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Do You Memorize Exam Pieces?


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#46 Clovis

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 08:07

Chamber groups nearly always play with the music, as of course do orchestras. It's just soloists that seem to be expected to play without a score.


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#47 cestrian

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 10:31

I really think that generalisation is dangerous. I wouldn't want to write off the millions of professional and amateur musicians who prefer to perform with sheet music open in front of them as lacking heart or feeling without first testing the hypothesis: given a set of recordings of professional musicians, some using music, some playing from memory, can a bunch of normal audience-members tell which is which? Anyone tried it?

 

Sure, but we are talking about exam pieces here. Personally I play with the score in front of me though it's likely I don't look at it during the exam performance. 


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#48 Bleamy

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 20:53

When I was a child I used to love memorising  pieces, gave me a kind of freedom, i could watch my on hands, could follow more how I was playing and also I could play the pieces anywhere, no bound to sheet music.

 

I picked up the piano again after 40 years and memorising is not that smooth anymore. There's kind of " going blank seconds" during playing which completely ruins the flow of music. 

I am not entirely  sure how I can fix that, but I hoping to play without sheet music at the exam.


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#49 linda.ff

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 21:21

When I was a child I used to love memorising  pieces, gave me a kind of freedom, i could watch my on hands, could follow more how I was playing and also I could play the pieces anywhere, no bound to sheet music.

 

I picked up the piano again after 40 years and memorising is not that smooth anymore. There's kind of " going blank seconds" during playing which completely ruins the flow of music. 

I am not entirely  sure how I can fix that, but I hoping to play without sheet music at the exam.

I think that's foolhardy. You gain no more marks for memorization. By all means memorise the piece, but don't try to do it without the book. I watched a high scorers' concert once in which a small boy was playing a grade 1 Lullaby; standing next to the HLR at the back I commented that he was doing it from memory, and she replied "yes, he's a pupil of X, it's the way she trains them" - in what I took to be an admiring tone.

 

Then halfway through he had a memory lapse, and couldn't start again, in front of a large packed town hall. After what seemed to be an eternity, with all of us holding our breath, someone came up and gently led the weeping child away. I have always wondered how long it would be before he ever performed in public again. (yes, I know, children are resilient, etc. Not all children, though)

 

I insist they know what it looks like on the page even if they are playing from memory most of the time, and I insist that they must know where they are on the page, so that if there is a lapse, they can find their way to it with scarcely a blink - but they have to be able to recognise it when they look at the page! I couldn't give a monkey's whether or not they keep their eyes on the page in the exam, as long as they know the music, but playing without even using the book is like performing a trapeze act in the big top without a safety net.


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#50 linda.ff

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 21:29

Following myself up - I do have a few students who I am now encouraging to play at least partly from memory. This is because they seem to suffer from something which, judging by the posts I've read on here, even some teachers suffer from - the inability to read from the page without feeling you have to work it out. How many times I've read "I prefer to play from memory because I'm not a good sight-reader", even from teachers. Guys, playing from the music when you can already play it is not sight-reading. You are just using the notation as a reminder of which manoeuvre comes next. You don't sound out the letters in a word every time you see it, once you've learnt it. And I suppose another analogy is cooking from a recipe. Do you cook better becasue you are doing the entire thing from memory rather than using the reference book?

 

Those few that I do encourage to play from memory, I still don't encourage to put the book away, all the same. But they have shown a repeated failure to learn the thing physically and they do play better when they are relying on muscle memory rather than working it out every time. Note, I don't say "playing by ear" - the majority of people who say they play by ear are either playing by muscle memory or playing by trial and error - hitting a wrong note and recognising it's wrong isn't playing by ear either.


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#51 jpiano

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 22:13

I remember I memorized my grade 6 pieces because my teacher felt that performing from memory was important.  I can't remember why-or maybe I just didn't question it. I persevered with memorising for student concerts but by the time I got to grade 8 I had realised that I'm much more comfortable with the music. (I got a much better mark for G8 than G6 too!) For me, the only reallly secure memorisation is knowing the piece of music inside out so that muscle memory is backed up by a sound knowledge of where the harmonies of a piece are going. Now you could argue that having that level of knowledge of a piece is really beneficial but I'm not completely convinced it's the right way for everyone. For a start, I wouldn't expect every student  to have the time or experience to be able to analyse harmony to that level, and secondly, it is time spent that could be spent on interpretation. Now, I know that when I play a piece fluently from the music, the score is just a memory jogger, but I have found that I play so much better as I don't have to worry about lapses and the playing becomes about the music, not a memory test.

