Memorizing sheet music

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#1 17 November, 2014 - 07:55
Joined: 3 years 11 months ago

Memorizing sheet music

My teacher says to take one small part at a time. I've noticed on Cinema Paradiso I'm getting some memory. I've played thru it a couple hundred times.

It seems to me that tonal memory is a factor in remembering a piece. Tonal memory only comes with much experience unless you are a savant but they just have instant tonal memory. In addition though you have to remember the sections of the piece. When you have that then you can go from tonal memory.

I don't have a technique for remembering the sections of a song other than repetition of the song. If your attention slips during a performance then you might put the wrong section in somewhere it doesn't belong. Many times song sections or phrases are quite similar.

When I want to remember a name I find a link. I couldn't remember the drug name Plavix until I linked it with a mental picture of a Vicks inhaler. In the case of sections of a song I don't see a way to use links. With links you can pretty much instantly recall the thing. How do you link to a group of musical phrases that are quite similar, as in two measures where only the last two or three notes are different.

24 December, 2014 - 10:22
Joined: 2 years 11 months ago

Like playing music
Man 63 years old
Learning memorizing sheel music is required by my music teacher.
I tried to discover new way to memorize sheet music (partition)
I am making a new method for memorizing partition of music.
France, Toulouse

18 January, 2015 - 01:57
Joined: 2 years 11 months ago

You're making a fundamental mistake: trying to learn the SHEET MUSIC instead of trying to learn the MUSIC.

Here is a more natural method for memorizing music.

1. Find the MOTIVE behind the music.

Your goal here is to determine the reason WHY the artist wrote the piece. Throw out the sheet music and listen a recording of the piece. Ask yourself the following questions.

- How does it make you feel?
- What images does it elicit?
- How does it progress and flow?
- Why did the artist write this piece?

2. Identify the FORM of the music.

Again, just listen to the piece over and over. The most important goal of this step is to identify the tonic and mode (major, minor, blues, lydian etc) of the piece. You will also recognise the genre and structure which are key parts of the music's form.

- What instruments and rhythms are used?
- What structure does the piece use? (ABBA / AC / Sonata / Rondo etc)
- What is the tonic? (try humming it, then find that note on your instrument)
- What is the mode? (you need to know the full set of notes deployed in the song)

For the mode you really want to know if the full set of harmonies used throughout the piece. Some songs will borrow chords or use harmonic minor for chords and melodic minor for the melody. But don't get hung up on this. As long as you have your tonic you can go onto the next step.

2. Chunk the music into sections and assign each section an image.

You are still only listening to the music. You don't want to look at any sheet music yet. The point here is divide the song into digestable chunks for focused study and better recall. Chunks usually end up being 32 beats long, but not always - it depends on the music. Assign a vivid image or emotion to each chunk. Hearing the first few notes of a piece is essential for recalling the rest of the song, so pay particular attention to the chunks that start new sections.

3. Layout your chunks using a memory palace.

I place a single chunk at each location in a memory palace. Associating the chunk to the location is not usually difficult because you already have a clear image of the chunk. You can also use an imaginary memory palace which is tailored to your piece. Or, as I tend to do now, create a 'film clip' instead of a memory palace but make sure in that clip your chunks have distinct settings.

4. Study each chunk in depth.

If you need to, you can now refer to the sheet music but don't fall into the trap of trying to memorize the notes. Look for the patterns. What is the harmonic progression? Why did the artist choose that progression? How do the voices fit with the harmony? Is there appegiation? As you study each chunk, practise it to get it into your muscle memory. This is very important. You can actually use the information in your muscle memory to extract information about the piece. For example I remember the harmonic progressions of my guitar pieces by the finger patterns I use.

If you are using sheet music to study each section, do not put it near your instrument. Put it in the toilet or downstairs or somewhere you don't want to go each time you forget something. You'll be more motivated to remember because of the cost of going to retrieve that information.

5. Make flashcards for each pattern your find in a chunk (optional).

Do not try to remember the individual notes or rhythm using flashcards or other mnemonics. Melody and rythm already *are* mnemonic tools which utilises your tonal and rhythmic memory. Trying to encode it using spatial or visual memory would be like encoding your spatial memory using numeric longtitude and latitudes.

You might have to make flashcards for the first few notes though, since these are key to recalling the entire melody. Flashcards for harmonic progression seem to be okay too.

6. Mental play

You have your memory palace, you've studied each chunk and practised on your instrument and you've reviewed all your flashcards for the logistic stuff. You can now play the entire piece from start to finish. But first you need to be able to do it in your head. If you can't do it in your head you can't do it on your instrument.

Hope that helps.

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