Music Memorization

On Sturm und drang - Second Movement

Perhaps the spirit of my former piano teacher Irina Ginzburg was hovering as I was filling out my own registration form for the APTA Festival. She would want me to challenge myself. Before I could stop myself, I registered for the Teacher Recital class, which means three songs. It's not too scary, at least, I hope it isn't. It's just that I now have to add two senior level pieces to my practice list (on top of students' songs and gig repertoire...to practice in the wee hours in the night).

I'm pretty happy with my selections. I've been meaning to learn Chopin's Nocturne in e minor, op. 72 #1 for years; ever since I heard it in the Hallmark TV production of The Secret Garden. It's only four pages - however, the return of the A theme is a doozy! I've sightread Bartok's Bagatelle, op. 6 #5 before and find the rhythms catchy. Hey, if I can sightread it - then it's do-able. Both songs are Gr. 10 level, which provides a bit of a challenge without taking too much time. The final selection is Houki Boshi (Comet). It's one of the theme songs from the Japanese show Bleach. I plan on embellishing and improvising a bit, something which I already do with it.

The question is whether or not I will memorize all the songs. I'll play that by ear.

So all in all, not too bad. It's still added sturm und drang though. When to practice?

(c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Musicians & Memory

Musicians young and old struggle with memory. I have a few students who are really struggling with it this year (we memorize in chunks). You may ask, “Why do musicians need to memorize their songs?” If you learn something “by heart”, you know it inside and out. You understand it on several levels and can perform it confidently – consistently. Plus it just looks good.

Now there are times to memorize and there are times not to. Memorization is required at festivals and exams. Student recitals? It depends. If it’s a recital to air out exam pieces, then yes to memory. If it’s just a fun recital, it’s optional. If you’re just jamming with family and friends, memory is optional (improvising is probably more valuable here). If you’re at a family reunion and you’re dragged to the piano? You better have something ready at your fingertips (or be a good improviser!).

There are five types of memory that musicians use. The more forms you use, the stronger your memory is. They are:

  1. Aural: memorizing by ear
  2. Visual: AKA “photographic memory”
  3. Tactile/Digital: AKA motor memory
  4. Analytical: looking for patterns and relationships
  5. Kinesthetic: AKA “muscle memory"

Here are a few interesting articles on memory and music:

© 2006, Musespeak™, Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.