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Question About Playing From Memory


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#16 Guest: Mad Tom_*

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 12:44

QUOTE(ad_libitum @ May 9 2009, 12:45 PM) View Post

QUOTE(Glass Mountain @ May 6 2009, 10:12 PM) View Post

This is a very interesting post, and I had a discussion at great length with one of my pupil's today about it. He past his Grade 8 in December and last week after his lesson he went out and bought Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2. Today he came and played me, almost note perfect and from memory, ALL 18 pages of it! I asked him how he does it and he just doesn't know!


Really?! ohmy.gif

Next lesson don't let him go home until he tells you how he did it - then tell me how please laugh.gif

And don't forget to pay him for the lesson!!!
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#17 Glass Mountain

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 17:14

QUOTE(Mad Tom @ May 9 2009, 01:44 PM) View Post

QUOTE(ad_libitum @ May 9 2009, 12:45 PM) View Post

QUOTE(Glass Mountain @ May 6 2009, 10:12 PM) View Post

This is a very interesting post, and I had a discussion at great length with one of my pupil's today about it. He past his Grade 8 in December and last week after his lesson he went out and bought Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2. Today he came and played me, almost note perfect and from memory, ALL 18 pages of it! I asked him how he does it and he just doesn't know!


Really?! ohmy.gif

Next lesson don't let him go home until he tells you how he did it - then tell me how please laugh.gif

And don't forget to pay him for the lesson!!!

I'll ask him again, but I don't think he really knows, and it's certainly no credit to me laugh.gif When he came to me as a beginner he was always good at memorizing, but I painstakingly made him learn to read it, which he can, and thankfully it never squashed the memorization out of him either.
Hope he's not reading this, as he might suggest what Mad Tom said laugh.gif
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#18 LooneyTunes

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 18:52

QUOTE(Teigr @ May 6 2009, 04:06 PM) View Post

Does anyone know what's going on when people play from memory? Like, what the cues are that tell us what to do?

I just happened to try to play something earlier and couldn't do it. It was a single chant which I can play very securely from memory, but I tried to play it RH only and I couldn't do it. Both hands - no problem. RH again - still no.

So, why can my RH do its thing perfectly well when my LH is playing its part, but not by itself? What's required of my RH is exactly the same in both cases. It's not like a twiddly contrapuntal thing where the two hands need to interweave what their doing. It's just very plain chordal texture with no passing notes.

Clearly my RH is relying on my LH in some way to steer it through, but how and why? Is it the spatial relationship between the two, the sound, or what?


This is really fascinating smile.gif

LH - no chance! RH - a few phrases before it peters out. BH - no problems!

I think a significant part of this is muscle memory. I always look at my fingers when I play from memory (I know - bad technique ph34r.gif ) but recently I found out that if I know a piece really well, I can play parts of it with my eyes closed. For a less well memorised piece I 'visualise' where my fingers should be.

The aural cues must have a significant role too. Perhaps the brain needs the aural cues from BOTH hands as an aide memoir?

I'm going to try that out by seeing whether I can play longer phrases with my RH by 'internalising' the LH part and get back to you! Hmmmmm........
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#19 sarah123

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 19:05

Surely it all depends on how and why the piece is memorised. If you memorised it 'by accident' of in a 'this finger goes there, then that one goes there...' way, it's probably mainly muscle memory, so taking half of the piece away will completely change how you move as a whole. If you memorised it by photo memory of the score, then you'd probably be more likely to be able to play just one hand.
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#20 Guest: Solari_*

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 09:03

QUOTE(sarah123 @ May 9 2009, 08:05 PM) View Post

Surely it all depends on how and why the piece is memorised. If you memorised it 'by accident' of in a 'this finger goes there, then that one goes there...' way, it's probably mainly muscle memory, so taking half of the piece away will completely change how you move as a whole. If you memorised it by photo memory of the score, then you'd probably be more likely to be able to play just one hand.


I think I drive my teacher mad because once I've played things through a few times, I've pretty much memorised it and I only use the sheets as a prompt blush.gif It's probably going to severely stunt progress in the sight-reading department sad.gif I can't help it but it's just the easiest way for me and I need to stop taking the shortcut all the time.

I memorised Moonlight Sonata 1st mvt several years ago before going away from playing and can surprisingly still play it all the way through. If someone distracts me, however, I have to either start from the beginning or from one of the "anchor" points of the piece that my fingers remember.
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#21 Bremmer

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 14:40

A very interesting discussion.
Some people have no trouble memorising music, others simply can't do it, period. Some people visualise the music, others say it's muscle memory...
I don't know, but I did all my violin exams from memory and played at numerous festivals etc as a child, always playing from memory.. I seem to remember that up to Grade 5 nobody told me that you were actually allowed to play with the music!

On the violin I seem to remember music a whole piece or work at a time, regardless of length. Muscle memory doesn't apparently come into it, nor does formally 'learning' the music as I can remember not only every single piece I've ever learned but also those I've taught others. It just happens, once I can play the piece it's filed in my head. I can also then transpose easily into any key you like, though sometimes it would be technically too difficult to execute. However, ask me to memorise the words of a song or a poem and I find it really really difficult. I'm also useless at names, but good at remembering numbers. I do have perfect pitch.

