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# How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? OR Practice S-L-O---W-L-Y

memorize or
1 (16.7%)
slow practice
5 (83.3%)

Total Members Voted: 6



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Topic: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?  (Read 4143 times)

Offline pianoplayerstar

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How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
on: August 31, 2016, 10:34:05 PM
Members:

How can we memorize a piece so that we have it completed conquered and patented down.. like Lang Lang or others?

You watch them play, and you're sometimes afraid they'll make a mistake, but they just won't break; 0 mistakes.. and even if they do, they know how to cover it up so well even seasoned players and listeners.. even adjudicators can't tell whether it is (1) ARTISTIC IMPROVISATION or (2) a REAL MISTAKE !

Is there a secret other than just practicing?

We all know that slow practice is always helpful, but what's the pychological brain neuron-based rationale for this?  Does slow practice help with TECHNIQUE or does it HELP US NOT FORGET OUR PIECES / IE. MEMORIZE?

We've got an anticipated performance coming up and we don't want to make any mistakes.. zilch, none, 'nada', ZEEEEEERRRRROOOO.

I need some of your secrets and tips, JUST IN CASE.
Thanks.

Offline visitor

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Slow practice is not always the case. Actually at my last piano lesson while working on a very slow piece, part of the coaching session and practice strategy was to play it about 2x fast to gey a better grasp on phrasing structure and rhythm. Slow works are many times more difficult than fast.  Thin textures make it all the more precarious.

Slow practice is sometimes helpful. But not neccessarily the best for fast works. Fast practice is typicially needed to play fast well.

I have found the best approach is to practice performing.  You must create performance conditions and opportunities similar to or as best approximating those you will encounter on said exam recital etc.

Time, you must spend enough time w the music for a lot of the playing to be fairlu automatic, this learning cannot be rushed. My old professor in music school used to tell me to practice it both correctly and enough and over enough time that you cannot play it wrong.  You can learn a piece so well that it is easier to play it well/flawlessly than it is to mess up.

Errors are either weakness in prep on the music, not enough performance practice or both

Offline quantum

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #2 on: September 01, 2016, 04:33:29 AM
Pros make mistakes all the time and sometimes they have off days too.  What they have is a strategy in place to deal with them.  Practicing accurately is only part of the job as mistakes can happen anytime.  One needs to develop composure, to resist the urge to panic when something does happen.  The mistake is usually magnified to the performer while insignificant to the listener.  The idea is to keep the event insignificant - you know it happened, maybe some listeners know it happened, so move forward because you can't change the past. 

One of my teachers worked a lot with me on developing the ability to fluidly jump around in a piece, back or forward.  It could have been a few measures or a few pages, but the point was that it was fluid and without break in the music, regardless of how ridiculous some transitions may sound. 

It also recalls to mind a musicianship exercise that was required for an exam.  We needed to sight transpose a simple piano piece into several keys.  The test was not to play the piece multiple times in different keys.  The aim was to play the piece once, while at random points the examiner would say a new key and the student had to immediately shift key mid phrase - like someone was riding the transpose button on a keyboard. 

Awareness is also critical in forming a strategy to deal with mistakes.  Some flubs actually sound like certain musical motifs or chord progressions, so a performer can take advantage of this an improvise their way back on track. 

It is also important to know when to do a full stop.  It may feel embarrassing but it also shows composure and that the performer is able to deal with the situation.  An example is a piece that doesn't get off to a good start and seems like it is heading downhill.  It is a lot less stressful to stop and restart then to keep going. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline visitor

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #3 on: September 01, 2016, 03:20:55 PM
Pros make mistakes all the time and sometimes they have off days too.  What they have is a strategy in place to deal with them.  Practicing accurately is only part of the job as mistakes can happen anytime.  One needs to develop composure, to resist the urge to panic when something does happen.  The mistake is usually magnified to the performer while insignificant to the listener.  The idea is to keep the event insignificant - you know it happened, maybe some listeners know it happened, so move forward because you can't change the past. 

One of my teachers worked a lot with me on developing the ability to fluidly jump around in a piece, back or forward.  It could have been a few measures or a few pages, but the point was that it was fluid and without break in the music, regardless of how ridiculous some transitions may sound. 

