Too much muscle memory

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    Is anyone else familiar with the insecure state where a piece comes out of storage with much of the muscle memory intact, but the visual and theoretical memory slower to return?


    Tayce, As you say, the visual and theoretical knowledge needs more solid reinforcement. Add more visual both by looking at the strings to mentally photograph where the hands go after one shape into another, at the points in the piece you feel are weak. Repeating those small bits several times should lock them into a more secure memory.


    Tacye- Patricia’s suggestions are all good and you’ll have to choose the ones that fit you are your situation the best. I would add that studying the music away from the harp is an excellent way to relearn the piece without the muscle memory taking complete control. Sit at the kitchen table and look at one page at a time. Make mental notes of what’s going on in the piece, particularly where pedal changes are(and are not!). Analyze chord progressions and key changes. Just play the piece mentally as you look at the music. Figure out “repair points” where you can pick up the piece and get back on track if you mess something up. Most importantly, look at the beginning of the piece and tell yourself, out loud, what key the piece is in, what the pedal setting is, and where your hands get placed on the strings to start the piece. Under stress, you can freeze up and forget this! Lastly, after you have done this a few times(studying the music away from the harp), try “playing” the piece mentally, visualizing the music and seeing the pedal changes in your mind.


    Thanks Patricia and Carl- the culprit is the Mozart so I really mustn’t wander onto the wrong repetition of a pattern…


    Also, get out the metronome and set it to an agonizingly slow tempo. That’s when you can find out just how well it really is in your muscles.


    Muscle memory is amazing!


    Just keep playing it and you’ll find your way with it again. It takes time for everything to be refreshed. Listen more closely than before.



    You have been given excellent advice by everyone and I would try all of their suggestions. The most important question to ask yourself is how do you learn? As a performer you are wise to fortify your muscle memory with visual and auditory memory practice techniques. If you are “visual” employ the visual memory suggestions with the music, on the strings, and with the music – but away from the harp. If you are “auditory” and have a great ear, listen to it a lot and sing the flute/orchestra parts before your entrances etc.. I love to play along with my favorite recording with my ipod ear-phone in my left ear so I can still hear myself with my right ear. Muscle memory is great and I am always grateful for it when it kicks in automatically. Having just performed the Mozart this spring I understand your predicament. Don’t underestimate the importance of analysis in combination with your other memorization techniques. Even though it may be easy to analyze, always remember where you are in the piece (what key you are in, are you on the tonic or the dominant etc.) while you are playing it, so you don’t get distracted and start thinking about the grocery list and what you are going to eat for dinner.

    It is easy to get into a place in your head where you know it so well that you stop thinking about what you are doing. The Mozart is so beautiful but it is not nearly as easy to perform as it appears! I hope it goes well for you good luck!

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