MUSIC 4 LIFE, LLC

Motivating teachers and students in the world of music

When You Memorize Music

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When You Memorize Music, You Mesmerize the Audience

Memorizing music enables you to play and interpret music in a more confident, creative and relaxed manner. When you perform, a music stand is no longer a visual barrier between you and your audience. This enables better communication and interaction to occur between the performer and the audience.

Memorize Music, Mesmerize the Audience Poster

This message is not only true of for music students memorizing a piece for a recital or concert but it is essential for any professional musician. Think about it, how often do you ever see a rock concert, or performer with sheet music on the piano or in front of them? Rarely, if not ever. It is part of the mystic and magic of musical performers, just how do they do that? It is how they mesmerize their audience.

Memorizing music for many is not easy, for others it just comes natural, but it does take time. Once you obtain this skill you are one step further in advancing your journey as a musician. Below are some tips to help you memorize music.

Techniques in Memorizing Music

  1. Break the music down into small increments such as one- and two measure segments.  Don’t go on until they are solidified.  Keep progressing in a similar manner.
  2. Visualize the music.  Don’t just memorize with muscle memory as that is an imperfect system by itself.
  3. Memorize the harmonic (chordal) progression as well as the melody.
  4. Simulate performing the music technically without actually playing your instrument.  The music must be secured within the mind above all.
  5. Sing the music to yourself before actually playing it.  Then repeat the process as often as necessary.
  6. Audio-and videotape yourself performing the music.  Then study it and retain it.
  7. Consider memorizing in reverse order.  Work backwards.
  8. Maintain the memorized music by playing it often enough to keep it fresh and current within your repertoire.  Don’t be forced to relearn what you’ve already learned.
  9. Once memorized, don’t allow yourself to ever use a music stand as a “crutch.”  That’s a cop out and it invalidates all your hard memorizing preparation.
  10. Play the memorized music with distractions–TV on; people talking; etc.  It may help you remain focused during problematic moments within a concert.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? If so please add them below to add to the list.

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Author: 3 Quarters Images

Passionate about many things including photography, design, family, cooking, friends, and social media. Depending on the day, the order might change, or I might combine one or two. I am the Mother of two Marines, and as my husband says I can get very passionate about a subject. He likes to say "Who stuck a quarter in you and wound you up?" Most people can only take three quarters of my passion in one day. Hence my slogan "3 Quarters Today"

16 thoughts on “When You Memorize Music

  1. Reblogged this on Kiara Di Trana and commented:
    This is something I stand for! Learning your part so well that you no longer have to think about it, and it becomes a feeling…That is the difference between clockwork in your head ticking away, trying to count all the different parts and it being art…and coming from the soul and heart.

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  2. A technique I recommend to my students is to put the closed book on the floor behind them and begin playing through the piece. If they struggle they need to turn around, pick up the book, find the place where they became lost, look at it, close the book, turn around and continue from that point. Then I gradually put the book further away, e.g. the other side of the room or even in another room! This means they have to hold the part they forgot in the memory until they get back to their instrument. It can be a frustrating experience, I have used this method myself, but it seems to work.

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  3. Listen recondings of the piece,
    Play it pizzicato if it is on a string instrument
    and of course repeat repeat and repeat…

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  4. I can’t help not memorizing. Others sight read from the score but I like to memorize. At least 99% of what I do on the keyboard is memorization and 100% memorization on the bass guitar.
    I take it bar by bar and don’t move on to the next one until I’m comfortable with the first one then I repeat that process going through playing from the beginning to the bar I’m working on. Once that’s complete I can concentrate on getting the song up to tempo. This is what I do with my keyboard my bass guitar I play by ear but it’s basically the same thing. Listening to a section over and over and making sure I have it right.

    After that it’s about muscle memory you know your hands have to go there so you put them there. It’s weird how it works for me. On the keys my hands remember shapes and my mind remembers the notes. That’s kind of hard to explain.

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  5. I always tell my students to “sing” the piece or section they are working on either inside or outside. Practice in small sections and play each enough so that you can hum or sing them…then connect sections together. Listening to the recording can help as Jairo mentioned, but keep in mind that you’re listening with the intent of “memorizing”. You can also listen while holding your instrument an “ghost” finger along – that can really help the motor memory process. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/eugesounds

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  6. I like what ukulele virtuoso James Hill says – “Don’t practice until you can play it right, practice until you can’t play it it wrong.” It sounds simplistic, but it speaks to the concept of going past “getting it” until you are “owning it.”

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  7. I come from a musical theatre background and one technique I’ve brought with me from there to the concert performance world is movement. On stage in a theatre production, choreography or blocking is used throughout to add to the show’s visual entertainment, but it also provides actors with additional triggers via muscle memory to help memorize the lines, lyrics and melody. I apply that to my singer/songwriter performances or classical music serenades by choreographing small movements or gestures during particular parts of the piece I’m performing.

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  8. As I was growing up, there were many places I walked to, or through, on a regular basis. Many times, there was a repetitive car trip into town, to school, or a favorite hiking trail, or my schedule of walking to classes through my highschool day. I developed the habit of associating certain passages, with places that I would progress to, and through, on those various trips. I later heard that the Romans often memorized speeches, by walking through their house, and associating different parts of speech with their progression through their house. I used this a lot on my longer piano pieces. Singing, humming or thinking through the piece, away from the instrument, has always been good for me too.

    I think your article well worth sharing with my master class coming up for my private students, as so many different things work for different people.

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    • Thank you Gwen for your comments. That is a very interesting technique and I believe I’ve probably used it, but not on purpose. I would go over a difficult passage in my head while in the car to piano lessons. I still associate Solfeggito as I cross over the railroad bridge.

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