It also recalls to mind a musicianship exercise that was required for an exam.  We needed to sight transpose a simple piano piece into several keys.  The test was not to play the piece multiple times in different keys.  The aim was to play the piece once, while at random points the examiner would say a new key and the student had to immediately shift key mid phrase - like someone was riding the transpose button on a keyboard. 

Awareness is also critical in forming a strategy to deal with mistakes.  Some flubs actually sound like certain musical motifs or chord progressions, so a performer can take advantage of this an improvise their way back on track. 

It is also important to know when to do a full stop.  It may feel embarrassing but it also shows composure and that the performer is able to deal with the situation.  An example is a piece that doesn't get off to a good start and seems like it is heading downhill.  It is a lot less stressful to stop and restart then to keep going. 

yes. I am glad you unpacked this. I believe this is one of the skills that comes from 'performance practice' I mentioned before, in addition to helping minimize a crash an burn scenario or common errors, it can help with on the fly correction and counter measures to keep the performance going. It also allows for composure training so you can feel ok to stop. and start over or stop and skip fwd or back to predetermined memory/station, what I like to call piano 'save points'

Offline pianoplayerstar

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #4 on: September 01, 2016, 09:00:41 PM
.. but did you ever notice, when you don't think, you play better... the moment you picture an audience, or 'dream' that you're a star.. you begin to mess up.

not trying is the best way of trying

Offline dcstudio

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #5 on: September 01, 2016, 09:33:37 PM
.. but did you ever notice, when you don't think, you play better... the moment you picture an audience, or 'dream' that you're a start or anything out side of your playing.. you begin to mess up.

not trying is the best way of trying

Don't think  just do. I tell my students that all the time

When an amateur hits a bad key it sticks out like sore thumb.  When a pro makes a mistake it's played with the same texture and at the same velocity as the correct key. A pro also doesn't lay awake at night stressing over the bad elements of the performance.  This nocturnal habit puts serious pressure on future performances as well as removing every ounce of joy from your heart.

We all make mistakes and I don't know of any method of practice that guarantees this result.  

Offline keypeg

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #6 on: September 02, 2016, 07:50:19 PM
Some good advice dcpiano.  And WELCOME BACK!! You were missed.   :)

Offline pianoplayerstar

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #7 on: September 05, 2016, 05:05:27 PM
i often thought that if you practiced a piece slowly, and also by the 'loci' method somewhere mentioned previously, would be a wondeful way to memorize.

FAST MEMORIZATION - .. by association

MEMORIZATION BY OSMOSIS - .. just practice and practice, and then chuck the sheet music and let your mind and fingers flyyyyyy! [this actually works, but it requires a lot of SELF-TRUST .. you just have to trust the practice you've put into the piece].

i was just wondering if there were some kind of METHODICAL METHOD of a SURE-THING way of memorizing something (STEP BY STEP, GUARANTEED METHOD)... kinda like a TEST... "if you can play the music backwards, then you've got it down..."-- something like this.



Offline themeandvariation

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #8 on: September 05, 2016, 08:19:21 PM
 star!
you say: "kinda like a TEST... "if you can play the music backwards, then you've got it down..."-- something like this."

You're close.  It's really, "Say it backwards, then you can shut down --  all meaningful conversation"… but i suppose you are quite already aware. 

portrait of a current personality:

t=64
4'33"

Offline pianoplayerstar

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #9 on: September 05, 2016, 11:17:25 PM
but is there such a test? to feel finally you've now memorized it.. or should have at least

Offline dcstudio

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #10 on: September 06, 2016, 02:42:34 AM
but is there such a test? to feel finally you've now memorized it.. or should have at least

Sure it's  called shut the book and see if you can play it. 

So are you ever going to actually study the piano?  The more you post the more we realize that you likely have zero experience

Offline pianoplayerstar

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #11 on: September 06, 2016, 06:41:57 PM
"dcstudio", you sound like you're very well versed in the piano; do you teach online as well?

I've noticed the best way to memorize a piece is just that: shut the book and try.. that's the only way.

Offline dcstudio

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Re: # How to MEMORIZE a piece - 0, Zilch, NO ERRORS # JUST PRACTICE? #
Reply #12 on: September 06, 2016, 10:42:40 PM
You asked if there was a test to see if you had memorized it. That was my reply.

I don't teach online...yet.  I am old school and I am used to sitting next to my students. I am working on setting up Skype lessons though.