 

The other important thing is the motivation behind the memorizing. There are people who seem naturally much more visual than others and find co-ordinating the reading of 2 clefs straightforward, then some who do find reading music for 2 hands at a reasonable speed challenging  (one reason it takes so much longer to reach grade 1 for a lot of  pianists). But then there are those who don't feel technically secure enough to play without looking at their hands constantly- and the memorization is linked in with this. Everything becomes very downward looking if that makes sense- you see head down, flat fingers, low wrists, lack of the feel of what I'd call the geography of the keyboard because they're so afraid of making a mistake that they rely on looking at their fingers. It also becomes very difficult to work on little sections of the piece that need improvement as they invariably have to start from the beginning, and it makes developing dynamics and so on tricky unless they memorise these in from the start- which they don't! There is a strong link with lack of sight reading skill and either lack of technique, or lack of confidence in that technique and fear of making a mistake so you take what feels like the easy option of looking at your hands.


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#52 LeesaJohnson

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:20

Yes, I use to memorize it.


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#53 _DaVid_

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 19:32

For the exams my aim has been to be able to play securely from memory and also to be able to play looking only at the music in time for the big day. It's a belt and braces approach that I hoped would serve me well in the room and it has. For grade 1, 2 and 3 piano I just went between the two and done whatever came naturally at the time. Unfortunately with time constraints and the increased difficulty for grade 4 I couldn't quite play the pieces looking only at the music. I did manage to memorise the three, just. For my exam the other day I played two solely from memory, which was a first, and one from the sheet music only. I always had the music in front of me incase. I fluffed parts of all three. It wasn't too bad and really it was just anxiety that was the reason. For grade 5 I hope to have them all securely memorised and playable by sight only. I might crank it up a level and try to play them with my eyes closed!
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#54 HelenVJ

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 08:25

I'm not sure where you got the idea from that it's somehow wrong to look down at the keyboard, David, and play 'only from the music'! Once the repertoire becomes more advanced, it's often essential to do so, and I encourage my students in thiis, when there are large leaps, or similar.  If they can play securely from memory, this is welcome, and many of them prefer to do this in concert performances and festivals. They take their books in to the exams, though!


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#55 _DaVid_

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 15:23

I'm not sure where you got the idea from that it's somehow wrong to look down at the keyboard, David, and play 'only from the music'! Once the repertoire becomes more advanced, it's often essential to do so, and I encourage my students in thiis, when there are large leaps, or similar.  If they can play securely from memory, this is welcome, and many of them prefer to do this in concert performances and festivals. They take their books in to the exams, though!


I think you're putting words into my mouth. I haven't mentioned that it's wrong at all. My last exam performance I think has proven my objective, which is to be able to play both from the music and without. I stuttered at one stage whist playing from memory and instantly looked at the music and played from there, successfully. I also, as you mentioned regarding your students, played from memory but still had the music to fall back on. I wouldn't dare do it without. I think now that I have played two pieces from memory in the exam setting that I will try to do this from now on, as you can somehow play with more of a flow if the piece is well learned and played from memory.
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#56 Blackett and Howden

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 11:35

I think the middle of the road approach is the best. I try to memorise all my exam pieces, because that is a really good way to get to know the pieces thoroughly. But I would never play from memory in an exam as there's so much else to worry about then, and it's not worth losing marks just for the sake of playing from memory.
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#57 sbhoa

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 12:28

I think the middle of the road approach is the best. I try to memorise all my exam pieces, because that is a really good way to get to know the pieces thoroughly. But I would never play from memory in an exam as there's so much else to worry about then, and it's not worth losing marks just for the sake of playing from memory.

I've found that there has to be a decision to d one or the other. 

Mainly practising from memory once you know a piece then having the music in front of you to refer to can be tricky. If I plan to play from memory but with the book open then I need to practice that way. That includes practice exactly when I will glance at the page and if I do anything different in a performance situation it can really throw me.


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