Playing from memory – advanced pianists

Methods of checking successful memorisation for intermediate and advanced students

1. Playing a piece very slowly and quietly – with “passive” fingers, in order to limit physical movements and force oneself to hear and dictate every single sound to oneself before any strike is made. It is necessary to make sure that one really hears each sound being produced on the piano.

2. Playing a piece in a tempo that is faster from the prescribed tempo – in order to check whether through such playing auditory impressions (musical thinking) precede hand work. This method serves as a safeguard against accelerating the tempo caused by stage fright.

3. Playing a piece slowly – only with the right hand, while imagining the left hand part.

4. Playing a piece slowly – only with the left hand, while imagining the right hand part.

Methods 3 and 4 are difficult, since they eliminate motor associations of both hands (associations which constitute an important element of motor memory), they mercilessly expose all “awareness insufficiencies”. It is particularly useful with regard to left hand parts, but it is also a strange situation when the right hand performs on its own.

5. Exercises 3 and 4 can be modified in the following fashion:
• by playing with one hand – at any moment engaging the other hand,
• by playing with the left hand, stopping at a certain point and continuing the right hand part with the right hand – and the other way around; moments of hand switching ought to be timed at different places in a composition.

6. Playing e.g. 2 bars, pausing – removing hands from the piano keyboard - and starting to play from the point where the music was stopped; the exercise gives good orientation and it prepares one to employ method no 8.

7. Checking if music was successfully memorized without notation and without a piano requires high mental discipline and frequent training in this regard. It allows for the most productive use of the time that is typically considered to be lost (standing in a queue, at a shop, on the tram, etc.)

8. A variation on method 7 is beneficial, since it allows checking the effectiveness of work: sitting at the piano we imagine a piece and at a sign given (best by another person) we engage in the course of the game. The conditions for the method are:
a) notation in the hands of the person directing our engagement,
b) precise setting of the piece tempo,
c) agreeing upon the moment when the checking begins.

I know from my own experience that even with conscientious fulfilment of conditions b) and c), engagement in the music always precedes the place indicated by the person directing (excitements plays a role and so does the increased activity of the quizzed individual, whose psychological and physical processes run faster).

9. Provided that a music piece is not too long, one may try recording it by writing it down (it may prove to be easier to “visual-learners” than to “audio-learners”).

10. It is good to follow in one’s imagination all interpretation signs (concerning dynamics, tempo) without the help of notation.

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

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

You must be Logged in to post a comment.