Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Memorization Techniques

This is a topic I am very interested in. I have not performed many pieces from memory, but it's something I want to do more of in the future. I have received lots of good advice on the subject and I am happy to pass it along to you!

Work from the End: Though you might be tempted to start at the beginning and add sections, it is surprisingly helpful to work from the end! Learn the final section of your piece first. Then, learn the section before that. When you start in the second to last section and continue on to the end (which you learned before) you will get another chance to solidify the end! Imagine a performance where each new part of the piece you come to feels better and more secure than the one before it!

Audio/Visual: Figure out what instrument a certain passage sounds like and also an image or story that goes along with it. Example: Measures 1-10 sound exclamatory, like a trumpet. They are the entrance music for a king in a grand ballroom. This works even if you are a flutist! Think about how to make your tone "brassy" and powerful. Think of the noble, confident nature of entrance music. When you think about these things every time you work on measures 1-10, you will make strong audio and visual associations with the notes, rhythms, articulations, dynamics, vibrato, etc.!

Rhythmic Stability: Alternate playing your music first with, then without, the metronome. Find a piece of music on your ipod or stereo that is approximately the same tempo and play the passage along with the music! It won't make any sense whatsoever (unless you're lucky), but it will help the passage become second nature to you.

Extreme Circumstances: Sometimes you're able to play something perfectly at home, then the moment you're nervous or in unfamiliar surroundings or circumstances, you can't remember a thing! Challenge yourself to play your piece (in parts or in its entirety) in all kinds of bizarre circumstances. Do 100 jumping jacks, then play. Put on three winter coats, then play. Put on sunglasses and stand on your kitchen table, then play. The more varied and bizarre the circumstances are that you try, the easier and more effortless it will be to pull off a "normal" performance!

Practice Games: See my article on Practice Games! The more ways you play something, the more likely it is to stick.

Happy memorizing!

by Terri Sanchez