Piano Practice TipsUncategorized

Performance Security: How to Memorize Music

memorizing music and enhancing performance security

The Jolt of a Memory Slip

A common experience for musicians is to feel secure in practice but only to experience memory lapses during a performance. What can we do to enhance performance security and avoid the jolt of memory slips?  This post will explore the three different compartments of musical memory and discuss methods for improving the stability of each one. In addition, two memory testing and developing exercises are explored.


Compartments of Musical Memory

Muscular Memory

It is essential to feed the right information into your reflexes. This includes the right fingering, the right technical information, the right movements, and most importantly the appropriate musical expression. Consistently accurate information fed into the "automatic pilot" safeguards your musical memory and supports it with accurate and reliable foundation. Performance security is very dependent on the integrity of our muscular memory.


Aural Memory

Aural memory is the memory of the way a piece sounds. To help and develop aural memory learn to sing or hum the notes. This is where the ear training you have done will shine. This is not just cursory humming of a piece. Beable to generate each note in your mind and out loud as accurately as we can. This will take practice.  A strong aural memory of the music will improve performance security. It can save us at a difficult moment during the performance.


Visual and Analytical Memory

This is our conscious memory. We must commit to memory everything our mind can grasp from the music. Without it even the simple intrusion of a question like, "What is the next base note?" can subvert out muscular memory and invite disaster. Begin by memorizing hands separately as there is no more efficient way to develop a conscious memory of musical details. This is a lot of work but the results it brings will more than justify the effort required. Start by memorizing just a few bars a day. After one-week of this, you will find pleasure in the quality of your understanding as well as the quantity of music you have memorized.


Exercises to Enhance Performance Security

Memorize the Music in Slow Motion

To test the security of our memory play the music in slow motion. This method of practice has been described in an earlier post titled Slow Piano Practice.  In this case, engage in the slow practice exercise from memory. Slow motion seems to confuse our muscular memory forcing a shift in reliance on other two compartments.  As a result, we unveil weaknesses in our conscious memory.


Memorize the Music Backwards

Memorize the music backward phrase by phase; start with the last phase then go the seconded last and so on. This approach has several benefits. Firstly, it will combat the tendency to become unfocused or distracted. Secondly, by starting at the ending of the piece as well as the beginning your memorization will be evener. You will the know the ending as thoroughly as well as the beginning. Finally, by working in reverse you will become more proficient at picking the music up at the beginning of each phrase.  This will enable a fast recovery from a memory lapse in the event that it occurs.


Memorizing Music is Like Making a Sauce

To encourage me at a point when I was struggling to memorize music one of my teachers said the following. Memorizing music is like making a sauce. To make a sauce we add the ingredients together and heat and stir. The sauce thickens in one area and we continue to heat and stir. Then the sauce thickens in another area and we heat and stir. We continue in this manner and think to our selves is this sauce ever going to thicken? This is taking forever! Finally, the moment arrives and the sauce has thickened.

Related Post: Memorizing Music: Is it Important?


2 thoughts on “Performance Security: How to Memorize Music

  1. Some times I feel like I am unable to remember my music… but after reading your blog l noticed that I memorize small passages better if I can relate to the tune or melody… this is reinforced when I play the piece enough so that I begin to see patterns…. cheers Ford

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *