Unscientific, anecdotal, and experiential musings on the five ways we memorize – in no particular order. We naturally have strengths in one or more areas, but I believe all should be developed and consciously thought through when we’re teaching memorization.
1. Aural – this one should be obvious. Music is sound in time. Those with perfect pitch or good relative pitch have an easier time of it – if the notes are in their heads, they know which ones to play. Hugely frustrating are those who can hear the sounds in their heads but blindly poke at the keys hoping to find the one isolated note that sounds right. These student have gaps in ear training and need intense work. In a time crunch, it often doesn’t happen. Get this going when they’re young.
2. Visual – not necessarily a perfect photographic memory – but at least a memory of where on the page, or which page of the piece, we’re on at the moment. Particularly helpful to prevent looping back to the beginning in Bach or sonatas. For the youngest kids – start with a focus on the keyboard geography. Colours on the page can help.
3. Kinesthetic – large muscle memory – remembering where on the keyboard the next passage is – like a 2-octave jump. The big picture physically.
4. Tactile – small muscles. When the fingers take over a passage and just do it – because it’s been practiced a thousand times (that number is mine).
5. Analytical – in the end, the only process that ensures complete security. Talk through the piece. Know the form. Know the differences and similarities. Make sure the students can tell you – without having to touch the piano – where the piece starts – what the key signature is – what the time signature is.
Last week’s post on Memory Issues - pounded out at the end of a long, frustrating evening – sparked discussion and suggestions. Thank you to all who gave feedback. Some of your suggestions have given me some fresh ideas – just in time for Christmas recital preparation. For those who missed the comments – go back. There are some good ones.
Image: Midwinter Dream