Playing from memory – children (Part 1)

Memorisation in the early stages of learning piano (Part 1)

The question of memorising a piece at the beginning of music education is an issue frequently marginalised. A student is simply expected to learn a set piece by heart, and the way he or she will achieve that remains their mystery. In order to teach children to play a short composition for the piano it is worth trying to achieve that without the help of scores. Teaching children without notation allows, among other things, developing their musical memory. To do that, the following steps must be followed:

1. singing or playing a song to the child,

2. teaching the song melody to the child, so that they are able to sing or hum it correctly,

3. then a pupil needs to imagine the already learnt melody by singing it in their mind (replaying it with their inner ear),

4. finally, once a pupil has comprehensively learnt the melody, we demonstrate on the keyboard which sound the melody starts with (visual orientation) and we teach the song, repeating individual phrases until successfully mastered (two, three bars at a time); then we join them into fragments or larger sections,

5. once the child has successfully memorised the melody, we “arrange” it musically. The text of a song imposes an emotional character of its own, thus care must be taken that the pupil does not play the melody “dryly”, indifferently, unemotionally. We need to constantly pay careful attention to auditory quality control of sounds produced and to the correct operation of the motor apparatus.

It is good to demand from beginners, and even from children, to thoroughly learn each lesson by heart in that manner, be it only one or two bars.

Edyta Lajdorf BMus (Hons) RCM, MMus, LRSM (Teaching), SMISM
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