Offline leigh anne

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #13 on: July 13, 2022, 02:12:23 PM
Wow. This post have been read for 2000+ and only 4 voted!
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul"

Offline keypeg

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #14 on: July 29, 2022, 08:11:58 PM
Wow. This post have been read for 2000+ and only 4 voted!
I'd not vote because there's more too it, and the choices are oversimplifications.

Offline pianopro181

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Pros make mistakes all the time and sometimes they have off days too.  What they have is a strategy in place to deal with them.  Practicing accurately is only part of the job as mistakes can happen anytime.  One needs to develop composure, to resist the urge to panic when something does happen.  The mistake is usually magnified to the performer while insignificant to the listener.  The idea is to keep the event insignificant - you know it happened, maybe some listeners know it happened, so move forward because you can't change the past. 

One of my teachers worked a lot with me on developing the ability to fluidly jump around in a piece, back or forward.  It could have been a few measures or a few pages, but the point was that it was fluid and without break in the music, regardless of how ridiculous some transitions may sound. 

It also recalls to mind a musicianship exercise that was required for an exam.  We needed to sight transpose a simple piano piece into several keys.  The test was not to play the piece multiple times in different keys.  The aim was to play the piece once, while at random points the examiner would say a new key and the student had to immediately shift key mid phrase - like someone was riding the transpose button on a keyboard. 

Awareness is also critical in forming a strategy to deal with mistakes.  Some flubs actually sound like certain musical motifs or chord progressions, so a performer can take advantage of this an improvise their way back on track. 

It is also important to know when to do a full stop.  It may feel embarrassing but it also shows composure and that the performer is able to deal with the situation.  An example is a piece that doesn't get off to a good start and seems like it is heading downhill.  It is a lot less stressful to stop and restart then to keep going.

You’re obviously referring to a very amateurish audience to even suggest ever stopping completely let alone going from the start as an option.

Offline quantum

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You’re obviously referring to a very amateurish audience to even suggest ever stopping completely let alone going from the start as an option.

Explain your reasoning. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline transitional

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #17 on: March 02, 2024, 02:35:51 AM
Slow practice to improve technique, for sure. It's so hard to get those slip-ups gone, and even more when performing. Memorizing just comes naturally afterwards.
Advanced pianist and beginner composer. The Schubert sonatas are amazing and I want to learn all of them eventually!

Offline pianopro181

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Explain your reasoning.

What I mean is one of the golden rules in piano performance is to never stop let alone starting from the beginning again. It’s incomparably better to improvise for a bar or two and get back in or even skip out a bar than to completely stop altogether. It’s a golden rule serious pianists know of and are taught never to do from a young age. Occasional memory slips and technical slip ups are understandable so long as it’s not a direct result of your lack of prep but more so the occasion (happy accidents) but to stop completely? How bad and poorly prepared does a piece need to be that it requires stopping completely as opposed to the alternatives? You rarely ever see it at the higher levels because the last thing a performer ever wants to do is to stop the flow of the music and they know their pieces well enough to be able to carry on professionally if something were to happen. No competition or exam would ever accept it you’d be eliminated immediately. It’s highly unprofessional.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #19 on: March 02, 2024, 12:39:54 PM
Briefly, to memorize a piece you look at it in short sections, in tempo, visualizing the sound, the feel, or the notation depending on whether your primary modality is aural, muscular or visual.  Then look away and play it.  Go on to the next section.  Repeat.  In tempo is extremely important.

I did that this past week though not on piano.  I'm playing a parade today on trombone, and I had a week to memorize 3 marches.  (at my age and vision there is no chance of reading music from a lyre)  We will see how it goes. 
Tim

Offline frodo4

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What I mean is one of the golden rules in piano performance is to never stop let alone starting from the beginning again. It’s incomparably better to improvise for a bar or two and get back in or even skip out a bar than to completely stop altogether. It’s a golden rule serious pianists know of and are taught never to do from a young age. Occasional memory slips and technical slip ups are understandable so long as it’s not a direct result of your lack of prep but more so the occasion (happy accidents) but to stop completely? How bad and poorly prepared does a piece need to be that it requires stopping completely as opposed to the alternatives? You rarely ever see it at the higher levels because the last thing a performer ever wants to do is to stop the flow of the music and they know their pieces well enough to be able to carry on professionally if something were to happen. No competition or exam would ever accept it you’d be eliminated immediately. It’s highly unprofessional.

