Yes, this happens to everyone, so don’t be discouraged. It means you’ve got the piece really about half-learned. When you really *know* a piece, you know it in your fingers (which you’ve got–that’s the hardest part) and in your head, too. You need to go back now and practice with the music in front of you: practice starting in all different places and playing by memory from those spots.
Believe me, there’s no more horrible feeling than getting on stage with music, having a memory slip and not being able to get any help from the score because you don’t know where you are.
These points to start from are generally known as “repair points.” How many you need depends on how complex the music is and what you’re playing it for. If you were learning a major work for a competition, say, you’d want one at least every couple of measures, for example. For something you’re just going to play in a casual situation, you’d probably need a lot fewer.
Since you just play for yourself, look for easy spots like the beginnings of phrases, after repeat marks, places like that. I’m sure your teacher won’t mind if he or she says, “Start here” and you point to a measure or two before and say, “Can I start here instead?”
Nothing to add to Barbara’s excellent advice other than to just reassure you that this does, indeed, happen to a lot of us.
I memorize easily, and my teacher knew this. She would often make me stop and then start at a random measure just to see if I was really playing from the page or if I were playing from memory and just faking reading it as I played.
You’re has been mine from the start with the harp. I’ve played several instruments over the years, and haven’t had this problem until now.
At The Harp Gathering this year, I took a workshop by Frank Voltz called, The Geography of the Harp. It has worked wonders for me! The important thing is to learn to play without looking at your hands, and keep your eyes on the music. I can’t explain well how to do it, but I learn music much, much more quickly now. All I can say is try hard not to look at your hands.
Frank will be back at the Harp Gathering next spring, and he does other workshops. If you have the opportunity – GO!!! You will absolutely amazed.
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