ok here is the deal.
i have been working on performance skill for years but the one thing that to this day evades me is how to memorize. i have tried every method suggested in masterclasses and in lessons and from musician friends but nothing seem to help. i do solfege loud practice but slowly and doing small phrases but still the pieces take months to sink in to my memory and then over a year to get really comfortable which is counterproductive when i wish to do competitions.
any and all help is appreciated!
ok here is the deal.
Zach- The truth is, different people memorize in different ways and at different rates. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. Some people memorize naturally and without any special effort while they are learning a piece, and others have to make a specific effort to memorize or it doesn’t happen.
People think that I memorize easily because I perform everything from memory. But the reality is, memorizing is difficult for me and requires a special effort. It doesn’t just happen while I’m learning the piece. I’ve found for myself that the earlier in the learning process that I memorize the better. As soon as I have laid out a piece(pedals and fingerings) and have read through it a couple of times, I then work on memorizing it. If it’s a difficult or long piece, I have it completely memorized long before I can play it up to tempo. I then usually practice the piece from memory until it is at performance level. As part of that memorizing process, I spend time with the music away from the harp just studying and analyzing the music. I learn a lot from that, such as where pedal changes are, what key or keys the piece is modulating to, etc.
My process for memorizing is to start with just a measure or two at a time. maybe only a couple of beats. When that’s memorized, go on to the next few beats or measure and memorize that. Then string the two small memorized bits together. I slowly work my way through a page of music, a few beats at a time. The first stage I get to is what I call the wobbly stage, meaning I can make it through a line or two, or a page, without looking at the music at all but it’s kind of in starts and stops. It’s wobbly. That stage is important because it forces you to think actively about what you are playing, BEFORE you have developed muscle memory for that part. That in fact is why it’s wobbly. You have no muscle memory to rely on, which is very good. At that point I practice that page mostly or entirely from memory to work on the technique, speed, etc. while I use other time to memorize the next page the same way. The important thing is to memorize in very small increments(a few beats or a measure at a time) and then to connect those increments together to form a longer memorized part.
The two things that I would suggest, if you haven’t tried these already, is first to copy by hand the sections that give you the most difficulty remembering. Part of memorizing is going beyond just remembering the notes to understanding the structure of the piece and the logic of the arrangement. If you can analyze the piece, see the patterns, and follow the structure you will have an easier time memorizing it, and copying it by hand, mindfully, will help you see these things.
The second suggestion is to learn the piece backwards. Not literally backwards, but divide it into logical sections and start with the last section first. Once you have that add the second to last and do them both. When you have that down add the third to last, and so on and so on.
What happens is that by the time you get to the first section you have practiced the last sections so many times that you have them down and the piece actually will become easier as you play rather then harder, which happens if you start just at the beginning so that by the time you play the whole thing you have less practice and memorization down as you go along.
i wanted to thank you all so much. when i presented these ideas to my teacher, she said that the most important thing was to really understand the different lines and the note relationships between them. once she said that and with the solfege the music sort of fell into my fingers and Faure was memorized… i played it early on yesterday and the performance went flawlessly. i want to thank you all for all the help. it was irreplaceable and unequivocally important.
Memorizing on harp has always come easily to me, which I found surprising because during the 9 years I have been playing flute, the only thing I have been able to memorize are scales, and even that is difficult.
One thing I like to do that seems to help me is to listen to the piece I’m learning a lot – while I’m making breakfast or reading a book or checking my email, and then throughout the rest of the day, hum it to myself.
-Something my teacher told me once: “I’ve noticed that harpists who can easily memorize a piece generally have a harder time sight-reading, and harpists who are good at sight-reading generally seem to find it difficult to memorize.”
So maybe your difficulty memorizing just means you are more likely to be a great sight-reader! –
I’ve noticed the same thing. People who read really well can’t remember 2 notes in a row. I can only use myself as an example of memorizing, and I don’t have an easy time doing it. But memorizing for me is much easier than reading.
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