Nowadays, you’re required to have your repertoire memorized when you perform.
Unfortunately, memorizing is no easy task– you need to be wary of performance factors such as stress and nervousness.
Memorize anything properly with these surefire memorization techniques!
(Don’t forget to read 3 Easy Steps for Memorizing Music.)
1. Test Yourself
See what you’ve memorized already– before opening any music for your practice session, sit down and play from memory.
One way to test the piece in action is to play from memory right after an emotional event (it can be anything– a fight, graduation, party…); this mirrors your heightened emotional state during a performance or competition.
You’ll be able to gauge your progress honestly; how confident do you feel without the music in front of you– how comfortable are you?
2. Start on the Spot
Be able to start playing from anywhere in the music, with and without the actual music score. This technique ensures that any memory slips will recover nicely and solidifies your memory.
If you absolutely can’t start your memory from anywhere in the music (it takes time to get used to it), then designate “starting spots” in the music where you can restart from during memory slips.
Use numbers or letters (or symbols, whatever works) to label these starting spots. Practice starting from these starting spots from memory.
Another effective technique is to use a random number generator; set the range to be between the first and last bar numbers.
Start by playing from the single bar number that comes up. After that bar, play from memory. This technique really tests how solid your memory is– and it prepares you for memory slips!
3. Don’t Look at the Music
Note where your eyes look when you’re playing from memory– usually your hands or the piano.
Then have the music in front of you, but try to put your eyes where they would be if you were playing from memory.
- E.g. If you tend to look at your hands when you’re playing from memory, then look at your hands when you practice.
Familiarize yourself with your own playing to reduce memory slips and freak outs during a performance!
4. Iron out Slippery Spots
If there are “slippery spots” where memory slips usually happen, mark them down and practice furiously– these can pop up during the most uncomfortable times. (See How to Practice Efficiently.)
A good memorization technique for memory slips is to alternate; play once with the music, once without, and alternate until it’s memorized.
Then test yourself using the above techniques!
5. Sing the Melody
Singing the melody helps your brain learn easily; it gives the brain a guideline for what the bare bones of the piece sounds like and you’ll be able to play from memory easily.
Make sure you can sing the melody solidly.
6. Separate Hands
Memorize the hands separately, then put them together.
Your non-dominant hand usually ends up depending on your dominant hand for memory– if you end up slipping in one hand, then you’ll be stuck.
Memorizing the hands separately prevents slippage in either hand.
If you’re playing a Bach or Baroque piece, memorizing the hands separately is essential because of the different voices!