) until you can write it from memory. If you don't "understand" the music it will be difficult to memorise, since it will be (to you) just a random sequence of notes.

After you work on each of these aspects separately, you must now integrate all these in what people call “memory”.

Try this method. Put your music book with the piece you are trying to memorise on a desk near your piano (but far enough so that you cannot see it). Now you can look  at the score as much as you want, but you cannot take it to the piano with you. Go to the piano and see how far can you play from memory. When you get stuck, go back to the desk, and figure out from looking at the score where you got stuck and why. Then go back to the piano and try again. If you keep at it, and observe the principles above, you should have your piece memorised in no time at all. However this is a mentally intensive process. Mentally lazy people hate it.

The first time you try all this, it will be overwhelming. But if you keep working at it in a systematic, disciplined way, each subsequent piece becomes easier. Then it will be so natural for you to memorise that  you will be doing it without even noticing!

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #2 on: February 02, 2004, 02:55:47 AM
bernhard, i gotta give it to you man..
you write the most informative helpful (not to mention lengthy) posts ive ever seen

you give so much, and what do you get in return?

i just thought id say u seem like the nicest guy.

respect.
https://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline bernhard

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #3 on: February 02, 2004, 03:10:55 AM
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you give so much, and what do you get in return?



I just did. ;)

Thanks.
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline Clare

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #4 on: February 02, 2004, 03:31:58 AM
It's true! Bernhard is the most terribly helpful person in piano forum - any question I ever have gets answered thoughtfully and fascinatingly (if that's a word).

As Bernhard made in one of the points - it is a good idea to break the music up into keys and chords you know. When I play, often I think, "OK - here's the A major bar, and now the D major bar..." etc.
This is very beneficial because you also start to realise how music gets put together generally and your knowledge expands in lots of other ways than just aiding in memorisation.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #5 on: February 02, 2004, 03:45:02 AM
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It's true! Bernhard is the most terribly helpful person in piano forum - any question I ever have gets answered thoughtfully and fascinatingly (if that's a word).



:-[Thanks. Always pleased to help.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline minimozart007

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #6 on: January 11, 2005, 03:17:45 AM
Playing slow also helps.
You need more than a piano, two hands and a brain to play music.  You also need hot sauce.

Offline pianobabe56

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #7 on: January 11, 2005, 03:24:14 AM
My piano teacher gave me a memorizing technique which I have found incredibly useful: You take a section of the piece, and play the first measure. Then you count through the second measure WITHOUT PLAYING it, followed by playing the third measure. So, in essence, you are only playing every other measure. When you attempt to do this from memory, it requires you to really know your piece, and have it down in your head to be able to recall it and think through the "silent" measures.
A bird can soar because he takes himself lightly.

Offline pianonut

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #8 on: January 12, 2005, 06:13:40 PM
this is very interesting.  i suppose that it wouldn't sound so musical though, and it would be fairly laborious.  BUT, it does sound like you would know your piece very well by the end.  especially if you repeated the process, starting on the second measure.

i am willing to try anything for my memory.  i am over fourty, lets put it that way, and i am making a comeback.  i want my brain to be as sharp as it was when i got my bachelor's.  i wasn't a slouch and had memory spots that i could go to on each page.  now that i am studying for a master's (don't know how long this will take) i want to know my music better.  i want to play like the masters (who hardly ever make mistakes) and i want to be confident when i walk on stage (and not feel like i am on fear factor).

amount of practice is important, but i am learning smart practice is even better.
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline chopinguy

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #9 on: January 12, 2005, 06:32:02 PM
My piano teacher gave me a memorizing technique which I have found incredibly useful: You take a section of the piece, and play the first measure. Then you count through the second measure WITHOUT PLAYING it, followed by playing the third measure. So, in essence, you are only playing every other measure. When you attempt to do this from memory, it requires you to really know your piece, and have it down in your head to be able to recall it and think through the "silent" measures.

Does this include moving your hands but not playing, or not playing at all?

Offline anda

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #10 on: January 12, 2005, 08:01:20 PM
a very simple method (i sometimes use this on my students if nothing else works):

divide the work in small (logical) motifs. play the first one a few times (hs first, if necessary), until you can play it from memory (shouldn't take more than 1 min or so). do the same with the 2nd, then link the first 2 motifs and play them a few times from memory. learn the 3rd the same way, add it and play the first 3, and so on. most important: the last note of a motifshould also be the first one in the next motif ("overlaping" the motifs).

not the best way to learn a work, i know, but works in case of emergency :)

Offline bardolph

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #11 on: January 15, 2005, 11:25:36 PM
I suspect the amazing Bernhard has studied some works on memory, for example, the books of Harry Lorayne; he refers to the same principles as Lorayne and other experts (e.g. "All memory is based on association.")  I would recommend "The Memory Book" by Lucas & Lorayne, and "Your Memory" by Higbee as the only two books one needs to study for the essentials of memory techniques.  Both are available for sale and at libraries.  Higbee is more thorough and theoretical, but Lorayne's books are written (very well I would add) for busy people who just want to get on with it.  Read both if you can though.

These age-old principles really work!  However, I've never seen a really specialized and systematic application of the principles to the memorization of music; and I've never gotten around to developing one myself.  I'm sure something highly effective could be done however.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #12 on: January 16, 2005, 12:22:04 AM
I suspect the amazing Bernhard has studied some works on memory, for example, the books of Harry Lorayne; he refers to the same principles as Lorayne and other experts

Indeed. And if you have a look at this thread,

https://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3858.msg34936.html#msg34936

you will see that I have in fact mentioned Lorayne’s book (funny enough, I first read Lorayne’s books on magic before finding out he was  memory specialist as well).

And this thread has a bit more on memorisation:

https://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4321.msg40678.html#msg40678


Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline pianonut

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #13 on: January 16, 2005, 03:29:13 AM


The suggestions that everyone made are great!  I have been doing some reading about the "plasticity factor."  This is the amazing ability the brain has to constantly change it's structure and function in response to experiences and stimuli of various sorts.  Surprisingly, in one article about memory, they said that students who study while listening to music do not do as well on tests as students who do not.  Maybe, when we are practicing piano, we should not do extra things, like watch tv. (just kidding) My three year old comes in every ten minutes, so i do get a little distracted at times with sippy cups and changes in the remote to shows she wants.  I think I need the "Complete Idiots Guide to Improving Your Memory"  (people say it really helps)  and for children, there is rmlearning.com/MemorySoftware.htm   (it has a section for autistic children, too, when you click on what type of learning you are looking for!)
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline pianobabe56

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #14 on: January 16, 2005, 04:14:23 AM
Sorry, Chopinguy- I probably should have mentioned that... in the the measures where you do not play, you do not move your hands at all! That would only encourage muscle memory, while the point is to increase the mental aspect of the music.
A bird can soar because he takes himself lightly.

Offline rhapsody in orange

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Re: Memorising Techniques
Reply #15 on: January 24, 2005, 03:53:07 AM
Wow that's an interesting method pianobabe. I shall try that out with my next piece. Anyway, is it advisable to memorise pieces HS? I think I depend too much on muscle memory, therefore if I am to play just the LH part of the piece I can't really do that. Also, I realise I have the tendency to add or remove harmonic notes in a chord without realising (since that does not cuase dissonance and I don't exactly detect). Any idea how I should go about correcting that habit? Thanks!
when words fail, music speaks
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