Memory Zone

Now we're entering the MEMORY ZONE -- which can be the scary part!  But it doesn't have to be with patient preparation.  There are lots of ways to memorize and lots of tools or gimmicks to help the music STAY' memorized.  Here are some things to try...

    Play sections hands alone by memory.  Or "shadow" one hand.

    Do 'backwards chaining'…in other words, start at a spot towards the end of the piece and play…then start the phrase before that…then the phrase or section before that…etc.

    Can you begin playing at random spots in the piece?

    Can you keep going if you have a memory slip?

    Can you WRITE out the opening phrase, or the melody or a particularly difficult spot?

    Record yourself, then listen while watching the score.

    Play the piece many, many, many times -- not just two or three….more like ten or twelve times!  Repetition builds consistentcy.

    Remember to engage more than just the fingers -- muscle memory -- when you play. Muscle memory is the first thing that disappears when we get nervous.   Keep your eyes, ears AND BRAIN actively involved in the process! 

Once the music is memorized, play for others -- parents, family, friends, pets -- anyone who will listen.  The more times you perform the piece, the more sense of security and calm you'll feel when you step onto that stage.  And remember to listen to what your teacher is telling you. Regularly review what comments or note made on the page at each lesson, and make sure you understand the instructions.  If you don't, ASK!


Now for the question everyone whispers --- WHAT IF I FORGET??  Even if you have a photogaphic memory, memory slips are a part of the process...and EVERYONE has them.  You'll most likely have a memory slip every time you play a piece by memory, whether at home, in the studio, or in the actual performance.  And you'll never know when it wll happen -- the slips are like little bubbles that float around above us and drop in unexpectedly at any random spot in the piece.  (I call them 'floating mistakes!')


The key is to be able to KEEP GOING!  That's where knowing the form of your piece (AB...ABA...ABCBA, etc.) will help -- if you forget something and can't 'play through' it, jump to the next section or "lifesaver" spot.  (That's just a spot that you could play in your sleep you know it so well.)  But if you've actually used all the tools we've given you early in this article, you'll be able to play successfully, musically.  Trust yourself and have a good time!

Good luck … and enjoy the journey!


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