Quantum gives great advice here.  You also give great advice.  You have to consider the OP that asks the question.  I remember pianoplayerstar being a bit of a troll who possibly was a beginner level player. 

When Quantum says “It is also important to know when to do a full stop”, I believe he is covering the possibility that the OP is a beginner.  And this is good advice for a beginner who does not have the ability to improvise out of a mess.  Quantum also says “One of my teachers worked a lot with me on developing the ability to fluidly jump around in a piece, back or forward.”  A beginner will rely heavily on muscle memory and lack the ability to jump around.  So, the beginner will need a concrete starting point.  If the flub is near the beginning of the piece, the beginning of the piece will likely be the best and most concrete re-starting point for the beginner.

I remember hearing a national high school piano competition where a contestant playing the first movement of a Beethoven piano sonata ended up repeating the exposition note for note after the development section instead of playing the recapitulation.  The contestant ended up finishing the piece in the dominant key!!  How do you think the judges liked that?  Better IMO would have been for the contestant to stop at the first sign of mishap and restart the recapitulation or restart at the closest concrete starting point for that performer. 

Offline pianopro181

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Quantum gives great advice here.  You also give great advice.  You have to consider the OP that asks the question.  I remember pianoplayerstar being a bit of a troll who possibly was a beginner level player. 

When Quantum says “It is also important to know when to do a full stop”, I believe he is covering the possibility that the OP is a beginner.  And this is good advice for a beginner who does not have the ability to improvise out of a mess.  Quantum also says “One of my teachers worked a lot with me on developing the ability to fluidly jump around in a piece, back or forward.”  A beginner will rely heavily on muscle memory and lack the ability to jump around.  So, the beginner will need a concrete starting point.  If the flub is near the beginning of the piece, the beginning of the piece will likely be the best and most concrete re-starting point for the beginner.

I remember hearing a national high school piano competition where a contestant playing the first movement of a Beethoven piano sonata ended up repeating the exposition note for note after the development section instead of playing the recapitulation.  The contestant ended up finishing the piece in the dominant key!!  How do you think the judges liked that?  Better IMO would have been for the contestant to stop at the first sign of mishap and restart the recapitulation or restart at the closest concrete starting point for that performer.

Yeah exactly that’s why I assumed he was referring to amateurs in which case, surrree… who cares. However, indeed - the point he made about practicing by jumping around to different bars and beats within passages is actually a sound one and used by many professionals.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #22 on: March 02, 2024, 07:54:05 PM
I stopped and started again during an encore once. People thought it was part of the act because I took my jacket off and tried again lol. This was for a solo concert with over 1000+ people attending.

So I'd be wary creating stringent rules and assumptions. I started again because I wanted it to be precise and "perfect", the 2nd attempt allowed that and I was given a standing ovation. It was a good memorable occasion for me and my audience, drama, tension, triumph, makes for an interesting experience rather than one that just goes smoothly without any hitch. We are after all not perfect beings, it's OK to embrace that and admit it in different ways other than covering it up (which is of course the common way), even in professional concerts if we want to communicate that by starting again!
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Offline brogers70

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #23 on: March 02, 2024, 07:57:05 PM
I saw Andres Segovia get his fingers tangled early in a Bach fugue, stop and start over from the beginning. He was one of the greats and the audience didn't seem to mind at all.

Offline pianopro181

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Re: How to memorize a piece, no errors - just practice?
Reply #24 on: March 02, 2024, 09:14:41 PM
I stopped and started again during an encore once. People thought it was part of the act because I took my jacket off and tried again lol. This was for a solo concert with over 1000+ people attending.

So I'd be wary creating stringent rules and assumptions. I started again because I wanted it to be precise and "perfect", the 2nd attempt allowed that and I was given a standing ovation. It was a good memorable occasion for me and my audience, drama, tension, triumph, makes for an interesting experience rather than one that just goes smoothly without any hitch. We are after all not perfect beings, it's OK to embrace that and admit it in different ways other than covering it up (which is of course the common way), even in professional concerts if we want to communicste that by starting again!

I didn’t say it can never happen, it’s just the least ideal thing to do compared to the various alternative methods. It’s also just totally impractical unless you’re referring to the very, very beginning of a solo work.
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