Memorization in Music: Good or Bad?

Category: Miscellaneous

I’ve got mixed feelings about memorizing music.  Memorization is a very valuable tool if used correctly.  However, memorization can be misused and abused.  As you will come to learn, there is a right time for memorization and a wrong time. Memorization needs to be approached carefully. Let us discuss.

Sometimes musicians will memorize music because memorization makes the piece easier to play. Once they have a piece memorized, they never look at the music again.  This is very detrimental to the learning experience and will hinder efforts to learn new and more difficult pieces.  In my opinion, one should never attempt to memorize practice pieces in order to make them easier. Of course, some memorization will happen naturally.  However, when practicing, always make an effort to follow the music with your eyes, and do your best to look at the book, and not at your fingers!

But memorization isn’t all bad.  Memorizing a piece for performance ensures that the performer knows the piece thoroughly.  In fact, some examinations require the student to memorize pages and pages of music. (I memorized over 100 pages for my last exam.) Here are some tips to get the most out of music memorization.

1. Slow and careful practice with special attention to details.  Ensure you memorize all the details such as dynamic and tempo changes, phrases, and fingering.

2. Learn the form.  Music is usually divided into logical sections that are played in sequence and might be repeated.  Memorize the sections, and in what sequence they are played.

3. Mental Practice.  Read the music and think about how you will play it.  Do this while you are away from the piano.  Read the music like a book.

Most importantly, learn the music correctly from the beginning.  It is very difficult to go back and rewrite what has already been written to memory, so correct memorization is very important.  Good luck!

Posted on November 13th, 2008 by sharlene


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