When I 'listen' to a piece of music in my head, as against in 'real life' I 'hear' all the parts, and could to a certain extent then play pretty much anything on the piano using the correct harmonies, although I'm no great pianist.

I'd be interested to know how others work.
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#22 Mini_mo

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 15:15

I wish I could say I had even just one of these skills, so I am extremely jealous!!!! tongue.gif

One good thing though, I am really determined to learn to sight read because I know I cannot rely on my memory. blush.gif
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#23 Dulciana

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 16:21

I have a pupil who's very similar to Glass Mountain's. I've had him since he was a beginner, and he's planning to do Grade 8 not this session but next, as there is a lot of musical detail that needs attention, but he could play everything from memory within a fortnight of getting the music - although he's a poor sight reader. Same scenario, in that I'm forever trying to work out how he does it, but he's absolutely no use in providing answers, as he's forever trying to work out why I can't! He also has lots of other Grade 8+ music in his memorised repertoire. wacko.gif One thing I would say about him is that he has a very enquiring mind; he listens very carefully to harmonic progressions that he likes in order to use them for his own compositions, while the likes of me is just trying to memorise notes. I can analyse the progressions if required, but it isn't the first thing my brain wants to do - I like the sound of certain progressions, but what I'm analysing is where to put the stress, which part has melodic interest that should be 'brought out', where the high point of a phrase is - that sort of thing. This pupil will only home in on that sort of musicality once he has a deadline - like a concert or exam - and it's not always easy to persuade him of the importance of it even then. It's notes, harmony and rhythm first to him. What obviously makes a concert pianist is this combined with the musicality bit. Probably a rare comodity... rolleyes.gif
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#24 Guest: Solari_*

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 21:46

QUOTE(Mini_mo @ Oct 12 2009, 04:15 PM) View Post

I wish I could say I had even just one of these skills, so I am extremely jealous!!!! tongue.gif

One good thing though, I am really determined to learn to sight read because I know I cannot rely on my memory. blush.gif


I am spending tonnes of time doing sight-reading practice. I think it's important early on, as improving your reading gives you the confidence to tackle new pieces. If you'd asked me about 6 months ago, I'd never have thought I'd have a hope in h*ll of getting through some of the stuff I've done recently!

The more time you invest, the bigger the dividends smile.gif I find using proper music instead of the samples much better, although the "Improve your sight reading" books are very good!
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#25 DrAlan

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 11:40

As has been said above - very interesting topic.

I'd just like to add a vote for the "sequence of nerve impulses" idea.

As an aside I love playing from memory as I can then focus more on the music, but although I can memorize and prefer it to the torture of sight reading (and am really pleased that I now have the 1st movement of Moonlight always with me - and me just a grade 4 biggrin.gif ) it does take a frustratingly-long time (3 years or so to get the notes and fingering of Moonlight and memorize - but I had technique to learn too).

Anyway - since I was first taught to practice always HT (for which I'm grateful), I've found that it is the totality of the "current state" that triggers the memory of the "next state", i.e. somewhere there seems to be a map of the piece laid out as a sequence of configurations, and if you subtract from the sequence by removing one hand, it becomes really tough if not impossible to play from memory.

For these reasons I much prefer nowadays to approach a new piece HT from the outset, unless really really stuck!

Hmmmm.... I wonder if "memorizers" tend to prefer HT and "sight readers" can do HT or HS equally freely?

QUOTE(LooneyTunes @ May 9 2009, 07:52 PM) View Post

The aural cues must have a significant role too. Perhaps the brain needs the aural cues from BOTH hands as an aide memoir?


Definatelty; I've found even playing a different piano can disturb the memory, and have you ever tried playing from memory on a keyboard with the volume turned off? :-)

Alan



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#26 corenfa

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 11:55

I can both memorise and sightread- which is not to say I find either "easy" just that they are of equal effort and I can do them both. When I memorise I use all of the following:

- how it sounds
- how it feels - so this part is reinforced by playing hands together
- musical analysis - this is reinforced by playing hands separately
- how it looks on the page - also reinforced by playing hands separately

I need to start hands separately to get the fingering right but I also have to then work on hands together for coordination.

So I guess I don't fit anywhere... I can't really think of myself as a "sightreader" or a "memoriser", and I need to practise both hands together and hands separately.
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#27 lingle

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 19:13

like some others, parts simply "sink into my head" pretty effortlessly. If this was taken away from me I would feel as if I'd lost a sense.

Sometimes in my quartet we decide to play something we've not done for a long time. If I don't have the part with me, I can simply start playing ..... I fudge a few passages and might stop for a couple of bars but just wait till the next moment of musical significance.

When I do this, I get a very pleasurable sensation in my head, like I'm taking my brain for a lovely walk.

Sadly, however, this does not in itself improve my technique which is not that great, so I'm off to practice scales.

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