Home Forums Teaching the Harp Memorization

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    Jennifer Yoneji

    Can anyone give me tips for memorizing? I seem to have a lot of

    trouble with it. I can memorize written text very easily, but it’s

    very hard for me to memorize harp music. Thank you.


    Hi Jennifer,

    I am sure you know a lot of the music you play by heart already. Can you sing or humm it without looking at the sheet music? For memorizing, forget the little black dots on the paper and concentrate on the sound.

    Try memorizing the hand movements and the sound rather than the written notes. Even if it feels stupid, try humming the melody along with your hand movements while practicing (this is also nice if you practice each hand seperately, you can then humm the notes the other hand is supposed to play at that time). In this way your brain will directly connect the finger movements with the sound they produce after a while.

    I am not a teacher, I learn autodidacticly myself with some workshops from time to time to catch up on technique. I have a background with piano and guitar lessons, though. With these instuments, especially on the piano, I found it very difficult to memorize a piece for a longer period in time. With the harp I find it much easier, because I mentally connected short sound strings with finger patterns from the beginning. I memorize pieces in steps of “I play the thumb and the index finger down here, then I set the thumb on the same string again, skip one string, then set the index finger and the middle finger, then play them upwards” and so on (hard to explain in words, but maybe you get the idea). This also allows me to play the same tune in another key rather easily by just changing the tuning and starting on a differnt string (I play a lever harp, so no pedals involved here).

    Try out if this works for you: forget about the small black dots on paper as soon as possible (meaning as soon as you know what the piece is supposed to sound like). You might notice that this also gives you large amounts of free brain capacity to concentrate on playing technique, posture and the like.

    have fun (always the most important thing about making music :-) )



    An area of memorization that seems to be overlooked by many musicians is that of harmonic analysis!

    Evangeline Williams

    I have trouble memorizing just about anything, with the exception of songs I sing.


    Oh crap… I’m the absolute worst at memorizing, but I have learned some memorization techniques in college that have helped even me.

    I was taught to memorize phrase by phrase. I took one phrase per day and practiced it over and OVER again until I had it. Then, each day after that, I’d add one or two phrases (depending on the size of the phrase and composition) on top of the one I already learned. I just kept adding them until I was finished with the piece.

    Another idea is to colour coat the phrases. For example, colour all of the “A” phrases red, the “A1” phrases pink, the “B” phrases green, and the “C” phrases purple, or whatever you’d like. This really helped me, especially during lessons. My professor would say “you need to work on the red phrases” or “I want to have everything up the the purple phrase memorized.” I know that may seem a bit puerile, but since I struggle with memorization, it really helped to visualize the notes in colour in my mind.

    Some musicians who are much better at memorizing will do a page per day or two days. I think it just depends on how quickly everything sinks in, and how much you panic about memorization. (Suzanne= much panicking)

    Anyway, I hope that helps. Good luck. What are you memorizing currently?


    Jennifer, Try memorizing your piece from back to front.

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